The Effects of School Change on Student Motivation

Author: Sarah Carter


As we consider ways to improve our public schools, those schools where significant change has taken place become models. Where a change is “successful,” it is then implemented in schools across the country. However, I wonder how we assess the effects of school reform on student motivation. How are students informed of and prepared for school change? How do students respond to the changes once they are implemented? My research this quarter focused on the students at Cleveland High School in Seattle, WA, and their responses to the shift from a traditional curriculum to a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum. Questions I asked included: how aware were students of the change process? How did the change affect student motivation? Was the change at Cleveland undertaken in the most effective way possible? I sought to answer these questions in interviews with tenth-, eleventh-, and twelfth-graders; through analysis of the change process at Cleveland; and with a literature review addressing the complexities of school change.