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App Assesses Student Motivation: Beyond Paper and Pencil

Tuesday, September 5, 2017 - 9:45am

With motivation a key component of academic success, a Mountaintop team has been building an app to measure the link between students’ motivation and their emotional reactions to being presented with school work, particularly math.

The app will be the first to give middle and high school students the ability to report on their own motivational levels, set goals and track progress based on their motivational profiles.

The project, Beyond Paper and Pencil: Creating an App to Assess Student Motivation, was part of Lehigh’s Mountaintop initiative, which allows students to conduct impactful research.  

Bridget Dever, an associate professor of School Psychology, and doctoral student Emily Gallagher, have been working with local elementary and middle schools for three years to collect data on student motivation and risk for behavioral and emotional difficulties. With schools using more technology in the classroom, Gallagher created an app to identify students who may be at risk for academic problems. The app collects data on their motivational levels.

Computer Science and Engineering professor Mooi Choo Chuah and computer science students Tom Parker ’20 and Kyle Berman ’19 joined the Mountaintop team in summer 2017 and worked on the coding for the app, which they named “Ambition. Inspiration. Motivation,” or A.I.M.

“I wanted to use this momentum to include this move toward technology into student assessments,” Gallagher said. “Through data collection we have noticed that students are not always engaged in the process and often do not complete surveys. One way around that is creating more engaging ways to collect data.”

The app allows teachers and students to monitor progress in the classroom and understand where students lack motivation. Students answer a survey of empirically supported questions based on the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales (PALS) to establish a personal data base.

Students answer questions such as, “How confident are you in your math skills or homework assignments?” 

This information is collected so teachers can monitor the level of interest and the students’ personal goals about a specific topic.

“Many apps on the market are not based in research,” Gallagher said. “We have made it our goal to ground our app in evidence-based practices and motivational theory.”

The team planned to test the app in local schools in fall 2017 and make tweaks, if necessary, before potentially launching the app in 2018.

Story by Lauryn Ragone