Predicting academic achievement in African-American middle school students using perceived competence and motivational orientation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation


Nick L. Smith


urban education

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Psychology


African American students are consistently perceived as doing worse than other ethnic groups in core subject area courses. However, actual competence ability among African American students does not match the perception. Further, intrinsic motivation has been identified as positively correlated to achievement scores. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationships among perceived competence and motivational orientation, and academic achievement in 159 African American and White males and females in an urban, middle school. The results from administering perceived competence and motivational orientation questionnaires to African American males and females, as well as to comparison groups of Whites, determined that there were significant differences in achievement among the groups. The results were clear that perceived scholastic competence, which is a subscale of perceived competence was the variable significantly related to academic achievement in both African American males and White males. The motivational orientation measures were most related to academic achievement in both of the female groups. The data also indicated that African American students scored significantly lower on all achievement indices than both White groups, while males in each racial group scored higher than their accompanying female group on measures of academic achievement. A regression analysis was used to develop models to predict academic achievement for each African American group. Perceived competence was a significant predictor of both math and reading achievement for African American males. Academic achievement was best predicted for African American females by using the motivational orientation variables of criteria and challenge. This study concludes that it may be possible to use motivational design as a tool to develop instructional strategies to increase the academic achievement in math and reading for African American males by focusing on strategies for developing competence, confidence and satisfaction. Motivational design for African American females would focus on developing instructional strategies that focus on their preference for challenging work and their desire for an autonomy-supportive classroom climate. Such a classroom climate would allow them the opportunity to assess their own success or failure, in contrast with a classroom they view as controlling which may negatively effects their academic achievement.


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