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Differences in students’ school motivation: A latent class modelling approach


In this study, we investigated the school motivation of 7,257 9th grade students in 80 secondary schools across the Netherlands. Using a multiple goal perspective, four motivation dimensions were included: performance, mastery, extrinsic, and social motivation. Our first aim was to identify distinct motivation profiles within our sample, using the four motivation dimensions in a latent class analysis. Our second aim was to investigate the relationships between students’ school motivation profiles and several educational outcomes (school commitment, academic self-efficacy, and academic achievement). The 6-cluster solution model best fitted the data. We found two clusters of students with consistent response patterns across all four motivation scales (well above and well below the average scores, respectively), two clusters of which one showed relatively high scores on mastery and social motivation and the other on performance and extrinsic motivation, and two clusters with extremely low scores on performance motivation and to a lesser extent on extrinsic motivation. The results revealed notable differences in school commitment and academic self-efficacy across the six clusters, but not with regard to academic achievement.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Many researchers use the term ‘goals’ instead of ‘goal orientations’, whereas their operationalization of the construct is, in our view, more in line with the broader notion of goal orientations rather than striving for particular achievement goals. We therefore chose to use the term ‘goal orientations’ throughout the manuscript whenever this broader notion is measured. The differences between the two terms will be outlined further in the theoretical framework.

  2. 2.

    Originally, 33 items were used, but the translation of one item was ambiguous, thus this item was excluded from the analyses.

  3. 3.

    In the analyses throughout the manuscript Bonferroni corrections were applied to the alpha level of .001 based on the number of computed tests.

  4. 4.

    Technically, means of different scales cannot be compared, as the scales are different (i.e., the metric is arbitrary). Nevertheless, we decided to report paired-samples t test results for ease of interpretation of the differences between the average scale scores.


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Correspondence to Hanke Korpershoek.

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Korpershoek, H., Kuyper, H. & van der Werf, G. Differences in students’ school motivation: A latent class modelling approach. Soc Psychol Educ 18, 137–163 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-014-9274-6

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  • School motivation
  • Achievement goal theory
  • Multiple goal perspective
  • Secondary education
  • Latent class modelling