Motivations In Higher Education

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Background of study

The history of Cambodia has undergone a lot of wars, revolutions, invasions, a well-known genocide and exile over the past half-century (Quackenbush, 2019). In addition, there was a rapid improvement in Cambodian education after the independence from French Colony (Cambodia Cultural Profile). It is also known that Japan used to occupy, France used to rule and China and Vietnam additionally greatly influenced and controlled the communist group in Cambodia, particularly the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, a four-year period of severe suffering (Chandler, 1983), when the Vietnamese occupied the country with schools being destroyed and 90% of 20, 000 teachers being killed (Ross, 1987). Thereafter the revolution coming to an end, there has been existence of many national and international organizations helping to rebuild Cambodian educational institutions and training thousands of educators in the country (Tan, 2007).

To obtain standardized education, particularly in higher education, obviously is never an easy task. Therefore, motivation can be a dominant element, encouraging students either extrinsically or intrinsically to keep going (Saira, Madiha, Sumiara, & Anam, 2014). Simply defined, extrinsic motivation refers to the behavior of individuals to perform tasks and learn new skills because of external rewards or avoidance of punishment (Tranquillo & Stecker, 2016). To illustrate further, external factors can be due to financial incentives, status, promotional opportunities, public recognition, etc. In other words, extrinsic rewards may motivate learners to take on a task that they are not internally intrigued about; for instance, some students simply study majors that only seem to offer high salaries once they graduate (Muhammad & Azhar, 2013).

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Whereas intrinsic motivation refers to the desire to seek, if one’s own will, tasks and challenges, to expand and train one’s abilities, to explore and learn without the needs of external reward (Ryan, 2000, p.54-67). Intrinsic motivations are internal factors such as fulfilling personal satisfaction, setting personal goals, having an innate curiosity, etc (Incentive Theory of Motivation and Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation). Personally speaking, I believe that if students are intrinsically motivated, they tend to yield better academic endeavors because they are passionate about what they are learning. According to a study conducted by Stefano I. Di Domenico and Richard M. Ryan in 2016, it is proven that inner motivation possesses several genuine advantages, for example, the enhancement in learning and performance, the increase of creativity and general well-being of students. Having the right attitudes and motivations greatly assist higher education undergraduates and graduates in their academic endeavors, including their everyday routines in spite of academic burdens and better settles long-term goals, especially in the long run (Ryan & Di Domenico, 2016, p.349-369).

Statement of problem

The problem addressed in this study mentions both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations behind the undertaking of higher education, including a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral degree. The purpose of this study is to inquire into the motivating elements which encourage Cambodian undergraduates and graduates in higher education, particularly universities and institutes in Phnom Penh, despite tremendous struggles and academic fatigue.

Research Objectives and Research Questions

Research Objectives

The purpose of this research is to discover the central phenomenon being studied regarding the extrinsic and intrinsic motivations of students who did or are now doing higher education in Cambodia coming from distinguished fields, particularly in the 3 aforementioned universities. The study additionally seeks the explanation as to find out which one is a more effective factor, either extrinsic or intrinsic, to retain higher education students regardless of severe academic burdens.

Research Questions

  1. What are the extrinsic factors that motivate students to pursue higher education in Cambodia?
  2. What are the intrinsic factors that motivate students to pursue higher education in Cambodia?
  3. Between these two key factors, which one is more effective to retain higher education students regardless of severe academic burdens in Cambodia?


The research and ultimate findings of this study will yield understanding regarding the motivations accelerating Cambodian students to pursue higher education. The findings of this study strive to better inform Cambodian higher education institutes the wants and needs of higher education students to more effectively developing degree programs, designing and developing classroom strategies and creating marketing tools to attract and retain students (Knutsen, 2011). Lastly, these well-aware motivations will greatly aid prospective, current and retrospective students to remain resilient in carrying out higher education degrees.

Review of the literature 

Your review must be robust in order to conceptualize a research conceptual framework. You may draw diagram(s) or figure(s) to help visualize your research framework.

