Academic Motivation, Resilience and the At-Risk Student


The topic of investigation was academic resilience and motivation and how it relates to the at-risk student. Motivation and resilience are two key factors students need in order to achieve academic success. Students with motivation and resilience perform well in school and have a developed sense of self-efficacy. Successful students can see the connection between school and future goals, and are more likely to perform tasks even when they become difficult (Berger, 2013). This is characterized as resilience. These students are able to achieve academically and will most likely persist to graduation. Students who are not succeeding academically have a higher potential of failing or dropping out of school (Donnelly, 1987). These students are considered at-risk. Characteristics of the at-risk student include: “low academic achievement, low self-esteem, males, minority, and low socioeconomic status” (Donnelly, 1987).

How does family background affect the at-risk student? According to Donnelly, “Students who are both low income and minority status are at a higher risk [of failing]; their parents may have low educational backgrounds and may not have high educational expectations for their children” (Donnelly, 1987). Berger states, at-risk students are more likely to experience behavior issues, lower attendance rates, poor grades, lack direction, and fail to use self-regulation strategies (Berger, 2013). If students are engaged in school are they less likely to drop-out? Berger (2013) suggested when students are engaged in school and have positive connections they may be able to overcome many of the barriers that exist in order to achieve success while in school and persist until graduation.

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How does motivation and resilience effect graduation rates? While much work has been done to improve graduation rates over the past eight years, resilience and motivation are two essential characteristics students need in order to persist in school academically. When students experience positive interactions with teachers and other adults, motivation and engagement will increase (Berger, 2013). Students want to see the connection between the task and how it connects to their future. Students need to feel supported in order to be successful; positive connections with parents and teachers are imperative in order for students to succeed.

Statement of the Problem

At-Risk students are more likely to fail and drop-out of school because they lack motivation and resilience academically. When students leave school before completing requirements, the consequences are dire. Students who leave school early are often left with little options later in life. They more likely to experience lower wages in life, and are less likely to attend college. Should the at-risk student attend college, they are much less likely to complete school compared to their peers, who are 83% more likely to finish (Berger, 2013).

When are students mostly likely to fail? According to Finn and Rock (1997), investigating early behavior and academic patterns one may be able predict academic success in later years. Reaching students early is important when confronting barriers. Forming positive connections with caring adults is also necessary for students to build resilience and motivation. The purpose of this study is to investigate counselor intervention programs and the effect of motivation and resilience in at-risk 9th grade students. At-risk is defined as students who are under-achieving academically, have lower attendance rates and who have experienced behavior issues. Will students who have positive attachments to teachers or counselors perform better than students who do not?

Statement of the Hypothesis

Prior research has shown that positive school experiences and encouraging relationships at school have had a positive effect on at-risk students’ engagement and motivation (Scheel et al., 2009). Therefore, it is hypothesized if at-risk students are involved in a counseling intervention program then there will be an increase in academic achievement, students will experience less behavior problems, and students will experience an increase of motivation academically.


Berger C 2013 Bring out teh Brilliance: A Counseling Intervention for Underachieving Students.Berger, C. (2013). Bring out the Brilliance: A Counseling Intervention for Underachieving Students. Professional School Counseling, 17(1), 86-89. 201703241158141438499809

Donnelly M At-Risk Students. ERIC Digest [Supplemental material].20170325140827109581351Donnelly M 1987 At-Risk Students.Donnelly, M. (1987). At-Risk Students. ERIC Digest, 21. Retrieved March 25, 2017, from 20170325141053517867326

Finn J D Rock D A 1997 Academic Success Among Students At-Risk for School Failure.Finn, J. D., & Rock, D. A. (1997). Academic Success among Students At-Risk for School Failure. The American Psychological Association, 82(2), 221-234. 201703241224041284194231

Scheel M Madabhushi S Backhaus A 2009 Academic Motivation of At-Risk Students in a Counseling Prevention Program.Scheel, M., Madabhushi, S., & Backhaus, A. (2009). The Academic Motivation of At-Risk Students in a Counseling Prevention Program. The Counseling Psychologist, 37(8), 1147-1178. 20170324122636560129761

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