Content analysis of participant ITEST journals to reveal underlying motivational patterns

The ITEST program was funded by the National Science Foundation, and run by California State University, Sacramento’s Department of Computer Science and College of Education in collaboration with Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA). The program introduced underserved college-bound high school participants to an innovative Computer Science curriculum in Computer Graphics and Game Engineering, supplemented with mutual mentoring and social purpose as elements. The goal of this study was to understand how successful the ITEST program was, in motivating underserved high school participants, and engaging them in Computer Science by way of game programming. It was of interest to understand how the innovatively structured curriculum influenced student motivation and interest levels. This study analyzes participant journal entries maintained on a daily basis through six weeks of the program to understand motivational pattern amongst participants. The study uses Qualitative Content Analysis technique as the research method using Thriving with Social Purpose (TSP) (Ford & Smith, 2007) framework as the underlying theoretical foundation. Results of this study indicate that the program was successful in driving a predominantly thriving motivational pattern amongst participants. The setup resulted in a mutually reinforcing positive spiral effect that enabled students to stay motivated and achieve their goals despite challenges and shortcomings. Social orientation, driven by working in teams and supplemented mentorship was amply acknowledged. Results show that the program was slightly more motivating for male participants as compared to female counterparts. Varying levels of interest in math within cohort did not particularly reveal amplified or diminished motivation amongst participants, however the cohort with higher composition of students positively interested in Math showed a more thriving orientation compared to the other. Motivational patterns observed amongst ethnic groups were not consistent across cohorts, except for higher coping tendencies observed in Asian participants, which was likely driven by language barrier and resulting communication gap.