Going Beyond “That was fun”: Measuring Writing Motivation



measurement, motivation, secondary school students, writing, writing analytics


  • Aim:  The use of validated measures of writing motivation is imperative to improving our understanding and development of interventions to improve student writing utilizing motivation as a mechanism.  One of the most important malleable factors involved in improving student writing is motivation, particularly for secondary school students.  This research note systematically examines the measures of writing motivation for students in grades 4–12 used by researchers over the last ten years and summarizes their psychometric and measurement properties to the extent provided in the underlying literature. This collection of measures and their properties and features is designed to make researchers more aware of the various options and to point out the need for additional measures. 
  • Problem Formation:  Writing is crucial to college and career readiness, but adolescents are inadequately prepared to be proficient writers.  Grades 4–12, once students have generally learned the basics of writing, are when students begin to develop more fluent and sophisticated writing abilities.  They turn from learning to write to writing to learn, and writing is increasingly done across content areas and in multiple genres.  Unfortunately, writing is a difficult skill to master, and students in middle and high school suffer from declining motivation.  The ability to measure changes in writing motivation at this developmental stage will allow researchers to more effectively design and assess writing interventions.  What are the current, validated measures of writing motivation available for researchers working with adolescents?  Motivation research has grown significantly in the last ten years, and a variety of motivation constructs (e.g., self-efficacy, expectancy-value) and related measures are used across the field. In addition to the variety of motivation constructs used in research today, researchers require domain- or context-specific measures of motivation (e.g., science motivation) to enable an accurate understanding of the role of motivation in achievement. Despite increased developments in both motivation and writing research over the past few decades, the intersection of these two fields remains relatively unexplored (Boscolo & Hidi, 2007; Troia, Harbaugh, Shankland, Wolbers, & Lawrence, 2013).
  • Information Collection:  A thorough literature search was done to find measures of writing motivation used for this age group within the last 10 years.  Psychometric properties, to the extent available in the underlying articles, of each measure are described.
  • Conclusions:  Ultimately, seven discrete measures of adolescent writing motivation were found, but only limited psychometric details were available for many of the measures.  No “gold standard” measure was found; indeed, the measures utilized varied motivational constructs and rarely reported more than the Cronbach’s alpha of the underlying instrument. Researchers need to carefully parse through the related motivation literature to understand the most likely constructs to be implicated in their intervention. They need to consider factors specifically related to their study, such as how stable the construct being targeted is developmentally, whether the term and type of intervention will be sufficient to make an impact on the students’ motivation as suggested by the underlying motivational literature, and what the target of the intervention is. Appropriate motivational constructs to be measured will vary depending on the intervention and its anticipated theory of change.
  • Directions for Further Research: Several underlying motivation constructs have been used in the measures described in this review, particularly self-efficacy. However, a number of important motivation constructs, such as interest and self-determination theory, were not captured by the measures found.  This review of currently available measures will give researchers options when wanting to include validated measures of writing motivation in their studies and suggests that additional, validated measures are needed to adequately cover the relevant motivational constructs.

Author Biography

Mark Warschauer, University of California Irvine

School of Education



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