Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Teacher Education

Major Professor

Sherry M. Bell

Committee Members

David F. Cihak, Yujeong Park, Gary Skolits


Writing achievement of students in the United States is weak. Approximately 75% of 12th graders are not proficient writers (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2012) and performance of students in poverty lags behind that of more affluent peers. Because writing is complex (Torrance & Galbraith, 2006) and often viewed as aversive to students (Boscolo & Gelati, 2013), motivation is an important consideration for teachers. However, little research exists examining writing motivation.

A correlational research design was employed to examine writing achievement and motivation (i.e., self-efficacy and attributions) of at-risk elementary-aged students (N = 61). Participants, who attended Title 1 schools (in grades 3-5), completed several measures of writing motivation and writing achievement (Narrative Writing Self-Efficacy Scale, Writing Skills Self-Efficacy Scale [Pajares, Hartley, & Valiante, 2001], Student Writing Attributions Scale, and Test of Written Language-IV [Hammill & Larsen, 2009]). Relations among motivation variables and writing achievement were examined, as well as differences in motivation and proficiency based on sex and grade-level.

Results indicate a significant relation between narrative writing self-efficacy and writing achievement (p < .01) as well as a significant relation between writing skills self-efficacy and writing achievement (p < .01) but a non-significant relation between ability and effort attributions with writing achievement (p > .01). However, ability attributions are significantly moderately negatively correlated and effort attributions are significantly moderately positively correlated with writing self-efficacy (p < .01).

In general, writing skills self-efficacy is significantly positively correlated with writing achievement for both sexes, but ability and effort attributions towards writing and writing achievement are not significantly correlated for either boys or girls. Moreover, narrative writing self-efficacy and writing achievement is significantly related for nine and 10 year olds, but not 11 year olds. Ability attributions are significantly negatively correlated and effort attributions are significantly positively correlated with writing achievement (p < .01) only for nine year olds.

This study expands current literature by exploring relations between writing and self-efficacy and attributions of at-risk students. Because motivation is critical to sustaining effort and, ultimately, to achievement, teachers should be aware of these constructs when planning instruction.

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