The Motivational Effects on Test Scores of Elementary Students

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Education and test scores are partners. The Motivational Effects on Test Scores of Elementary Students is a quantitative research study authored in 1993 by Brown and Walberg. In this study, the authors report about the correlation of motivational effects on the test scores of elementary students. The article discusses the results of the test scores of the experimental groups and the control groups.

Research Question/Hypothesis

In page 133, Brown and Walberg (1993) state, “The purpose of the study is to determine the effect of experimentally manipulated motivational conditions on elementary students’ mathematical scores” Therefore, this article anchors its research on the quest to establish the determination of motivational effects of test scores on elementary students. In the U.S. educational system, children from Kindergarten and beyond are assessed based on scores. Motivation has a meaningful influence on children’s scores and children do well academically and socio-emotionally when they are motivated. Likewise, motivation is an issue. Brown and Walberg (1993) suggest that the lack of relationship between what is studies and what is tested is depicted from the low scores that children attain despite studying consistently. The authors add, “their performance on such tests ordinarily does not affect their grades, college, or job prospects. Some students admit deficient motivation, but surveys show reasonably favorable attitudes toward tests by most students” (Brown & Walberg, 1993, pp. 133 – 134)

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Research Methods

In this research, Brown and Walberg (1993) conducted a randomly selection of elementary students drawn from grade levels 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8. The sample size in this study included a total of 406 students from eight public schools in Chicago, Illinois. Brown and Walberg (1993) adopted the Form 7 of the Mathematics Concepts subtest of the Iowa Basic Skills (ITBS) 1978 edition, Levels 9-14 to conduct the study. The authors state, 

Form 7 of the Mathematics Concepts subtest of the Iowa Basic Skills (ITBS) 1978 edition, Levels 9-14, because it is a commonly used, highly reliable test. Furthermore, it is an excellent basic skills battery measuring global skills that are likely to be highly related to the long-term goals of elementary schools. (p. 134)

The student control groups and experimental groups received standard test instructions read to them before taking the tests. According to the information gathered in the article, Brown and Walberg’s research study is considered quantitative experimental. McMillan (2016) describes the characteristics of experimental research as “direct control of an intervention. The researcher treats participants in a planned way, decides on and carries out the specific intervention for one or more groups of the participants” (p. 238).  Brown, one of the authors, met with the teachers of the experimental groups and explained the added motivational script instructions. 

The teachers of the experimental group read the following motivational script:

It is really important that you do as WELL as you can on this test. The test score you receive will let others see just how well I am doing in teaching you math this year. Your scores will be compared to students in other grades here at this school, as well as to those in other schools in Chicago. That is why it is extremely important to do the VERY BEST that you can. Do it for YOURSELF, YOUR PARENTS, and ME. (Brown & Walberg, 1993, p. 134)


Brown and Walberg (1993) provided their statistical data on Table 1 of Grades 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8. The Grade three had a higher mean of a 9.78 in the experimental groups compared with the controlled groups; Grade four showed a higher mean of a 6.35 in the experimental groups and Grade eight also had a higher mean of a 13.54 in the experimental groups. On the other hand, the control groups of Grades six and seven showed a higher mean score of 1.2 and a 2 (Brown & Walberg, 1993, p. 135).The experimental group that heard the motivational script from their teachers scored significantly higher compared to the control group except in one case.

This study is an experimental procedure that aims at understanding how to motivate students in taking tests and the consequent effects that motivation has on the test scores of students. However, the data was skewed in several ways, thus questioning its validity as experimental. As evidenced, one experimental group did not score higher. In addition, the data is skewed since the fifth grade was excluded in the study. Despite this, the authors write in page 134, “The analysis of variance shows a highly significant effect of experimental condition (F = 10.59, p < .01), a significant effect of school (F = 3.35, p < .05). No other effects, including grade level, were significant.”

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The data collection and the results matched the purpose of the authors, which is to determine the effects of motivation on elementary students test scores. The research aimed at answering the question on how motivation affects test scores in elementary school students. In as much as process of data collection of data displayed traces of skews, the amount and quality of data acquired from the available sample size matched the purpose of the study. The results established that students given special instructions performed better than the control students did on the criterion measure, which was the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Consequently, the results of the research identified a relationship between the motivational effects on Test Scores and the performance of students in elementary school, hence answering the research question. 


“Educational research often involves children; individuals under 18 years of age. The consent form should provide potential participants with all the information needed to make an informed decision about participation” (McMillan, 2016, p. 37). In the article, the student participants from took part in the study of their free which contradicts the explanation of McMillan. The authors, Brown and Walberg, did not address consent forms from the children’s parents or from the participants. In this specific study, the authors have tested and proven that a motivational script influenced some children’s Mathematics test scores. However, the findings in this study cannot be generalized, as the discrepancies in the data limit the ability of these findings to be mapped across a larger cross-section of the elementary student population that is characterized by environmental, physical and cultural differences. The study fails to consider the ability of other factors to influence the test scores, including the environmental, physiological, cultural and psychological factors. The study findings would have been more conclusive had the researchers included the effects of these additional variables in conducting the research. Therefore, a motivational speech and instructions from teachers, family, and other important people can improve student scores on a standardized assessment. Even more, the researchers classified the study as purely quantitative, but ended up including perspectives drawn from a sample outside the scope defined in the study. Therefore, the inclusion of the student and teacher perspectives classifies the study as one which employs mixed methods. This is depicted in the statement where one teacher explained “the script gives me a feeling of family. I think if we told students just how much we want them to do well, and that it will not only benefit themselves but the whole school, they will probably do better” (Brown & Walberg, 1993, p. 134). This research study does not fully meet the standards of the quantitative research design, as the data collection and analysis methods display discrepancies. In quantitative research, these two aspects play a pivotal role in determining the validity and applicability of the study findings.

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  1. Brown, S., & Walberg, H. (1993). Motivational effects on test scores of elementary students. The Journal of Educational Research86(3), 133–136. 
  2. McMillan, J. (2016). Fundamentals of educational research (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
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