Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Russell F. Waugh


Many models have been offered on students' motivation to achieve academically. However, most studies on motivation of students to achieve academically are called into question because they do not use an interval level scale, based on a good theoretical model, where attitude items are connected to behaviour items, even though motivation is defined as linked to behaviour. On the other hand, many researchers do not use qualitative methodologies as a preferred method to validate and triangulate data obtained from the questionnaire so as to add scope and breadth to the study. Most researchers have only used either qualitative or quantitative methods but not both. This study uses both the questionnaire and the Interview format so as to allow for flexibility and 'the opportunity to clarify questions and responses with the subjects in order to understand more about students' motivation to achieve academically. The study had two phases. The first phase involved completing a questionnaire on motivation to achieve academically. In this phase, a person convenience sample of 522 high school students of senior (A-level) classes (Years 12 and 13) was used. The sample was taken from three high schools in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah state in Malaysia. The sample consisted of 294 girls (56%) and 228 boys (44%). The stem-item sample• was initially 50, and was written in ordered-by-difficulty patterns. Phase one involved testing a conceptual model of academic motivation involving attitudes and behaviours in relation to three main aspects (striving for excellence, desire to learn, and personal incentives) and 12 sub-aspects. The motivation scale created in this study supports the view that nine out of 12 sub-aspects form the structure of motivation for years 12 and 13 students in Malaysia. The supported structure involves striving for excellence (standards, goals, tasks, effort, and ability) (but not values), desire to learn (interest and learning from others) (but not responsibility for Learning), and personal incentives (extrinsic, intrinsic) (but not social rewards). A unidimensional, linear scale of academic motivation was created with 20 stem-items (30 were discarded) using the Extended Logistic Model of Rasch (Andrich, 1988a, 1988b; Rasch, 1980/1960) with the computer Program Rasch Unidimensional Measurement Models (RUMM-2010) (Andrich, Sheridan, Lyne & Luo, 2000). The iii structures, patterns and the psychometric properties of the scale were analysed to understand the meaning of the results. Twenty Motivation items fitted the model and were 'easier' than their corresponding behaviour items, as conceptualised. They fanned an excellent scale in which the proportion of observed variance considered true was 0.92. There was good agreement amongst students to the different 'difficulties’ of the items on the scale and there was a good fit to the measurement model. A good scale of academic motivation to achieve for high school students was created, and the data for the 20 stem-items were valid and reliable. The structure of motivation that was created is based on three 151 order orientations, striving for excellence, desire to learn and personal incentives and nine 2nd order orientations. These are standards, ability, goals, tasks, effort as part of striving for excellence; interest, and learning from others as part of desire to learn and intrinsic rewards, extrinsic rewards as part of personal incentives. In the second phase of the study, semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted, using a sample of 45 students, who had participated in answering the questionnaire. This was done to validate and triangulate data obtained from the questionnaire, and to add scope and breadth to the study. The interviews explored students' opinions, experiences, and perceptions of motivation to achieve academically. The interviews were based on validating, clarifying, and seeking further information, on issues identified in the questionnaire. Participation in the interviews was on a voluntary basis, and interviews were conducted in the students' schools. Twenty-five of the student participants were boys and the other twenty were girls. Students' responses suggest that students have different perceptions of academic motivation, have different levels of motivation, and are motivated to achieve academically for various reasons. The results also show that students lack motivation to achieve academically because they make faulty attributions and do not recognise the importance of the aspects of their own motivation to achieve academically. Fear of failure is a way for students to protect their self-esteem and is also common among students. The findings of this research project have implications for high school teachers, administrators, teacher educators, Rasch measurement models and future research on motivation.