School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Christy James


Apathy, Middle School, Student Motivation


Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Other Education


The purpose for this phenomenological study was to investigate students’ perceptions as to why some middle school students lose their intrinsic motivation to learn and develop apathy toward learning while other middle school students thrive. The following question guided the research: Based on students’ lived experiences, what are the sources for motivation and/or apathy during the middle school years? Four sub-questions were also used: (1) What are students’ perspectives about the intersection of standardized testing and report cards to their motivation/apathy to learn? (2) What are students’ perceptions of the intersection of technology and motivation/apathy? (3) What do students perceive to be necessary resources beneficial to their motivation? (4) What do students perceive to be obstacles that hinder their motivation? This qualitative study was grounded in the self-determination, self-efficacy, and student apathy theories of Bandura, Frankl, Maslow, and Ryan and Deci. The research will take place in a suburban middle school in central Virginia. The study included 12 middle school students that were identified as highly motivated (six students) and highly unmotivated (six students). Highly-motivated and highly-unmotivated students were identified through self-evaluation surveys, grade averages, and teacher/counselor recommendation. Once students were determined as potential participants, parental consent forms and participation forms were distributed. After the consent/participation forms were collected, the researcher assigned an adolescent apathy questionnaire and a learning style questionnaire. The researcher also met with each participant two times, including an introduction meeting and the interview. The researcher then coded and analyzed the data the participant provided. As a result of analyzing the students’ experiences five themes emerged: Organization, self-satisfaction, expectations, goals, and hindrances.