“I just don’t find it interesting”: academic major and timing of enrollment predict motivation in an introductory biology course

Jennifer L. Osterhage, Utku Caybas, Jaeyun Han, Ellen Usher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Situated expectancy-value theory (SEVT) posits that students’ expectancies for success, task values, and perceived costs affect their performance in STEM courses. Less is known about how students’ majors and timing of course completion affect motivational processes. Using the SEVT framework, this study utilised a convergent mixed methods approach to investigate academic motivation among students (N = 646) who enrolled in introductory biology at a large public university. Survey data revealed that students majoring in Biology were more motivated than students from other majors, although academic major was not directly associated with final grade. Upper-level students reported significantly lower competence-related beliefs and task values and perceived higher effort cost compared to first-year students. Upper-level students also earned significantly lower grades than first-year students. Both academic major and year in college had significant indirect effects on final course grades. Interviews with students (N = 31) helped explain and extend quantitative results. This study demonstrates that understudied factors (i.e. academic major and year in college) are important predictors of motivation in a gateway biology course and identifies themes that contribute to student motivation in this context.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Biological Education
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • gateway course
  • introductory biology
  • Motivation
  • situated expectancy-value theory
  • undergraduate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences

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