Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr. Gary Tiffin

Second Advisor

Dr. Ginny Birky

Third Advisor

Dr. Patrick Allen


Motivation research is plentiful but applications of motivation in the academic environment remain sparse. This study examined student perceptions of motivation in relation to their effort and academic achievement. This research centered upon four research questions: 1) To what extent do student perceptions confirm extant motivation literature? 2) How do student perceptions of interest, effort, motivation, and achievement relate to one another? 3) How do affective states relate to students’ perceptions of effort and performance? 4) To what degree can students self-identify motivating or demotivating factors? Several findings emerged from this study. The most surprising was the connection between motivation and mental health with 50% of the female participants reporting mental health issues, despite the fact that this study was not designed to investigate aspects of mental health. Another finding that emerged was the participants’ near unanimous reporting that interest is tied to both effort and achievement, and that student choice is directly related to interest. These findings led to the emergence of two theories of motivation among students. The first theory that emerged was Economy of Effort Theory which explains the discrepancy between the value that both the teacher and the student each place on an assigned task. The second theory that emerged was a Theory of Student Engagement which describes motivational factors in order to help teachers create engaging classroom environments. Implications for this research include the importance for teachers to put theory into practice by constructing environments that enhance engagement in order to increase student achievement. Implications for further research include investigating how mental health concerns inhibit student motivation as well as academic achievement. Additional research suggestions include investigating the affective domain to examine how to nurture students through a culture of care, as well as engineering opportunities for interest in the classroom to promote student engagement.