Striving for Success: A Qualitative Exploration of Competing Theories of High-Achieving Black College Students' Academic Motivation

Research on the academic performance of Black students has focused on low-achievers, framing their academic motivation as maladaptive and driven by externally (e.g., competition or compliance) rather than internally (e.g., love of learning) generated forces. This qualitative study challenges this mono-dimensional deficit framework, examining the motivation of nine Black high-achievers attending a large public university. Findings show that self-determination theory, socio-cognitive theory, and attribution theory cannot individually explain the motivation of these Black high-achievers. Instead, a multidimensional framework that incorporates all three models and that highlights internal and external sources of motivation best accounts for these students' experiences.