Impact of Stress on Academic Motivation and Performance


Academic success is essential in society nowadays because it guarantees more employment as well as financial security in the occupational world as opposed to those who did not excel in academic settings. Therefore, students are in constant pressure and stress to excel at school and college to achieve good scores and GPA for further scholastic success. According to Erkutlu and Chafra, (2006) and Kolko, (1980), stress may occur in students due to a number of reasons such as performing well in exams or simply because they are afraid of failing in their academics.

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Many factors are involved in the process of achievement and high academic performance, one of which is the academic motivation of students. Academic motivation can be defined as the ability and yearning of a student for academic subjects and scholastic achievement in terms of the level of diligence and interest displayed by him (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). The constant stress may result in an undesirable influence on the academic motivation of the students. This paper aims to identify the relationship between stress and academic motivation and its influence on the academic performance of students. The researcher will determine how stress affects the academic motivation and performance of students.

Previous literature suggests that high levels of motivation lead to high levels of academic performance. The Yerkes-Dodson Law also helps us to realize that although arousal and stress is required for optimal performance, too much of stress can have adverse effects on the level of performance (Stevenson & Harper, 2006). Applied to educational settings, research findings claim that stress is significantly correlated with poor academic performance. Keeping these predictions in mind, this research will aim to identify the relationship between stress and the academic motivation of students and its impact on their academic performance.

Purpose Statement

Educational psychology aims to improve learning and other factors associated with the academic success of students. This study aims to identify the relationship between stress and academic motivation of students and its impact on their academic performance. Stress can have both short and long-term effects on students. High levels of stress have a considerable impact on the level of concentration and focus of attention at a particular task (Cohens, Evans, Stokols & Krantz, 1986). Also, stress can lead to failure of the immune system, which leads to a high risk of illnesses (Ader, 2001), and it can also lead to high blood pressure as well as increase the risk of heart diseases (Smith, Gallo & Ruiz, 2003). The purpose of this study will thus be multifold as education counselors will understand the way to keep high levels of motivation present while keeping the stress at minimum levels and develop strategies accordingly that will contribute to positive stress for the students.

Research Questions and Hypotheses

Research questions

Research questions play an important role in defining the type of data that will be collected both from primary and secondary sources. When developing research questions, it is always necessary to determine the research method that one intends to use. Qualitative research, quantitative research, and mixed research methods all use a different types of questions to facilitate appropriate analysis. Understanding the impact of stress on academic motivation and performance of students in college will require both explanatory and statistical data to have a comprehensive explanation. This means that qualitative and quantitative data will be needed for a successful data analysis. For that reason the quantitative data will be collected and analyzed in the first step, then qualitative focus group interviews and case studies will be analyzed and themed in the next step.

The research questions of the study are planned below:

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Step I: Quantitative research questions

  1. Is there a correlation between stress and academic motivation? Is academic motivation a strong interpreter of academic performance?
  2. Is motivation a moderator between stress and academic performance?
  3. Are there any differences in stress, academic motivation and performance between male and female students?

Phase II: Qualitative Research Questions

  1. To what extent does stress influence students’ academic performance?
  2. To what extent do stress and motivation influence students’ performance?
  3. How might reducing stress strengthen students’ academic performance?
  4. Open-Ended Survey Questions:
  5. How do students define academic stress?
  6. What do students do to overcome the stress during exams?
  7. Semi-structured interviews with educationalists:
  8. How do educationalists define academic motivation?
  9. How can educationalists boost levels of motivation among students?
  10. How can motivation be cultivated in person to diminish the levels of academic stress in the school setting?

Phase III: Mixed Methods Research Questions

  1. What outcomes come out when evaluating the tentative qualitative data about students’ level of academic stress with a result of quantitative data calculated on a validated academic stress measure tool?
  2. What facts of consistency and inconsistency come out between students’ self-reports of academic stress when evaluating both quantitative and qualitative data?
  3. What analysis of mixed methods data is made about how can academic stress be better to locate and to encourage academic motivation and performance students?
  4. What are the implications for further researches according to analysis?

Previous researches have suggested that there is a strong relationship between stress and academic performance. They argue that when students are stressed, they lack academic motivation which leads to poor academic performance. In this study, the researcher will establish if indeed this relationship exists.

Research hypotheses

Developing a research hypothesis at this stage of proposal development is very critical because it helps in giving this study a sense of direction. It points out what the researcher seeks to confirm based on the findings from the existing literature. As Gottfried and Gottfried (2004) note, a good research should always develop existing knowledge by identifying gaps and addressing them. Based on the above research questions and information obtained from existing bodies of knowledge, the following are the hypotheses that the research will confirm or reject after the analysis of primary data.

