The Role of Responsive Teacher Practices in Supporting Academic Motivation at the Middle Level

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The purpose of this descriptive qualitative study was to investigate the ways teachers support young adolescents’ academic motivation in one large, urban, ethnically diverse middle school. Data included individual interviews of 24 participants (18 students, 5 teachers, and 1 middle school assistant principal). Findings suggested that the following may support student academic motivation: teacher- student relationships, teacher expectations, and instructional practices responsive to students’ basic and developmental needs. Further, the potential for educators to meet students’ needs and support their motivation may be maximized when such expectations and instructional practices are implemented within the context of high-quality teacher-student relationships. Drawing on the perspectives of both students and educators, these findings extend current research on academic motivation at the middle level by capturing the complexity of the phenomenon. An implication for educators is to understand the ways all three practices may help foster an environment responsive to students’ needs and support motivation. Findings inform middle level educational research and practice, especially in urban, ethnically diverse middle schools.

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RMLE Online: Research in Middle Level Education, v. 38, issue 1, p. 1-16