This paper analyzes and evaluates the article “Motivational Effects of Test Scores of Elementary Students” by Steven Brown & Herbert Walberg (1993). The article was published in the January-February issue of The Journal of Educational Research.
The study’s research question was not explicitly stated, but can be determined from the article test: “What are the motivational effects of telling students that the test they are going to take is very important?” The hypothesis was probably: motivation has an independent effect of achievement, so that the special instructions before a test raise scores of a typical student.”

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The researchers used standardized tests (namely, “Form 7 of the Mathematics Concepts subtest of the Iowa Basic Skills 1978 edition, Levels 9-14”). The study is experimental, since it required conducting an experiment involving a sample of students from 8 Chicago schools, which had its own procedure, and had its data analyzed using quantitative means. As for the data collection method, the choice of standardized tests to test the validity of the hypothesis was irrelevant, just as the sample. In particular, based on the research theory, survey or questionnaire could be a better choice, since the use of standardized testing may fail to reflect the cause of the achievement changes (either improvement or worsening). Instead, with the help of the survey, the researchers would have been able to get self-reported data of students, where they would share about their motivation. This will partially compensate for the sample bias. Indeed, by failing to choose schools randomly, the researchers compromised the research validity.

The authors actually arrived at a dubious conclusion on the basis of their experiment: they claim that the higher achievement results in the experimental groups were caused by higher level of motivation, whereas the causes may be completely different, in fact. Moreover, the authors’ generalizations in conclusions are irrelevant where they claim: “The results suggest that standardized commercial and state-constructed tests that have no bearing on students’ grades may be underestimating U.S. students’ real knowledge, understanding, skills, and other aspects of achievement” or try to generalize about the U.S. population (in fact, the test only aimed at testing the students of the working class, with many of them being ethnic minorities). The greatest ethical issue of the study is the absence of integrity with the researcher deceiving students in order to get the desired data. No approval of any ethic committee has been provided. Overall, this research is highly biased, uses irrelevant methodology, and arrives at an inappropriate conclusion.

  • Brown, S. M., & Walberg, H. J. (1993). Motivational effects on test scores of elementary
    students. Journal of Educational Research, 86 (3), 133-137.