Is student motivation related to socio-digital participation?

logoIn the public discourse concerning school development, rather strict claims have been presented that the educational system is outdated and needs to change to better accommodate the modern learners. In some recent international comparisons (HSBC, 2012; OECD, 2012), Finland has scored rather low on school satisfaction and student well-being. Some public figures have risen to blame these unflattering scores on the lower than EU average use of educational technology in schools (European Commission, 2013). Others claim that the lack of technology in schools is hindering student motivation and engagement, and that the students are not learning what they are supposed to in order to survive in the job markets of the future. The evidence behind this debate is, however, scarce and messy. In our Mind the Gap -project, we are looking into these claims and analysing the possible gaps and tensions between the practices of today’s youth and the educational system. In our recent study published in Elsevier Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, we zoomed in on the association between students’ motivation (i.e., achievement goal orientations) and use of digital technologies (i.e., socio-digital participation practices).

Our previous research has shown that achievement goal orientations are related to students’ academic and emotional functioning. Simultaneously, adolescents engage in various socio-digital activities on a daily basis. In the present study, our aim was to integrate these two approaches to examine whether students with different motivational profiles display different patterns of socio-digital participation. The participants were Finnish high school students (N=1342) who filled in a self-report questionnaire assessing school motivation and use of digital technologies both in and out of school. We identified four motivational profiles based on students’ achievement goal orientations. These were labelled as indifferent, success-oriented, mastery-oriented, and avoidance-oriented. The groups differed in terms of their generalized motivational beliefs (i.e., schoolwork engagement, school value, fear of failure, academic withdrawal) and academic achievement.

What was interesting was that the students with different motivational profiles differed also in their orientations to socio-digital participation. For example, adaptive motivational orientations towards school were also associated with higher ICT-skills and use of ICT for academic purposes. In turn, avoidance-oriented students were the least engaged in academic activities. Furthermore, indifferent students were more likely to engage in hanging-out and gaming. Overall, more maladaptive orientations were associated with being more likely to use social media intensively (especially so for girls), and with more intense gaming (especially for boys).

We found that students’ indifference towards school is associated with the use of digital technologies outside of school (gaming and hanging-out). Also, there were some interesting group × gender interaction effects. Surprisingly, especially the avoidance-oriented girls engaged in practices related to knowledge creation and sharing (e.g., blogging). And, despite the negative overall association between GPA and gaming, both indifferent and success-oriented boys were likely to be active gamers, suggesting that the interrelations are complex.

Based on this study, it seems that the claims of the discontinuities between today’s schools and their students are not entirely made-up. This, of course, raises the question of whether the indifference towards school is the cause or the outcome. That is, whether the students are to blame, or the educational system. Furthermore, the findings raise new insights on achievement goal and gender interaction effects.

Reference: Hietajärvi, L., Tuominen-Soini, H., Hakkarainen, K., Salmela-Aro, K., & Lonka, K. (2015). Is student motivation related to socio-digital participation? A person-oriented approach. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 171, 1156–1167. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.01.226

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More information: Lauri Hietajärvi