Motivation and Retention of African American Children


Retention and Modalities among African American Children Aged 4–9. A Reason for Concern

Despite the fact that in the XXI century, ample opportunities for African American students to pursue academic success have emerged, retention rates among the given type of learners are still very low. Though the range of issues that African American students have to deal at school in is huge, starting from the necessity to fit in up to the fear of failing as a student, hypothetically, motivation can be the key to understanding the problem of low retention rates and modalities among the specified type of learners. In the given research, it is assumed that, after creating the test that will help isolate the factors (Forbush et al., 2013) affecting the motivation of the students, it will be possible to develop the strategy that will allow for enhancing the factors that affect the motivation of African American students aged 4–9, thus, improving the students’ retention rates through an increase in their modality. In other words, an efficient tool for motivation measuring must be developed.

Essential Construct

Motivation as the Key to Understanding the Drop in Retention Rates and Modalities in African America Children (Aged 4–9)

The phenomenon of motivation is crucial to understanding the reasons for students to deliver specific academic results, including both overachievement and underachievement. More to the point, in a number of cases, it is a teacher’s responsibility to enhance students’ motivation through the adoption of various approaches. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, students often appear to have little to no motivation for achieving good scores in their school performance and learning anything. It is assumed that low motivation rates affect the efficiency of African American students’ modalities. Thus, motivation can be viewed as one of the key constructs that the research is going to be focused on. Though the tools that are currently employed for evaluating students’ motivation are doubtlessly valid, they lack in scope, failing to embrace every single factor affecting African American students’ academic success. A specific measurement tool aimed at specifying the key social, economic and family factors, as well as the factors related to the classroom environment, will help locate the problems and define the avenues for addressing and solving it.

Considering Each Instrument

An Essential Step to Developing a Unique Measurement Tool

Likert Scale Survey as the Most Basic Tool

Perhaps, one of the most general tools that are used for evaluating the factors affecting students’ performance, a Likert Scale Survey (LSS) includes a range of general statements that a student is supposed to rate on the stale from “Strongly agree” to “Strongly disagree” (“Strongly agree,” “Agree,” “Neither agree, nor disagree,” “Disagree,” “Strongly disagree”). The tool’s validity (O’Neill, & Sevastos, 2013), however, may be compromised, since the participants may be afraid of putting themselves in a negative light. Herein the key weakness of the test lies. The main strength of the test concerns its ability to embrace a range of various factors. It seems that the LSS test lacks precision and focus. In contrast to the Likert Scale Survey, the tool that will be developed in this research will incorporate the effects of teaching strategies. Thought the tool does not have a direct relation to motivation, it still can be used as a basis to build the new one on (Ng’anga, & Otii, 2013).

Motivated Strategy for Learning

Defining the Attributes

The Motivated Strategy for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) can be considered both an impressive upgrade of the LSS in terms of the detailed approach towards defining the motivation factors and at the same time a tangible downgrade in analyzing what students actually think about the studying process. It measures students’ attitude towards studying (Ongowo & Hungi, 2014); as a result, the students are no longer provided with the statements concerning the types of activities that they are interested in, but are tested on their general attitude towards the studying process, particularly, studying in class, with a set of true-or-false questions. This defines some of the problems with the test, e.g., less data on the students’ motivation, as well as some of its strengths, e.g., more information on the students’ progress and the factors facilitating it. Seeing how some of the students may want to compliment themselves on their studying proves, especially when answering such questions as the comparison of the student’s skills with the ones of the rest of the class, the research validity may be questioned. In addition, the test lacks flexibility, with only true-or-false statements suggested instead of the questions that encourage more specific and detailed answers. Compared to the tool that will be designed in the course of the research, this one leaves a range of motivational factors out of the picture. Nevertheless, the MSQL assessment defines the premises for creating solid motivation rather successfully.

Revised Two-Factor Study Process Questionnaire

Effects of Teaching

A completely different approach towards evaluating students’ motivation in the classroom environment, the R-SPQ-2F test is represented by a range of statements the veracity of which is supposed to be defined by a student on a scale from 1 to 5. Its key strength concerns the design; comprising a Deep Approach and a Surface Approach, it allows for defining both the Surface Motive and the Deep Motive of the student, therefore, helping change not only their behavior, but also attitude (Stes, Maeyer & Petegem, 2013). The basic weakness of the test is that it puts a very strong emphasis on the efficacy of the teaching strategy, not allowing exploring the learner’s studying paradigm (Taher; Chen, & Yao, 2011). A better understanding of the learner’s motivation is obviously lacking. Speaking of the test validity, the student’s willingness to represent themselves as an engaged learner and, therefore, providing false answers, should be mentioned. This test will be used in the research as the means to locate the effects of a teaching strategy on the students’ motivation. Thus, R-SPQ-2F shows what outside factors affect students’ motivation.

