Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 195–221 | Cite as

Meanings of Education for University Students: Academic Motivation and Personal Values as Predictors

  • Donna Henderson-KingEmail author
  • Michelle N. Smith


We conducted two studies to determine the meanings that undergraduate students ascribe to their education and how these meanings relate to relevant psychological constructs: academic motivation and values. Ten meanings emerged: career preparation, independence, finding direction for the future, learning, self-development, taking the next step, making social connections, changing the world, stress, and escape. Support was found for many of the predicted relationships. For example, enjoyment motivation positively predicted all of the meanings, except taking the next step, stress, and escape. Also as expected, the values of intellectualism and academic achievement positively predicted learning, self-development, and changing the world. However, contrary to expectations, valuing physical development also emerged as a significant predictor of several of the meanings of education.


meaning education motivation values undergraduate students 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allport, G.W. 1961Pattern and growth in personalityHolt, Rinehart & WinstonNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Amabile, T.M., Hennessey, B.A., Grossman, B. 1986Social influences on creativity: The effects of contracted-for rewardJournal of Personality and Social Psychology501423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amabile, T.M., Hill, K.G., Hennessey, B.A., Tighe, E.M. 1994The work preference inventory: Assessing intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientationsJournal of Personality and Social Psychology66950967CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Antikainen, A., Houtsonen, J., Huotelin, H., Kauppila, J. 1995In search of the meaning of education: The case of FinlandScandinavian Journal of Educational Research39295309Google Scholar
  5. Astin, A.W. 1993An empirical typology of college studentsJournal of College Student Development343646Google Scholar
  6. Astin, A.W. (1996, March–April). The role of service in higher education. About Campus, 1(1), 14–19.Google Scholar
  7. Astin, A.W. 1999Involvement in learning revisited: Lessons we have learnedJournal of College Student Development40587598Google Scholar
  8. Astin, A.W., Oseguera, L., Sax, L.J., Korn, W.S. 2002The American freshman: Thirty-five year trendsHigher Education Research InstituteLos AngelesGoogle Scholar
  9. Bilsky, W., Schwartz, S.H. 1994Values and personalityEuropean Journal of Personality8163181Google Scholar
  10. Bowen, H. 1977Investment in learning: The individual and social value of American higher educationJossey-BassSan FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  11. Bui, K.V.T. 2002First-generation college students at a four-year university: Background characteristics, reasons for pursuing higher education, and first-year experiencesCollege Student Journal36311Google Scholar
  12. Clark, B., Heist, P., McConnell, M., Trow, M., Yonge, G. 1972Students and colleges: Interaction and changeUniversity of California, Center for Research and Development in Higher EducationBerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  13. Deci, E.L., Ryan, R. 1985Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behaviorPlenum PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Feather, N.T. 1980Values in adolescenceAdelson, J. eds. Handbook of adolescent psychologyWileyNew York247294Google Scholar
  15. Feather, N.T. 1982Expectations and actions: Expectancy-value models in psychologyErlbaumHillsdale, NJGoogle Scholar
  16. Feather, N.T. 1992Values, valences, expectations, and actionsJournal of Social Issues48109124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Feldman, A.K., Newcomb, T. 1969The impact of college on studentsJossey-BassSan FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  18. Hennessey, B.A., Amabile, T.M., Martinage, M. 1989Immunizing children against the negative effects of rewardContemporary Educational Psychology14212227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hennessey, B.A., Zbikowski, S.M. 1993Immunizing children against the negative effects of reward: A further examination of intrinsic motivation training techniquesCreativity Research Journal6297308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hitlin, S., Piliavin, J.A. 2004Values: Reviving a dormant conceptAnnual Review of Sociology30359393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Holland, D.C., Eisenhart, M.A. 1990Educated in romance: Women, achievement, and college cultureUniversity of Chicago PressChicagoGoogle Scholar
  22. Lattin, B.D., Kerssen-Griep, J., Thede, J. 2002Metaphors and motivation: Understanding college students’ learning experiences at four types of schoolsC & U Journal, Fall782127Google Scholar
  23. Levine, A., Cureton, J.S. 1998When hope and fear collide: A portrait of today’s college studentJossey-BassSan FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  24. Mann, S. 2001Alternative perspectives on the student experience: Alienation and engagementStudies in Higher Education26719CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Moffatt, M. 1995What college is really likeNewman, D.M. eds. Sociology: Exploring the architecture of everyday life.Pine Forge PressThousand Oaks, London, New Delhi5968Google Scholar
  26. Pascarella, E.T., Terenzini, P.T. 1991How college affects studentsJossey-BassSan FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  27. Rohan, M.J. 2000A rose by any name? The values constructPersonality and Social Psychology Review4255277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rokeach, M. 1973The nature of human valuesFree PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Ryan, R.M., La Guardia, J.G. 1999Achievement motivation within a pressured society: Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to learn and the politics of school reformAdvances in Motivation and Achievement114585Google Scholar
  30. Schilling, K.M., & Schilling, K.L. (1999, May–June). Increasing expectations for student effort. About Campus, 4(2), 4–10.Google Scholar
  31. Schwartz, S.H., Bilsky, W. 1987Toward a psychological structure of human valuesJournal of Personality and Social Psychology53550562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Scott, W.A. 1965Values and organizations: A study of fraternities and sororitiesRand McNallyChicagoGoogle Scholar
  33. Skorupa, K. (2002, December). Adult learners as consumers. Retrieved February 29, 2004, from
  34. Stewart, A.J. 1982The course of individual adaptation to life changesJournal of Personality and Social Psychology4211001113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stewart, A.J., Sokol, M., Healy, J.M.,Jr., Chester, N.L. 1986Longitudinal studies of psychological consequences of life changes in children and adultsJournal of Personality and Social Psychology50143151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Trent, J., Medsker, L. 1968Beyond high school: A psychological study of 10,000 high-school graduatesJossey-BassSan FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  37. Weiner, E. 1999The meaning of education for university students with a psychiatric disability: A grounded theory analysisPsychiatric Rehabilitation Journal22403409Google Scholar
  38. Wolf, M.A. 1985The meaning of education in late life: An exploration of life reviewGerontology and Geriatrics Education55159CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentGrand Valley State UniversityAllendaleUSA

Personalised recommendations