This volume came into being thanks to a long-standing friendship between two women who have shared an enduring interest in children and their motivation to succeed in school and achieve to their full capacity. Our mutual participation at our universities and at convention presentations, as well as an intimate knowledge and respect for each other's research, led us to recognize the need for research on academic motivation to be elaborated to attend to the cultural context of schooling. Our many conversations about motivation, culture, and schooling that have occurred over the years of our friendship, collegiality, and collaboration have led directly to this volume. We are delighted that, with teamwork, we have assembled this substantial contribution to the literature on academic motivation.
We have studied academic achievement motivation in children over several decades, although in different settings. I, Cynthia Hudley, began thinking about and examining achievement motivation as a middle school teacher several decades ago in a public opportunity school for children who were unable to adjust in the regular school setting. The students I encountered there were often academically competent and sometimes excellent but too frequently academically disengaged. A great deal of my time was spent simply getting students to participate in class and complete their work.
Initially, responses such as “I don't want to right now”; “I hate this”; “This is too easy” were difficult to connect to the learning activities in the classroom. Thus, one of my first tasks was to understand the “why” of interactions in the classroom as well as in the school. This need (p.viii) for understanding led me to graduate school and to the literature on achievement motivation long before I became an academic and a contributor to that literature. My interest in the effects of school culture is undoubtedly the result of the contrast between the unique school culture in which I began teaching and the comprehensive, suburban high school that was the final setting for my career teaching in K-12 schools. I was able to see from day to day interactions in settings in which I worked that every school has both a unique character and amazingly similar characteristics that reflect the larger society in which the school is embedded. Most important for this volume, I saw within my first five years of teaching that student behavior and attitudes are reflections of the conditions of the larger society, of students' personal life circumstances, and of the culture of the school. These complex relationships between societal, organizational, and individual factors remain at the forefront of my thinking and my work in academia, keeping me ever mindful of the young people whose life experiences started me down this path.
I, Adele Eskeles Gottfried, became involved in studying academic intrinsic motivation shortly after completing my Ph.D. dissertation in a classic area of children's learning, incidental learning paradigms as related to paired-associate memory. After completing the doctoral research, I was approached by the superintendent of instruction of the school district in which the dissertation study had been completed and asked whether I would like to participate in the district's effort to help their underachieving students. Thus was born my interest in academic intrinsic motivation. I could think of no other factor that would be more important than intrinsic motivation in searching for explanations of un-derachievement. After reading everything I could about intrinsic motivation over a single summer, I realized that there was no instrument to measure academic intrinsic motivation across subject areas and school in general. Right then I began the development of the Children's Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory. After the psychometrics of the instrument were established, it became the grounding for a major research program to understand the motivational foundations of children's learning and performance. Over several decades I have worked with many wonderful colleagues in advancing knowledge on academic intrinsic motivation as related to performance and achievement. It is easy to see how this became my life's work, and this book brings me full circle to the role of intrinsic motivation in academic underachievement, the issue that I originally pondered.
(p.ix) We would like to thank the editors at Oxford for their careful review of this project and for their comments, which helped frame the integrative nature of this volume. Additionally, we thank all the contributors who carefully presented their own research and also addressed the ways their scholarship informs the field of academic motivation in the culture of schooling. We are grateful to them for their time and attention to helping make this volume a reality. We also greatly appreciate the support provided by our respective universities over the years that have enabled us to pursue our scholarship. Finally, we hope that these contributions will stimulate others to further pursue this topic to create educational opportunity and equity to all.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Adele Eskeles Gottfried