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Title: An Empirical Test of the Expectancy-Value Theory of Motivation in Explaining the First-Generation Achievement Gap
Authors: Rogers, Haley
Advisors: Haushofer, Johannes
Department: Psychology
Class Year: 2020
Abstract: First-generation low-income (FGLI) students at postsecondary institutions face myriad challenges not experienced by their continuing-generation peers. The difference in academic performance, school completion, and life outcomes between these two cohorts is often referred to as the first-generation achievement gap. A framework recently proposed by Laurin, Engstrom, & Alic (2019) to explain a lack of social mobility among low socioeconomic status (SES) individuals as the result low internal motivation does so by looking at it through the lens of expectancy-value theory. This theory states that three core beliefs are necessary for motivation to occur: a belief in self-efficacy, a belief that the expected rewards will materialize, and actually valuing those rewards. The proposed framework does not implicate individuals for motivational deficiencies, but rather implicates the structure and values of institutions in undermining these three beliefs in low-SES groups. The current paper presents findings from an experiment designed to test the validity of this theoretical framework in explaining the achievement gap between first-generation low-income students and continuing-generation students at a 4-year university. This experiment uses three well-tested psychological interventions, each targeting one of the three core beliefs necessary to motivation according to expectancy-value theory. The first is a warm-climate intervention to enhance self-efficacy, the second is a difference-education intervention to target outcome expectations, and the third is an intervention reframing university culture as being more interdependent to target students’ values. Five conditions were present: three where participants received only one of the three interventions, one that served as a control condition, and a final experimental condition where participants received all three interventions concurrently. It would be hypothesized by the framework being empirically tested that each of the three individual interventions would enhance the motivation and academic performance of FGLI students more so than the control, but that the experimental condition would raise these outcome measures for FGLI students more highly than using a single intervention alone. The experiment was implemented before the start of the end of the semester finals period, with intrinsic motivation and GPA reported before and after the conclusion of finals. An analysis of changes in GPA and intrinsic motivation pre- and post-intervention for first-generation low-income (FGLI) and non-FGLI participants in the five conditions reveals no significant effect on academic performance or motivation in FGLI students by any of the interventions alone nor in their combined form. The current study does not support an expectancy-value theory of motivation as a framework for understanding the first-generation achievement gap. Limitations of the current experiment are discussed and future directions for research on this framework are suggested.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Psychology, 1930-2020

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