Motivation under the microscope: Understanding undergraduate science students’ multiple motivations for research
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- Smith, J.L., Deemer, E.D., Thoman, D.B. et al. Motiv Emot (2014) 38: 496. doi:10.1007/s11031-013-9388-8
Little is known about students’ motivations toward scientific research or the implications of pursuing multiple research motivations simultaneously. We conducted latent profile analysis (a person-centered statistical technique) on 1,052 undergraduate students from three universities enrolled in physics, chemistry, and biology laboratory sections. Based on a tripartite model that conceptualizes research motivations as intrinsic, extrinsic, and failure avoidant, analyses revealed five distinct research motivational profiles which were described as Unmotivated; Neutral Engagement, Ternary-Driven; Emerging Engagement; and High Engagement. Profile membership was associated with differences in science class experiences, science identity, and future research intentions. Results showed students were optimally motivated toward science when highly endorsing both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, with low failure avoidance. These findings contribute to the literature on self-determination theory, intrinsic motivation and multiple goals, and these data create a framework for understanding undergraduate science laboratory experiences that may aid in efforts to broaden the participation of students in science.