Learning Motivation in International Primary Schools : The Voices of Children

University dissertation from Stockholm : avdelningen för internationell och jämförande pedagogik

Abstract: The overall aim of this study is to contribute to a greater understanding of learning motivation in primary school education. Particular emphasis is given to investigating how various contextual or situational aspects of the classroom/school environment affect motivation. The study, further, strives to identify, describe and interpret the views and perceptions of students enrolled in two international schools in Switzerland and Sweden.As globalization processes, world cultural flows and personal mobility expand and accelerate, school populations are becoming increasingly multicultural in composition. Educators are challenged to develop and adapt educational programs to fit heterogeneous rather than homogeneous groups of learners. In this study, a multicultural, international population of learners was selected as a sample as they may be representative of diverse student populations becoming more common in the future. Four classes of grade five students, a total of sixty-six children, were selected as participants in this comparative, case study investigation.An eclectic conceptual approach guided the research including principles drawn from problem-based, constructivist and humanistic theories of learning. Bandura’s social cognitive motivational theory also provided a background for the choice of methods and data collection procedures employed. An exploratory, mainly qualitative approach was taken during the two phases of fieldwork. Participant observations were made and in-depth interviews were conducted; a short questionnaire was also administered to provide background information and to function as a screening instrument or guide for subsequent interviews.The findings indicate that a variety of factors in the classroom/school environment affect students learning motivation. Areas identified and described in the study include what to learn, learning processes, learner autonomy, teacher influences, the physical environment and psycho/social influences. In comparing the results from the two case study schools, notable differences were found in student responses in the areas of learning processes, learner autonomy, teacher influences and overall attitude towards school. Students at the school in Switzerland were consistently more positive than those at the school in Sweden. Most of the differences identified were related to the curriculum model utilized and type of school organization and leadership employed. The findings indicate that the educational program based on constructivist, inquiry-based theories of learning implemented in a cohesive, all-school approach, produced higher levels of motivation in individual students.

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