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Title: What motivates A-level students to achieve? : the role of expectations and values
Author: Brown, Carol
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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Eccles' expectancy-value model of achievement motivation suggests that beliefs about ability and expectations for success are a strong predictor of grades and differences in task value underlie differences in motivation and achievement. This model has not been previously investigated in the context of high stakes examinations in the UK and this study therefore explores the relationships between expectations, values and A-level achievement in 930 students. This is important given the significance of these qualifications for future life pathways. Furthermore, studies examining the subjective task value (STV) patterns across school subjects, rather than domain specific ones, are rare, highlighting the additional importance of this work. A mixed methods design was used. A questionnaire collected information on a student's background (SES, gender, ethnicity), the expectations and STV attached to A-levels, and their future and general life expectations and values. Some of these relationships were also explored using 20 semi-structured interviews. The qualitative data illustrated that studying A-levels confirmed aspects of students' identity but also facilitated changes to their goals and academic skills, having positive effects, contrary to the argument that high stakes assessment has a negative impact on individuals. Unsurprisingly parents and teachers were perceived to be influential. As predicted, expectations and values were related to A-level achievement. As there is a lack of research into the effects of these variables on A-level outcomes these findings are valuable. Eccles' original three factor model of STV could not, however, be supported. In this research the utility construct was removed. Further exploration of the STV construct is warranted. Socio-economic status was positively related to both achievement and expectations about achievement. Girls had lower expectations but placed higher value on their A-levels. There were, however, no gender differences in achievement. Employing the expectancy-value model in this UK context has been useful in explaining the motivational patterns underlying A-level qualifications and the findings have implications for enhancing outcomes and narrowing educational gaps in this student population.
Supervisor: Baird, Jo-Anne ; Hopfenbeck, Therese Sponsor: Pearson UK
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Education ; Psychology ; Expectancy-value theory ; Motivation ; Subjective task value ; A-level ; Identity