Intrinsic motivation and academic performance in school-age children born extremely preterm: the contribution of working memory

Previous literature has investigated the role of intrinsic motivation for learning and academic achievement (Gottfried, 1990; Lepper et al., 2005; Ryan & Deci, 2009; Cerasoli et al., 2014; Taylor et al., 2014). However, the contribution of working memory to the association between intrinsic motivation and academic performance is poorly understood, especially for children at risk of learning and academic difficulties. Examination of these interrelations in children born preterm is relevant considering most preterm children attend mainstream school (Larroque et al., 2011), but have much higher rates of special education needs compared with term-born peers (Johnson et al., 2009). This study aimed to examine whether early working memory processes mediate the associations between intrinsic motivation (mastery, challenge and interest) and academic performance (word reading, spelling and mathematics) in 91 children born extremely preterm (<28 weeks’ gestational age) or extremely low birth weight (<1000g) (mean age 7.6 years, SD = 0.4). Path analysis using structural equation modeling revealed verbal short-term memory to be a key, early working memory process mediating the association between aspects of intrinsic motivation (mastery and interest) and literacy performance. Further, intrinsic motivation had differential effects on early working memory processes and academic performance, with positive associations between mastery and verbal short-term memory, reading and spelling, and a positive association between challenge and mathematical performance. These initial findings highlight potential pathways linking intrinsic motivation for school learning, working memory, and academic achievement in early school-age children at risk of academic impairments.References:Cerasoli, C. P., Nicklin, J. M., & Ford, M. T. (2014). Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic incentives jointly predict performance: a 40-year meta-analysis. Psychol Bull, 140(4), 980-1008. doi: 10.1037/a0035661Gottfried, A. E. (1990). Academic Intrinsic Motivation in Young Elementary School Children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(3), 525-538. Johnson, S., Hennessy, E., Smith, R., Trikic, R., Wolke, D., & Marlow, N. (2009). Academic attainment and special educational needs in extremely preterm children at 11 years of age: the EPICure study. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed, 94(4), F283-289. doi: 10.1136/adc.2008.152793Larroque, B., Ancel, P.-Y., Marchand-Martin, L., Cambonie, G., Fresson, J., Pierrat, V., . . . and the Epipage Study, g. (2011). Special Care and School Difficulties in 8-Year-Old Very Preterm Children: The Epipage Cohort Study. PLoS One, 6(7), e21361. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021361Lepper, M. R., Corpus, J. H., & Iyengar, S. S. (2005). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivational Orientations in the Classroom: Age Differences and Academic Correlates. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 184-196. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.97.2.184Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2009). Promoting self-determined school engagement: Motivation, learning, and well-being. In K. R. Wentzel & A. Wigfield (Eds.), Handbook on motivation at school (pp. 171-196). New York, NY: Routledge.Taylor, G., Jungert, T., Mageau, G. A., Schattke, K., Dedic, H., Rosenfield, S., & Koestner, R. (2014). A self-determination theory approach to predicting school achievement over time: the unique role of intrinsic motivation. Contemp Educ Psychol, 39(4), 342-358. doi: