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Linking Perceptions of School Belonging to Academic Motivation and Academic Achievement Amongst Student Athletes: A Comparative Study Between High-Revenue Student Athletes and Non-Revenue Student Athletes


In this study, I examined the relationship that exists among school belonging, achievement motivation, and academic achievement in a sample of student-athletes at UC Berkeley. The goal of the study was to achieve a deeper understanding of how and why achievement motivation and academic achievement is often discrepant between revenue and non-revenue athletes (Howard-Hamilton & Sina, 2001; Simons, Covington, & Van Rheenen, 1999). By examining the relationship between sense of school belonging and achievement motivation, I aimed to identify an additional factor that may contribute to motivation and achievement differences observed between subgroups in my sample. I also investigated differing motivation profiles in a representative sample of student-athletes. The current study used a 2 x 2 goal achievement framework established by Elliot and McGregor (2001) to provide a deeper understanding of motivation by fusing approach-avoidance and mastery-performance perspectives (Elliot & McGregor, 2001).

Data for this study were collected from 143 college student-athletes at a large public university in the western United States. Respondents were from 17 to 24 years of age and were diverse in regard to gender, ethnicity, class year, sport, and socioeconomic status. Students who agreed to participate completed a brief questionnaire and submitted their responses anonymously.

Motivation profiles were established by clustering scores from four variables: mastery-approach, performance-approach, mastery-avoidance, and performance-avoidance. Four meaningful clusters were identified among the student-athlete sample. A series of multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVAs) and univariate ANOVAs were then used to examine cluster group differences on the variables of perceived school belonging (instructor support, peer support, and general sense of belonging), achievement data, and each motivation cluster. Group differences amongst high-revenue and non-revenue student-athletes in regard to the dimension of school belonging, goal orientation, and achievement level were assessed using multivariate analysis of variance.

Overall the results of the study reveal that four motivational profiles were identified within the student-athlete population using a 2 x 2 approach-avoidance and mastery-performance model. These clusters can be described as High Mastery, Moderate Motivation, High Approach, and High Motivation profiles. Student-athletes rarely reported low levels of motivation on the scale. The differences that were found between clusters were based on students feeling strongly or moderately in regard to motivation. Overall, subscales associated with a sense of school belonging did vary significantly across the four motivational clusters. Student-athletes identified as having a Moderate motivation profile had a weaker sense of support from peers, instructors, and the overall academic community in comparison to students found in the High Motivation and High Approach clusters. Students identified as having a High Approach profile felt the highest level of belonging across measures. No significant difference was found between revenue and non-revenue athletes in regard to distribution among cluster profiles; however, revenue athletes reported significantly lower levels of belonging across subscales and had a lower mean grade point average.

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