1. Knutsen, D. W. (2011). Motivation to Pursue Higher Education. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, United States.

  1. 1. a. Research Problem

This research intends to find out why U.S. workers pursue higher education regarding both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Thus, it explores the relationship determination between gender, age and ethnicity.

  1. 1. b. Research Questions
  • a. What are the most important extrinsic factors that motivate U.S. workers to pursue higher education?
  • b. What are the most important intrinsic factors that motivate U.S. workers to pursue higher education?
  • c. How do gender, age, and ethnicity relate to extrinsic and intrinsic factors motivating U.S. workers to pursue higher education?
  1. 1. c. Data Collection Procedure

The population of this study is U.S. workers who are non-traditional students of Robert Morris University, referring to those aged from 18-24. The total population of this study is two hundred participants surveyed to gather data needed to produce a fair assessment as the extrinsic and intrinsic factors, motivating U.S. workers to do higher education. The survey instrument used in this research was also approved by the Doctoral Committee of the University of South Dakota and the completed dissertation was accepted in partial fulfillment for the requirement of the Doctor of Education degree. Regarding the administration of the surveys, students in a classroom setting during regularly scheduled class times were given the survey items to complete.

  1. 1. d. Results/ Findings

Regarding the findings of this research, particularly the first question, these are the four most important extrinsic motivating factors found, namely “to increase my job opportunities, to fulfill my professional objectives, to make my job more secure and to increase my income”.

Proceeding on to the second question about intrinsic motivations, there are the four most important motivating factors, known as “to advance my personal growth, to develop my potential, to fulfill my personal objectives and to enrich my life”.

Talking about the last question, there is no impact on gender for intrinsic items rated and the post hoc analysis revealed the pattern was very similar for extrinsic items rated.

2. Rizkallah, E. G., & Seitz, V. (2017). Understanding student motivation: A key to retention in higher education. Scientific Annals of Economics and Business, 64(1), 45–57. doi: 10.1515/saeb-2007-0004.

  1. 2. a. Research Problem

This research paper wants to explore the motivations of college students at distinguished stages of their academic endeavors in three south-western universities with the population sample of 535 students through a survey conduct.

  1. 2. b. Research Questions
  • 1. What determines the satisfaction and motivation among students at different class standings?
  • 2. What satisfies students to stay at the institution until graduation?
  1. 2. c. Data Collection Procedure

This research is an exploratory investigation, initially conducted and included focus groups with students at different years of study, in-depth interviews with administrators and thorough review of relevant literature. This research assisted in identifying important factors contributing to students’ motivations and satisfaction with their university as well as providing the foundation in developing the questionnaire used in the survey.

An instrument was developed in assess the following, maintenance factors, motivation factors, institutional factors and demographic characteristics. The first part of the questionnaire included 43 attitudinal statements using a forced 4-point Likert scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”.

  1. 2. d. Results

Results suggest that students’ satisfaction and motivations differ throughout their academic lives as seen for freshmen and seniors. Seniors were more likely than freshmen to be less satisfied with their university in several key areas (food, maintenance, school spirit and value), indicated that university policies and procedures frustrated them. Also, they were less motivated than freshmen to achieve good grades, obtain as much knowledge as possible from their classes and develop interpersonal relationships with other students; however, they were more motivated to finish their major than were freshmen.

3. Govender, C. M. (2012). Motivation of higher education students: A single student engagement case study. The Independent Journal of Teaching and Learning Volume 7, 2012, 7, 14–23.

  1. 3. a. Research Problem

This paper presents the research that was conducted in a multicultural, multilingual, cosmopolitan higher education institution. This study was undertaken because although the majority of the students attended classes and tutorials, their assessment results revealed average to poor performance.

