Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Chinese undergraduate students' motivation profiles: Identification and significance

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posted on 2021-12-08, 10:33 authored by Gao, Jie

This research sought to investigate the motivation of Chinese undergraduate students. It drew on Higgins’ (2012) conceptualization of motivation, which defined motivation as involving individuals’ simultaneous strivings for value, truth, and control effectiveness. Promotion, prevention, assessment, and locomotion are key general motivation tendencies that measure these three ways of strivings for effectiveness; these motivation tendencies interact to shape motivation effects (Higgins, 2012). This research examined the number and nature of the motivation configurations (i.e., motivation profiles) that mapped the interrelationships among promotion, prevention, assessment, and locomotion for a sample of Chinese undergraduate students. To this end, a mixed methods approach was adopted. First, quantitative data were collected from 886 Chinese undergraduate students at a Chinese university. The quantitative phase identified the motivation profiles and evaluated similarities/differences among the profiles with regard to important motivation factors pertaining to grit, theories of intelligence, critical thinking, effort regulation, and perceptions/evaluations of academic success. Then, the qualitative phase consisted of a multiple-case study of 19 interview participants who were purposefully selected from each of the motivation profiles identified in the quantitative phase.  Analyses of quantitative and qualitative data revealed important findings. Specifically, five distinct motivation profiles were determined in the quantitative phase. The first profile (i.e., C1) was characterized by having high/very high and comparable levels of all four motivation orientations. The C2 profile encompassed very strong prevention and average and comparable levels of the remaining orientations. The C3 profile was characterized by strong/very strong and comparable assessment, locomotion, and promotion, but very weak prevention. The C4 profile was characterized by having low/very low levels of assessment, locomotion, and promotion and below average levels of prevention. The C5 profile encompassed below average and comparable levels of assessment, locomotion, promotion, and somewhat stronger prevention. Subsequent analyses showed that there were statistically significant differences among the profiles with regard to most of the motivation factors investigated. Some of these differences were of medium to large/very large magnitude. The qualitative phase of this research provided an in-depth understanding of the different strategic approaches that students who have a certain motivation profile reported employing in their learning. The qualitative findings showed that the approaches to learning and learning related tasks/activities that were reported by the interview participants were generally in line with the characteristics of their motivation profiles.  Identifying and discussing Chinese undergraduate students’ motivation profiles contribute to understanding how the four general motivation tendencies (i.e., promotion, prevention, assessment, and locomotion) interact and how these interactions shape other motivation factors for this population. Moreover, findings from this research provide salient information regarding the motivation factors that undergird students’ academic success. This knowledge can help teachers/educators better understand students’ motivation and support productive outcomes in learning settings. In conclusion, this research makes important contributions to the existing motivation literature and educational practices. It also opens up novel directions for future research.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education


Hodis, Flaviu; Tait, Carolyn