Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Benjamin Forsyth


Motivation in education; Learning, Psychology of; Goal (Psychology);


As a pre-service teacher, areas of focus that I have found to be incredibly intriguing are student motivation and student engagement. How educators motivate their students in their respective classrooms is something that has always been of interest to me. Many topics, including science – my field of teaching – are often remembered by students as the class they disliked the most or the one with the poor teacher. This could be due to a number of factors; it may be the style of teaching, the methodology of teaching, the age of the teacher, the curriculum itself, etc. The list could go on, but it circulates around one main question: How can teachers motivate their students to learn?

This study focuses on exploring conceptual contexts and instructional methods-- mainly ones that are of new interest to the field and ones that are not widely used by educators of today. My research involves looking at the contextual methods that are possessed by teachers to see if they can positively impact the learning of the students, their participation, and their engagement.

One aspect that I wanted to focus in on during this study was keeping a generation with everything at their fingertips engaged. While many schools are going one-to-one with technology with laptops, tablets, or iPads, this only increases the likelihood of students are “Google-ing the answer.” These Generation-Z students, or otherwise known as iGeneration (which seems to be more fitting), are our future (Jones et. al., 2007). How we engage our students has changed over time, and teaching science in the classroom looks different today with the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. The state of Iowa Board of Education adopted the Next Generation Science Standards with some modifications in 2015. The standards are learning expectations in science for grades K-12, and they refocus the way science is taught to help students truly grasp the subject and apply what they have learned (Iowa Department of Education, 2015). These standards move away from the traditional use of step-by-step lab activities and lectures and move to an inquiry-based learning approach.

Education is the future for the next generation. How educators choose to impact this next group of bright, young minds is up to them, but I wanted to have a say in it. This research focuses on Virginia Pitts and Daniel Edelson’s “Role-Goal method,” where students are in the driver’s seat of their own learning (Pitts & Edelson, 2004, 2006). By using Pitts and Edelson as a guide, I worked with Dr. Ben Olsen of Helen Hansen Elementary School in Cedar Falls, IA, where we were able to use the Role-Goal method with an enrichment group of seven fifth graders, formally declared “talented and gifted” during a case study.

Year of Submission



Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


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