Psychology Students’ Motivation and Learning in Response to the Shift to Remote Instruction During COVID-19

Ellen Usher, Jonathan Golding, Jaeyun Han, Caiti S. Griffiths, Mary Beth McGavran, Christia Spears Brown, Elizabeth A. Sheehan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic shifts in the teaching and learning of psychology. The purpose of this study was to document the impact of those shifts on undergraduate psychology students’ motivation and self-regulation of learning during the initial transition to remote instruction. Psychology majors (N = 358) attending a public land-grant university in the southeastern U.S. voluntarily completed a survey at the end of the Spring 2020 semester. Closed- and open-ended items assessed students’ self-reported behavioral and psychological wellness, motivation, and learning experiences during the COVID-19 outbreak. A convergent mixed methods analysis was used in which open-ended questions provided context and experiential nuance to quantitative findings. Students reported increases in sleep, social media use, gaming, and procrastination, but decreases in academic motivation and self-regulation (e.g., focusing, juggling responsibilities). Over 75% reported increases in stress, which they attributed most frequently to motivational and academic challenges. Students reported learning less in most of their classes following the shift. They attributed this to internal factors, including self-regulatory/motivational difficulties, and external factors, such as instructional delivery modality. Although most perceived their instructors as understanding, nearly half reported a decline in instructional quality and communication after the shift to remote instruction. Over one third of students reported feeling less certain about their future educational plans. Implications for the provision of institutional and instructional supports for college students during and beyond the pandemic are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-29
Number of pages14
JournalScholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association


  • COVID-19
  • higher education
  • motivation
  • self-regulation
  • undergraduate psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Psychology


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