Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Todd Lilly


The COVID-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented disruptions in education, as schools were forced to make a rapid transition to virtual learning in March 2020. Students’ motivation seemed to decline significantly during and after this virtual learning period, which ranged from months to over a year in various areas of the United States. This study seeks to understand the factors impacting student motivation during and after this virtual learning period.

This action research study was conducted using a qualitative, phenomenological approach. Data was collected from open-ended surveys and semi-structured interviews during Spring 2021 and Spring 2022. Data was analyzed through the lenses of self-determination theory (SDT), sociocultural theory (SCT), and social contagion theory. This study found that major factors impacting student motivation stayed relatively consistent between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. The most critical factors impacting student motivation were relationships, a sense of helplessness resulting from pandemic-related educational disruptions, and a desire for structure and consistency.

Implications of this study suggest that many factors impacting student motivation are in the scope of teachers’ control. This study also has implications for the emerging body of scholarship on change and continuity in student motivation during and after pandemic-related educational disruptions.


© 2022, Jennifer Ferris-Crisafulli