This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Teacher and Student Perspectives on Motivation Within the High School Science Classroom




Pickens, Melanie

Type of Degree



Curriculum and Teaching


The purpose of this study was to investigate teacher and student perspectives on the motivation of high school science students and to explore specific motivational strategies used by teachers as they attempt to enhance student motivation. Four science teachers took part in an initial audio-taped interview, classroom observations with debriefing conversations, and a final audio-taped interview to discuss findings and allow member checking for data triangulation and interpretation. Participating teachers also took part in a final focus group interview. Student participants from each teacher’s class were given a Likert style anonymous survey on their views about motivation and learning, motivation in science class, and specific motivational strategies that emerged in their current science class. This study focused on effective teaching strategies for motivation commonly used by the four teachers and on specific teaching strategies used by two of these four teachers in different tracks of science classes. The intent was to determine not only what strategies worked well for all types of science classes, but also what specific motivational approaches were being used in high and low tracked science classes and the similarities and differences between them. This approach provided insight into the differences in motivating tracked students, with the hope that other educators in specific tracks might use such pedagogies to improve motivation in their own science classrooms. Results from this study showed that science teachers effectively motivate their students in the following ways: Questioning students to engage them in the lesson, exhibiting enthusiasm in lesson presentations, promoting a non-threatening environment, incorporating hands-on activities to help learn the lesson concepts, using a variety of activities, believing that students can achieve, and building caring relationships in the classroom. Specific to the higher tracked classroom, effective motivational strategies included: Use of teacher enthusiasm, promoting a non-threatening class atmosphere, and connecting the adolescent world to science. In the lower tracked classroom, specific effective strategies were: Encouraging student-student dialogue, making lessons relevant using practical applications, building student self-confidence, and using hands-on inquiry activities. Teachers who incorporate such strategies into their classrooms regardless of the track will likely increase motivation and also enhance learning for all students.