  • H1o. There is no relationship between stress and academic motivation
  • H1a. There is a close relationship between stress and academic motivation
  • H2o. There is no relationship between academic motivation and academic performance
  • H2a. There is a close relationship between academic motivation and academic performance

Research Plan

The present study is based on two phases, in the first phase quantitative data will be collected and analyzed; in second phase case study type of qualitative data is analyzed through semi-structured focus groups. The principle of the present study is to examine the impact of stress on the academic motivation and performance of students. In the present study, in the first step of the study, quantitative data will be collected using Educational Stress Scale for Adolescents (Womble, 2003). Statistically, the bivariate correlations measure the association between students’ self-reported levels of academic stress and the performance on the stress scale, and regression analysis assess the degree of different interpreters of stress with academic motivation and performance of students.

Academic performance will be measured by obtaining the participants’ grades on subjects of interest. Furthermore, the data from the first step of the present study will also be used to decisively choose students for the second step of the present study. However, the second step of the present study will be based on qualitative methodology, which includes semi-structured focus groups interviews with educationalists and case study interviews. The reason of the focus group interview is that it provides the opportunity to students to express and suggest their viewpoints regarding academic stress. While, the case studies will provide a chance for families and their students to also reveal the factors that endorse stress and semi-structured interviews will be used to expand the understanding in a better way. The advantage of conducting qualitative research, however, is that a profound understanding of the study can be achieved and the reason for using both quantitative and qualitative research will be to congregate the two types of data to get better insight.

Comparison and Evaluation of Strengths and Limitation of the Research Methods

The research plan clearly shows that the researcher intended to use more than just one research method of data analysis. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods will be used in this study. The main similarity between these two research methods in this study is that they both aim to find a possible relationship between stress and academic motivation and the performance of college students. They will both help in establishing if indeed this relationship exists. However, the two approaches are different in terms of the types of questions and analysis methods. In qualitative methods, open-ended or unstructured questions will be used to collect data. Unstructured questions enable respondents to explain their answers in the best way possible. This method heavily relies on explanatory data in its evaluation. On the other hand, quantitative data uses structured or close-ended questions. This is so because of the need to assign specific numerical values to the responses. The structured questions ensure that there is a common pattern of response that can be assigned a numerical value for statistical analysis. It is important to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each of these research methods.

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Qualitative research methods

Qualitative research methods are always very important in explaining why a given phenomenon happened the way it did. According to Greenberg and Baron (1997), qualitative research offers more insight as to what caused a given event, how it happened, and its possible impacts. It goes beyond statistics to give clear explanation of a given phenomenon. When using qualitative research methods, a researcher allows respondents to give their personal view of a given phenomenon, making it possible to understand why given pattern is present. For instance, the respondents in this study will be able to explain why they feel stress affects their academic motivation and performance. It will enable the researcher to explain any variations if at all they will exist in the research. The main weakness of qualitative methods is that they cannot support statistical evaluation that is always very important in making generalizations. Analyzing qualitative data can also be complex and time-consuming, especially in cases where the responses hugely vary.

Quantitative research methods

Quantitative research methods are very important when conducting an empirical study that needs generalization to be made. In this research, it will be necessary to make a generalized conclusion about the relationship between stress and academic motivation and performance among college students based on the data that will be sampled from the forty students. Statistical evaluation will give a clear picture of the number of students who share a given opinion about stress and academic motivation and performance. Gottfried and Gottfried (2004) say that it is also simple to collect and analyze quantitative data. Data can easily be coded and analyzed using mathematical tools, which enhances the accuracy, reliability, and validity of the study. Qualitative methods also make it possible to make a generalization of the findings to a larger population based on the views of the majority. The main weakness of this method is it offers few explanations of the events under investigation. The responses of the respondents are structured, making it almost impossible to capture their personal feelings that may enhance understanding of a given event. The researcher is also restricted from asking questions outside the narrowly defined scope.

In this study, the researcher will use mixed-method research. This will ensure that the weaknesses of one method of research are countered by the strengths of the other method. The research will have both descriptive and statistical data for enhancing the validity and reliability of the study.


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Gottfried, A. E., & Gottfried, A. W. (2004). Toward the development of a conceptualization of gifted motivation. Gifted Child Quarterly, 48(3), 121-132.

Greenberg, J., & Baron, R.A. (1997). Behavior in Organizations: Understanding and Managing the Human Side of Work. Englewood: Prentice Hall.

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Womble, P. (2003). Impacts of Stress factors on college student’s academic performance. Undergraduate journal of Psychology, 16(1), 16-23.

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