A cultural heuristic approach to the study of Jamaican undergraduate students' achievement motivation

Karen Elizabeth Clayton, Fordham University


In recent years, there have been increasing calls to develop a more contextually-based, sociocultural perspective of achievement motivation. With this in mind, this mixed method study examined Jamaican, of the West Indies, undergraduate students' perception of motivation. This study was conducted in two phases. First, a qualitative investigation using open-ended questionnaires and semi-structured interviews investigated participants' conceptualization of motivation and the factors that students use to explain why they are motivated or unmotivated. Part one of the study consisted of 175 undergraduate students; 158 completed the open-ended questionnaires and 17 participated in the semi-structured interviews. The second phase consisted of using prototype theory to capture a hierarchical cognitive representation Jamaican undergraduates' motivation by examining how the coded themes derived from the qualitative data are organized in a coherent, theoretically meaningful way. Participants were 189 Jamaican undergraduate students who rated the importance of each theme to academic motivation and learning. Participants also sorted each item according to perceived similarity to ascertain dimensions and hierarchy. The overall results indicated that personal, cognitive, contextual, and sociocultural factors are important determinants of Jamaican undergraduate students' academic motivation. However, the sociocultural (e.g., familial, economic, religious) factors appear to play a more critical role in impacting their motivation and academic achievement than the cognitive (e.g., beliefs about ability) factors. Taken together, the results suggest that the current social cognitive theories of motivation may be somewhat inadequate to explain the wide variety of factors that impact academic motivation.

Subject Area

Multicultural Education|Educational psychology|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Clayton, Karen Elizabeth, "A cultural heuristic approach to the study of Jamaican undergraduate students' achievement motivation" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3521758.