Research Spotlight: Helena Mawdsley

Q & A with Helena Mawdsley, Ph. D., Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education

What research are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on the motivation and achievement of the college student population in our post-pandemic climate. I am investigating college student reflection on their academic motivation during and after the Covid-19 pandemic to learn if their motivation levels changed during these periods. Additionally, I ask, What do the students believe accounts for the change? I conducted a study titled “’Back to Normal’: Undergraduate perspectives on regaining motivation during the Covid-19 pandemic,” which will be presented at AERA.

I am also interested in the impact of experiential learning on course motivation. Does engaging in an experiential service-learning project outside the classroom correlate with a high level of motivation for that course? I collected data on student motivation during the pandemic when students could not engage in service-learning and then after the pandemic when service-learning resumed. My study called “The impact of service learning on student motivation” will be proposed at the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) meeting this spring.

What is the broader impact of your research?

The findings of (Mawdsley, 2022) point to ways that the negative impacts of pandemic-related changes on student learning can be mitigated. Online educators interested in bolstering accountability and motivation may want to require students to design their own learning plans or develop group assignments to make students accountable to each other. Additionally, the study demonstrates that in-person learning formats are still valuable and desired by students and have a positive impact on student motivation. The broader impact will encourage higher education institutions that are revising programs to be fully online as a means to increase enrollments to re-think what is best for student motivation and achievement.

Implications for my study on service-learning aim to expand the literature on undergraduate service-learning participation and its potential influence on student motivation and achievement. The result will inform post-pandemic course development as students re-engage with higher education institutions.

What other research topics are you interested in?

I would be interested in investigating similar types of questions in adolescent/ high school student populations.