National Survey of Student Engagement

What Entices Students

Another efficient method of evaluating the construct in question, the NSSE test suggests considering motivation by assessing the students’ engagement, as it follows from the name of the test. The survey allows for defining the aforementioned factor by providing the students with a range of statements. The students are supposed to define the frequency of the phenomena described in the test, from “Always” to “Never” (Popkess, & McDaniel, 2011). One of the doubtless improvements and the key strengths of the test is that it allows for checking the veracity of the students’ answers, since the questions are related to the students’ academic score directly, demanding the number of presentations made, the number of course materials explained to other students, etc. The test also has its problems, though; to be more specific, the NSSE assessment fails at receiving the students’ feedback and, quite honestly, does not define the factors affecting the students’ motivation. Instead, it merely states whether the students are motivated or not, and in what areas specifically, which is doubtlessly a flaw and a weakness. The test lacks the statements allowing for obtaining list of factors shaping students’ motivation. NSSE will help create the bulk for the test to be developed in the course of this research, seeing how it helps define the rates of motivation in a particular group of students. However, more efficient tools allowing for spotting the key problems, including social, economic, financial and even political ones, must be added to the assessment tool. The National Survey defines rates of engagement, therefore, being a very precise representation of students’ motivation and the reasons for it to be so low among African American students.

Intrinsic Motivation Inventory

Subjective Experience

In contrast to the NSSE system, the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory, or IMI, is supposed to measure the subjective experience of students by addressing six key domains (Interest and Enjoyment, Perceived Competence, Effort and Importance, Pressure and Tension, Perceived Choice and Value and Usefulness). Much like the NSSE assessment, the test offers several statements, which the students are to assess on a scale of one to five (from “Always” to “Never”) (Sultan, & Hussain, 2012). The strengths of the test are obvious. Seeing how it is suggested that the African American students’ background affects their academic achievements and defines their future learning patterns, it is especially important to find out what these students experience in the course of studying. IMI provides ample opportunities for defining personal factors, with its focus on the students’ intrinsic motivation and, therefore, providing a better and a deeper understanding of what makes young African American students deliver poor academic scores. Unfortunately, the weaknesses of the test are just as tangible. The test is split into six areas of interest, with an evident absence from family related factors. In my research, the aforementioned gap is going to be filled in with appropriate questions. Hence, the test will serve as another important addition to the inventory, which will be used as the basis for my evaluation tool. Since IMI shows rates of students’ engagement, it helps define how motivated thee students are to excel in their studying process.

Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students

Analyzing Attitudes

Finally, one must address the ASSIST test as one of the most frequently used and the most efficient tools for evaluating students’ motivation. Also presupposing that the students should assess the provided statements, giving them a score from 1 to 5, the test gives an opportunity to gain a better insight on the approaches that students undertake to study, as well as the attitudes that students have towards specific activities and the learning process in general (Walker, Spronken-Smith, Bond, McDonald, Reynolds, & McMartin, 2010). It is crucial that the assessment helps link the curriculum expectations to the actual performance results, which students are capable of delivering. However, the fact that the family background, as well as the effect of the parents’ guidance, as well as their interest in the student’s academic progress, is not taken into account in the test in question. Therefore, though ASSIST is used very frequently, its credibility and validity can also be questioned. The tool clearly needs an introduction of the questions related to the family support. The questions listed in ASSIST will be considered as the possible choice for the test to be developed in this research; however, because of its structure, ASSIST cannot be seen as the basis for the test to be built on. The test in question addresses the motivation issue indirectly, since it provides the information concerning both approaches and attitudes to studying developed by students and, thus, shows what these approaches and attitudes may lack to encourage students for perfecting their academic skills.


A New Measurement Tool as the Key to Understanding and Addressing the Decreasing Retention/Modalities Rates in African American Children

Assessing African American students’ motivation is an essential step towards defining the key problems that the students in question have in the course of their learning process. Not only does it create a defined picture of the issues that the students in question have to work on, but also allows for developing a flexible teaching strategy aimed at raising motivation rates and encouraging students for learning more. Though the existing tools for evaluation assessment leave much to be desired in terms of their precision, scope, etc., they can be used as the basis for creating a new powerful tool for motivation assessment. As soon as the tool is created, further avenues for the choice of teaching strategies can be defined and analyzed.


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