Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Without enough recognition, I might just leave: Relationships between extrinsic motivation, student burnout and withdrawal intentions

Williams, C. and Dziurawiec, S. (2018) Without enough recognition, I might just leave: Relationships between extrinsic motivation, student burnout and withdrawal intentions. Australian Psychologist, 53 (Supp. 1). pp. 67-68.

Free to read:
*No subscription required


Aims: The high levels of burnout (exhaustion/cynicism), and attrition, that affect one‐in‐three tertiary students, are extremely concerning. One factor that may influence burnout/attrition levels is academic motivation; that is, whether students are driven by intrinsic motivation (personal interest/enjoyment) or extrinsic motivation (a focus on external rewards including grades/recognition). Thus far, intrinsic and extrinsic motives have generally been linked to positive and negative student outcomes, respectively. However, while a few studies have considered links between extrinsic/intrinsic motivation, burnout, and withdrawal likelihood, existing results remain discrepant. For example, while David (2010) found that extrinsic motivation negatively correlated with burnout (particularly cynicism), other studies have suggested that extrinsic motivation contributes to burnout (Chang, Lee, Byeon, & Lee, 2015). Additionally, studies with college (as compared to school) students remain rare, and these studies have often focused on single academic disciplines (while also overlooking moderation analyses). This study aims to address these limitations. Design/Method: Due to this study's exploratory nature and intention to sample widely, a cross‐sectional (electronic‐survey) design was appropriate. To offer greater generalisability than previous studies, a convenience sample of 2,451 students (from 15 disciplines and 40 Australian universities) was collected. Gold‐standard scales were employed, alongside various methodological protocols that minimised self‐report biases. Haye's PROCESS macro was used for the analyses, to account for limitations of traditional mediation approaches. Results: In general, an overall focus on external rewards (grades/recognition) was negatively associated with burnout and withdrawal intentions (both p < .001). However, for students who noted that external rewards were the only purpose for trying at university, higher burnout and withdrawal‐intention levels were noted (both p < .001). Further analyses highlighted that these students also reported lower levels of perceived recognition from their instructors/peers (p < .001). While the results are only cross‐sectional, serial‐mediation analyses suggested that a sole focus on recognition/grades contributed to lower perceptions of received recognition, which in turn contributed to higher burnout, and subsequent withdrawal intentions (95% CI [.04, .22]). Moderating/buffering effects (self‐efficacy and resilience) were also noted. Conclusion: While this study suggests that focusing on external rewards may not necessarily be detrimental, it is important that this is not the only motive. Therefore, to reduce burnout/attrition, instructors may be able to enhance intrinsic motivation (e.g., through effective instruction), and students who are focused solely on grades/recognition may be offered additional support. Further research may benefit by considering specific types of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation (in terms of burnout/withdrawal).

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Copyright: © 2018 The Australian Psychological Society.
Item Control Page Item Control Page