Motivation and engagement are firmly implicated in students’ participation in class, educational aspirations, enjoyment of school, academic learning, and academic achievement. Motivation refers to an individual’s inclination, energy, direction, and drive with respect to learning and achievement. Engagement involves the thoughts, actions, and emotions that reflect this inclination, energy, and drive. There are numerous theories articulating the key elements of students’ motivation and engagement. These theories describe how and why motivation and engagement are important for educational outcomes in their own right, as well as how and why motivation and engagement are important means to other desirable educational outcomes. Given the vast array of different theories in the areas of motivation and engagement, researchers have made calls to integrate the body of knowledge that has amassed. The Motivation and Engagement Wheel is an example of a multidimensional framework that traverses salient motivation and engagement factors from major theory and research. These factors encompass positive motivation constructs (self-efficacy, valuing, and mastery orientation), positive engagement constructs (planning, task management, and persistence), negative motivation constructs (anxiety, uncertain control, and failure avoidance), and negative engagement constructs (self-handicapping and disengagement). A broad body of research provides support for the salience of the factors in the Wheel in relation to a range of other variables (e.g., background characteristics, cultural factors) and through a variety of research designs and approaches. Importantly, there are additional exciting directions in motivation and engagement research, such as real-time investigations, the use of biomarkers, the interface with teachers, and intervention research, that are relevant to optimizing students’ academic development through school—and beyond.
Rebecca J. Collie and Andrew J. Martin
Judith Meece and Charlotte Agger
Achievement motivation theories are used to understand gender discrepancies in motivation across various academic domains. Early on in the field of motivation research, researchers commonly used an attribution framework to study achievement-related outcomes among men and women. Self-efficacy theory and a revised expectancy-value theory of achievement-related choices dominate the current literature on gender differences and achievement motivation. Current trends in research on gender and academic motivation include the shifting and expanding of theoretical frameworks, a new focus on the motivation and achievement of male students, and the use of advanced methodologies and cross-national data to conduct comparative research on gender and patterns of motivation.
Barbara Otto and Julia Karbach
In the recent years, parental involvement in a child’s academic development has been of great scientific interest. As parental involvement is a broad term it encompasses many parental activities that need to be further specified. In line with this, no widely accepted theoretical framework of parental involvement exists so far. Moreover, in terms of assessment of parental involvement a large variety of instruments have been applied: Parental involvement has been assessed by behavioral observations, self-reports, or reports by others. In spite of a missing definition and widely accepted theoretical framework, a myriad of research has been conducted to identify determinants and correlates of parental involvement. In this context, several empirical studies have revealed that the way parents get involved in their children’s schooling depends on a diverse set of variables, which refer not only to the parents themselves, but also to the family setting and the school context. However, the main body of research has focused on the effects of parental involvement. Although it has been found to be a significant predictor for children’s academic success parental involvement also seems to show changes related to the child’s age and grade level. Moreover, the different dimensions of parental involvement seem to have differential predictive value for students’ academic outcomes. Less empirical studies have been done referring to the associations of parental involvement with academic outcomes other than performance. Moreover, the very few intercultural studies conducted in this field suggest there might be similarities but also differences between Western and Eastern parents in the way how they get involved with their children’s education. Based on the presented aspects, future research should aim at developing a consistent definition and widely accepted theoretical framework of parental involvement as well as further investigate underlying determinants and mechanisms.
Ellen Skinner and Emily Saxton
Academic coping describes the profile of responses children and adolescents utilize when they encounter challenges, obstacles, setbacks, and failures in their scholastic work. Coping is one of multiple strands of research from a variety of subareas within educational and developmental science that share a common interest in this topic, including work on academic resilience, buoyancy, mastery versus helplessness, tenacity, perseverance, and productive persistence, as well as adaptive help seeking, self-regulated learning, and emotion regulation. These approaches focus on the responses (including emotions and goal-directed behaviors) students actually undertake on the ground when they encounter academic difficulties in their daily lives; patterns of action can be contrasted with the belief systems, motivations, or skill sets that underlie these responses. Since the mid 1980s, several dozen studies have examined academic coping in children and youth from 2nd to 12th grade (ages 7–18), including samples from 29 countries (Skinner & Saxton, 2019). These studies have identified multiple adaptive ways of dealing with academic stress, including problem solving, help seeking, and comfort seeking. These responses are considered productive because they allow students to gather resources and strategies, and so re-engage in demanding tasks with renewed purpose, vigor, and effectiveness. Multiple maladaptive ways of coping have also been identified, such as escape, rumination, or blaming others. These are considered unproductive because when enacted in response to academic demands, they are more likely to trigger disaffection, amplify distress, or provoke negative reactions from social partners. In general, research indicates that students normatively show a profile of coping that is high in adaptive strategies (especially problem solving, help seeking, and support seeking) and low in maladaptive responses. Studies find that students’ adaptive coping is linked to their academic functioning and success, including their educational performance, engagement, persistence, and adjustment to school transitions. In contrast, maladaptive coping is linked to a pattern of poor academic performance, disengagement, and school-related burnout. Students cope more adaptively when they possess motivational assets (such as self-efficacy, relative autonomy, or sense of belonging) and experience interpersonal supports from their parents, teachers, and peers. Studies documenting developmental trends suggest normative improvements in the coping repertoire during elementary school. However, over the transition to middle school in early adolescence, many adaptive ways of coping decline while reliance on maladaptive responses generally increases. Starting in middle adolescence, these problematic trends stabilize, and some studies indicate renewed improvement in coping, especially problem solving. Current research on academic coping faces theoretical, methodological, and applied challenges: (a) theoretically, more comprehensive conceptualizations are needed that integrate coping perspectives with social contextual, motivational, and developmental approaches; (b) methodologically, standard measures are needed that focus on core categories of academic coping, and that utilize allocation scoring; and (c) to further applied work, additional studies are needed that describe and explain normative and differential age-graded changes in adaptive and maladaptive coping across childhood and adolescence. Researchers who study academic coping believe that this work has much to offer educational theories, research, and interventions aimed at understanding how to help children and adolescents develop the capacity to deal constructively with the obstacles and problems they will inevitably encounter during their educational careers.