A self-determination perspective on students’ differentiated experiences of academic motivation and course well-being across courses
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For many years, researchers and educators have been concerned about achievement scores but seemed less interested in students’ happiness and psychological well-being at school. However, students’ psychological well-being experiences may facilitate students’ adjustment and ultimately lead to academic achievement. It can be assumed that students’ different motivational and well-being experiences in each course would contribute to students’ overall psychological well-being. The purpose of this study was to investigate how and why students experience different levels and kinds of motivation and well-being across courses. As the preliminary and important ground to allow me to address this purpose, I needed to establish first whether students experienced different levels of academic motivation and course well-being across the courses they were taking. A total of 505 students participated in this study and provided information about 1817 courses they were taking. The participants come from a subject pool of one department that attracted students from diverse majors. Multilevel modeling was used to explore different situational (Level 1) and personal experiences (Level 2) of motivation and course well-being across courses and across students. The unconditional model showed variability of perceptions at Levels 1 and 2 indicating that students did vary in their reports across courses and that nevertheless, there were individual differences across students in their aggregate experiences. The conditional model was used to test what course characteristics were associated with motivational and well-being indicators at the situational level. Course characteristics were taken from different constructs: course value, classroom structure, teacher characteristics, classroom goal structure, and a caring classroom climate. Predictors at the personal level included students’ sex and their perceptions of general needs for relatedness, general relatedness need fulfillment in everyday life, and personal growth. Having supported the preliminary hypothesis with the unconditional model that there was variance both within student and between students, I used the conditional model and found that various course characteristics were differently associated with academic motivation and course well-being. Overall, results addressed that teacher characteristics and a caring classroom climate were strongly associated with all the different kinds of motivational and course well-being indicators. Students’ personal characteristics were, also, differently related to these outcomes.