Graduation Year


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Matthew E. Davis, PhD

Second Reader

Rosemarie Michaels, EdD


This study sought to understand the conditions high school mild to moderate special education students need to sustain intrinsic motivation. Prior research suggests that overall academic intrinsic motivation is much lower in students with disabilities (Daniel and Cooc 2018). Teachers' expectations can have a strong association with student motivation in their learning and can lead to improved academic outcomes (Johnson, Wildy, & Shand, 2020). Currently, there is a lack of existing research that studies the conditions that cultivate intrinsic motivation among students with special needs. To research how high school mild to moderate special education students sustain intrinsic motivation, the researcher conducted a qualitative study with a constructivist worldview that included high school students with special needs, who worked on a unit focused on the Hero’s Journey, identity, motivation and self-efficacy. The findings of this research suggest that when students feel at ease they have identified a greater willingness to engage with learning. The findings have highlighted that mild to moderate special education high school students are motivated to learn when they have an engaging environment, a relationship with their teachers, broader connections to life, and are engaged with what they consider meaningful content.

IRB Number