Date of Conferral







Donna Russell


The purpose of implementing educational reform is to improve the academic achievement and social skills of graduating students, but evaluating the benefits of a particular instructional method or curriculum design can be complicated. In an online and problem-based learning environment that allows students to choose content and assessment projects and self-pace, the motivation of students to learn and their engagement in the learning process significantly influences the success of the program. This generic qualitative study focused on the experiences of middle school students participating in an online and problem-based educational setting. The study included interview data and self-evaluation questionnaires about students' levels of motivation and engagement. Vygotsky's zone of proximal development (ZPD), Bandura's theory of self-efficacy, Dewey's experiential learning theory and other motivational theories provided the conceptual framework for this qualitative study of personalizing learning in constructivist environments. The data were analyzed through inductive thematic analysis with constant comparison. The findings highlighted the student perspective and identified factors that influenced students' buy-in to this type of personalized education. The results from this study may be used to help teachers plan and design curriculum and instructional strategies that encourage student motivation to learn and engagement in the learning process. Students who are motivated to learn and engaged in the learning process are more likely to graduate from school with the knowledge and skills required to enter the workforce and become productive knowledge workers in a knowledge economy.