Student Motivation and Achievement

Available Studies and Research-Based Publications

More students than ever before are being asked and are choosing to engage in challenging academic work. Search Institute research and practice partnerships have examined multiple individual and school factors that contribute to—or undermine—student motivation, which is a cornerstone of student achievement.

Current projects on teacher-student relationships and motivation as well as Search Institute’s longstanding research on Developmental Assets aim to increase understanding of how schools and others can best prepare students to be active, engaged, and contributing members of their communities and society.

Research Briefs and Reports


Scales, P. C., Van Boekel, M., Pekel, K., Syvertsen, A. K., & Roehlkepartain, E. C. (in press). Effects of student-teacher developmental relationships on middle school students’ motivation and performance. Psychology in the Schools.


Highlights from the 2018 Itasca Area Youth Voice Survey

Learning Through Relationships: How strong connections with teachers propel student motivation in school, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, with contributions from Rachel Chamberlain, Justin Roskopf, Martin Van Boekel, Sao Xiong, and Chen-Yu Wu

Remember the Relationships: The Missing Link that Makes Measures of Students’ Social and Emotional Learning More Understandable and Actionable


Finding the Student Spark: Missed Opportunities in School Engagement, Peter C. Scales

Download the complete brief

Download a one-page summary


Boosting Student Achievement: New Research on the Power of Developmental Assets, Peter C. Scales and Eugene C. Roehlkepartain

Download the complete brief

Download a one-page summary



The REACH Strategies Guidebook: Approaches and Activities to Strengthen Academic Motivation, Kent Pekel (Available to users of the REACH System to strengthen student motivation.


Great Places to Learn: Creating Asset-Building Schools that Help Students Succeed, 2nd ed., by Neal Starkman, Peter C. Scales, and Clay Roberts

Peer-Reviewed Articles and Chapters

NOTE: Many of the periodicals listed here may be downloaded or purchased through links provided. Journal articles and book chapters are available through their publishers. Most can be accessed through databases or through the publisher’s websites (often with a fee).


Perkins, D. F., Syvertsen, A. K., Mincemoyer, C., Chilenski, S. M., Olson, J. R., Berrena, E., … & Spoth, R. (2016). Thriving in school: The role of sixth-grade adolescent–parent–school relationships in predicting eighth-grade academic outcomes. Youth & Society, 48(6), 739-762. doi: 10.1177/0044118X13512858


Flanagan, C. A., Stoppa, T., Syvertsen, A. K., & Stout, M. (2010). Schools and trust. In L. Sherrod, J. Torney-Purta, & C. Flanagan (Eds.), Handbook of research on civic engagement in youth. 307-329. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Scales, P. C. (2010). Characteristics of young adolescents. In Lounsbury, J. This we believe: Keys to educating young adolescents. Middle School Journal, 41(3). doi: 10.1080/00940771.2010.11461722


Syvertsen, A. K., Flanagan, C. A., & Stout, M. (2009). Code of silence: Students’ perceptions of school climate and willingness to intervene in a peer’s dangerous plan. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 219-232. doi: 10.1037/a0013246


Scales, P. C., & Benson, P. L. (2007). Building developmental assets to encourage students’ school success. Instructional Leader. 20 (3), 1-12.


Scales, P. C. (2006). Developmental assets and the middle school counselor. Professional School Counseling, 9(2): 104-111.

Scales, P. C., Benson, P. L., Roehlkepartain, E. C., Sesma, A., & van Dulmen, M. (2006). The role of developmental assets in predicting academic achievement: A longitudinal study. Journal of Adolescence 29, 691–708. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2005.09.001

Scales, P. C., Roehlkepartain, E. C., Neal, M., Kielsmeier, J. C, & Benson, P. L. (2006). Reducing academic achievement gaps: The role of community service and service learning. Journal of Experiential Education, 29, 38-60.


Roehlkepartain, E. C., Hong, K. L., & Scales, P. C. (2005). Boosting student achievement by building developmental assets: New research strengthens the case. Minnesota School Board Association Journal, 58(2), 16–18.

Scales, P. C., Foster, K. C., Mannes, M., Horst, M. A., Pinto, K. C., & Rutherford, A. (2005). School-business partnerships, developmental assets, and positive developmental outcomes among urban high school students: A mixed-methods study.  Urban Education, 40, 144-189. doi: 10.1177/0042085904272746


Scales, P. C. (2000). Building students’ developmental assets to promote health and school success. The Clearinghouse: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues, and Ideas, 74(2), 84–88.

Scales, P. C., Blyth, D. A., Berkas, T. H., & Kielsmeier, J. C. (2000). The effects of service-learning on middle school students’ social responsibility and academic success. Journal of Early Adolescence, 20(3), 332–359. doi: 10.1177/0272431600020003004

Scales, P. C., & Taccogna, J. (2000). Caring to try: How building students’ developmental assets can promote school engagement and success. NASSP Bulletin, 84(619), 69-78. doi: 10.1177/019263650008461908


Scales, P. C. (1999). Care and challenge: The sources of student success. Middle Ground: The Magazine of Middle Level Education, 3(2), 21–23.

Scales, P.C. (1999). Increasing service-learning’s impact on middle school students.  Middle School Journal, 30(5):  40-44.