Academic intrinsic motivation and differentiated instruction in the regular classroom: Potential relationships during the transition away from gifted programming

Heather Lyn Houston, University of Southern Mississippi


Gifted middle school students in Mississippi spend the majority of their instructional day in the general education classroom, yet much research aimed at meeting the needs of these gifted students does not focus on their experiences there. Further, much of the research surrounding the instruction received by gifted students in the regular classroom takes the perspective of the teacher alone. The purpose of this research is to examine the ways in which the activities being planned for the general education classroom serve to impact the Academic Intrinsic Motivation of both gifted and non-gifted students in sixth and seventh grades. The views of teachers and students were examined through the use of two survey instruments, the Middle School Survey of Classroom Practices for teachers, and the Children's Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory for students. Student's motivation for each core subject area (English, math, science, and social studies) and their general motivation for school along with their status as gifted or non-gifted were compared to their subject area teacher's scores for the use of two categories of differentiation for gifted or non-gifted children. Teachers' responses were classified as content modifications for gifted students, content modifications for non-gifted students, self-directed learning modifications for gifted students, and self-directed learning modifications for non-gifted students. Student scores were appropriately matched to the teacher's score in order to attempt to identify any possible correlations between the teacher's stated use of activities and the student's motivation for those activities. No correlations were found in relation to the Language Arts classrooms, but correlations were found in math, science, and social studies, though they varied according to differentiation category and student's status as gifted or non-gifted. Other findings included a significant difference in the frequency of use of the differentiation strategies between gifted and non-gifted students, and a significant difference in the type of differentiation used based on the amount of training teachers received regarding gifted education. There was no difference in the general motivational levels of gifted and non-gifted students.