Honors Program


Date of this Version

Spring 2021

Document Type



Johnson, R. (2021). Links Between Academic Achievement and Motivation in Elementary School: Comparisons by Learning Disability Status. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska- Lincoln.


Copyright Rachelle Johnson 2021.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the links between past academic achievement, current motivation, and current academic achievement in elementary-age children. How this looks specifically within children with learning disabilities has been understudied, thus the main focus of this study was to examine how these links differed across children with and without learning disabilities. Using a nationally representative sample of children across the United States of America, this study expands our understating of the role past achievement, motivation, and learning disability status play in determining children’s current academic achievement. In the analysis, low academic achievement in the past was more predictive of low current academic achievement for students with learning disabilities as compared to their peers without learning disabilities. Supporting past literature that points to academic achievement and motivation being interrelated in a reinforcing feedback loop, motivation was found to partially mediate past and current academic achievement in math and reading. For both groups, current motivation was predicted by past achievement and predictive of current achievement. This study highlights the interrelated, important role played by both motivation and past achievement in predicting children’s current academic achievement. Furthermore, these are all important, predictive factors of the current academic achievement of both children with and without learning disabilities, but the extent of their influence differs across these two groups of children.