Students’ Motivation

An Investigation into the Factors Affecting Students’ Motivation in Junior Cycle Science

Abstract: My research is focused on the problem of students’ decline in motivation in junior cycle science in Ireland. For decades schools have been repeatedly faulted by would-be reformers for their failure to motivate and interest students (Lepper et al. 1997). School remains “detached from the real world [and] distant from the rest of students’ lives” (Slade and Trent, 2000). More specifically, it has been found in many countries throughout the world that there are problems in creating a climate where young people feel enthusiastic about their experiences in school science lessons (Bennett 2010). In fact, one of the greatest challenges for teachers, Theobald (2006) asserts, remains stimulating students’ motivation to learn.

Evidence shows that students’ interest in and motivation to study science declines dramatically in the early years of secondary school (Osborne et al. 2003). This problem exists internationally (Royal Society of Chemistry, 2008) and in Ireland (Smyth et al., 2006). This loss of motivation in science has inspired my research study with the aim of it being to investigate where and why students experience this lack of motivation in science in school.

To date, a large scale quantitative study has been carried out as part of this Masters project, using Teacher and Student Questionnaires. In order to delve further into the factors that affect students’ motivation in science however, it is necessary to conduct a qualitative study, through the use of Teacher Interviews and small Student Focus Groups. This part of the project is now ongoing.


Bennett, J. (2010) ‘Making a difference: factors that affect young people's interest and participation in science’, paper presented at the 10th European Conference on Research In Chemistry Education, Krakow, 4-8 July 2010.

Lepper, M. R., Sethi, S., Dialdin, D and Drake, M. (1997) ‘Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: A developmental perspective’, Developmental Psychopathology: Perspectives on Adjustment, Risk and Disorder, 23-50.

Osborne, J. Simon, S. and Collins, S. (2003) ‘Attitudes towards science: A review of the literature and its implications’, International Journal of Science Education, 25, 1049-1079.

Slade, M and Trent, F. H. (2000) ‘What are boys saying: An examination of the views of boys about declining rates of achievement and retention’, International Educational Journal, 1, 201-229.

Theobald, M. A. (2006) Increasing Student Motivation: Strategies for Middle and High School Teachers, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.


Researcher: Beulah McManus
Commencement date: September 2013
End date: September 2015