School-Related Apathy in 8th- and 10th- Grade Students: A Mixed-Method Exploration of Definitions, Construct Independence, Correlates, and Grade-Level Differences
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Research-based and folk conceptualizations of school-related apathy were explored in 309 8th- and 10th- grade Catholic school students and their teachers. Definitions, construct independence, and relation to select individual and group differences including grade level were examined. Findings indicated that while some independence exists among the set of five constructs assessed--adolescent apathy, amotivation, apathy syndrome, disengagement, and work avoidance--substantial overlap is present that can inform development of a more parsimonious conceptualization of students' lack of school motivation centered on perceived relevance and a general attitude of interest. Results also demonstrated only moderate levels of agreement between research-based and teacher identification of students low on school-related motivation; however, both approaches indicate that approximately 1 in 4 students manifests markedly low school-related motivation. Relations of several individual and group differences to conceptualizations of school-related apathy were documented in expected directions. Implications of the findings for educational research and practice are discussed.