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National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

Publication Details

Perceptions of School Belongingness and Goal Motivation in First-Generation Students

Author(s): Jordan Thibodeaux, & Jennifer E. Samson

Citation: Jordan Thibodeaux, & Jennifer E. Samson. (2021). Perceptions of School Belongingness and Goal Motivation in First-Generation Students. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 33(1), 121-137.



College learning depends on belongingness and personal motivation. First-generation (FG) college students are at risk for lower belongingness and motivation compared to non-FG students. We examined self-reported belongingness with the Psychological Sense of School Membership scale, and intrinsic and extrinsic motivation with the Motivational Strategies for Learning Questionnaire in FG (n = 138) and non-FG (n = 100) college students at a regional university. There was no significant difference between the two groups on belongingness and extrinsic motivation, and there were marginally higher levels of intrinsic motivation, on average, in FG students (t220.264 = -1.971, p =.05). Further examination revealed higher belongingness was related to higher intrinsic motivation for all students, but only for the FG group did extrinsic motivation relate to belongingness. We recommend researchers examine belongingness and the potentially higher levels of belongingness and motivation in academic communities with a larger FG student population.


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