  1. 3. b. Research Question
  • 1. Why do student assessment results are still average to poor after the intake of tutorials and attending classes?
  • 2. What can be used to change this situation in order to motivate students to be fully responsible for their learning and simultaneously to improve their academic performance?
  1. 3. c. Data Collection Procedure

The sample population of this motivational investigation is of 130 second year students, aging from 18-24. This research study is concerned with finding effective, practical ways to engage students, evaluate the engagement at a particular level of higher education and measure whether providing enriching, motivational student engagement experiences results in improved academic performance.

  1. 3.d. Findings

The interpretation of results after the implementation of the motivational program, especially the CAP specific intervention, reveals that the research purpose was achieved. The research findings are detailed as quantitative and qualitative findings.

4. Deci, E. (1972). Intrinsic Motivation, Extrinsic Reinforcement, and Inequity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 22(1), 113–120. Retrieved from

  1. 4. a. Research Problem

If a person who is intrinsically motivated to perform an activity begins to receive external reinforcement for the activity, what will happen to his intrinsic motivation? Previous studies and the present study indicate that money decreases intrinsic motivation while verbal reinforcement tend to enhance intrinsic motivation. The beginning of a cognitive evaluation theory is discussed and an apparently discrepant prediction between this theory and inequity theory is pointed out. It is argued, however, that the theories are not conceptually discrepant, and the present study gives support for this argument.

  1. 4. b. Research Question

The question of interest in this study is whether there will be changes in a person’s intrinsic motivation for an activity when he receives external rewards for performing that activity.

  1. 4. c. Data Collection Procedure

Regarding the research site, it was conducted at the University of Rochester with 96 undergraduates as the subjects. These 96 undergraduates were randomly assigned to one of six conditions, with 8 males and 8 females in each of the conditions. Each subject participated for a 1-hour session during which he spent most of his time working on a puzzle called Soma. The puzzle is composed of seven different pieces, each of which is made to look like it consists of three or four 1-inch cubes. The pieces can be fitted together to form millions of configurations- only four of which were used for the experiment.

  1. 4. d. Findings

The results of this experiment give strong support to the cognitive evaluation theory of the effects of external rewards on intrinsic motivation although the hypothesis that verbal reinforcement increases intrinsic motivation received support for males only. It was predicted that subjects who were rewarded with money would be less intrinsically motivated and that subjects verbally reinforced would be more intrinsically motivated to perform the activity than those who were not verbally reinforced.

5. Brooks, R., & Goldstein, S. (2008). The Mindset of Teachers Capable of Fostering Resilience in Students. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 23(1), 114–126. doi:

  1. 5. a. Theory/ Argument about the topic

The assumptions educators possess about themselves, their role as teachers, and their students’ capacities play a significant role in determining expectations, teaching practices, and ultimately student happiness and success. This article provides an overview of the application of resilience principles in the classroom from the perspective of the mindset of effective educators. In their efforts to nurture resilience in their students, effective educators appreciate the life-long impact they have on students, acknowledge that all students want to be successful, and appreciate that the foundation for successful learning in a safe and secure classroom climate in the relationship they forge with students. Ideas and strategies are offered to assist teachers in developing a mindset capable of fostering resilience in students.

  1. 5. b. Findings

School psychologists are in an influential position to serve as catalysts for transforming educational practices and creating sustainable, resilient classrooms. In part, they can do so by identifying the mindset associated with effective educators and suggesting strategies to nurture this mindset. They can be available as new scripts are initiated and assessed, offering feedback and encouragement to the faculty. The benefits of such input to both teachers and students will be noteworthy.

6. Tohidi, H., & Jabbari, M. M. (2012). The effects of motivation in education. Procedia- Social and Behavioral Sciences, 31, 820–824. Retrieved from

Motivation is the ability to “powering people to achieve high levels of performance and overcoming barriers in order to change”. It is the drive of guidance, control and persistence in human behavior. What strengthens a person’s behavior? What guides such behaviors or conducts in a certain direction? What enhanced or maintained the behavior? It is called motivation. It is the cause and manner of the organization to force people to do certain behaviors. Stimulus needs may be considered as attempts to deal of competence are getting involved. Rather, a combination that made certain aspects Of behavior is describing.


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