School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


David T. Vacchi


Poverty, Economically Disadvantaged, Motivation, Intrinsic Motivation, Extrinsic Motivation, Resilience




The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the influencing factors that promote academic motivation among high-performing, economically disadvantaged middle school students. Poverty affects students in various ways, such as socially, emotionally, and cognitively. Due to the adverse experiences stemming from poverty, many students lack motivation and confidence in their academic abilities. On the contrary, some students overcome the adversity of poverty by demonstrating resilience. The following central question was used to further investigate the study: What factors promote academic motivation among high-performing, economically disadvantaged middle school students? The theory guiding this study is self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985; 2000; 2017). Another theory included in this study's theoretical framework is Bandura's (1986; 1997) self-efficacy theory. Self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1986; 1997) describes the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to produce given attainments. The theory of self-efficacy refers to the cognitive judgment and beliefs of the behavior and the ability desired by the successful completion of a specific task. Deci and Ryan (2000) suggest that people can become self-determined when their needs for competence, connection, and autonomy are fulfilled. Participants for this study consisted of eight middle school students, along with parents and teachers of the selected participating students. Data was collected from individual interviews and focus groups.

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