June 2022: Student Motivation to Enroll in Dual and Concurrent Enrollment

NACEP Publications / Research / Student Outcomes /

Welcome to the NACEP Research Spotlight where the NACEP Research Commission highlights new, innovative, or seminal research on dual and concurrent enrollment (DE/CE) that we are reading. The monthly NACEP Oracle will include a Research Spotlight that summaries and features DE/CE research in an effort to make DE/CE more accessible to NACEP members.

In this Research Spotlight, we are featuring two studies by Dare, Dare, and Nowicki (2015 & 2017), studying student motivation to enroll in DE/CE and concluding that concurrent enrollment participants had self-determination and motivation that their educators may not fully recognize.

Studies Highlighted:

Dare, L., & Nowicki, E. (2015). Conceptualizing concurrent enrollment: Why high-achieving students go for it. Gifted Child Quarterly, 59, 249-264. doi: 10.1177/0016986215597749

Dare, A., Dare, L., & Nowicki, E. (2017). Concurrent enrollment: comparing how educators and students categorize students’ motivations. Social Psychology of Education: An International Journal, 20(1), 195-213.

Studies Purposes & Summaries: Recognizing the lack of research centered on students’ views of concurrent enrollment and motivations to accelerate, Dare, Dare, & Nowicki (2015 & 2017) conceptualized concurrent enrollment by comparing how educators and students categorize students’ motivations. Ryan and Deci’s Self-Determination Theory and the notion that motivation is linked to academic achievement were used as a theoretical framework for the studies. The researchers, during the 2015 study, recruited 95 concurrent enrollment students and asked them to report reasons for undertaking concurrent enrollment.  This resulted in a collection of 127 raw statements. The statements were then “cleaned” and 85 unique statements centered on the reasons high-achieving students participate in concurrent enrollment emerged. In the second phase of the study, participants grouped the 85 statements and labeled them accordingly. Lastly, the categories of statements were rated based on importance, with five being the most important and one being the least important. Their findings revealed seven key reasons students enrolled in concurrent enrollment in order from most important to least: Prepare for University, Demonstrate Initiative, Get Ahead, Love to Learn, Self-Fulfillment, Seek Challenge, and Socializing.

In 2017, Dare and Nowicki conducted a similar study on how educators characterize students’ motivations, recognizing that educators are the key stakeholders in educational and accelerated programming decision-making. Using mixed methods analysis, they found that students characterized their motivations more finely than educators did.  Of significant difference, educators placed greater emphasis on social interactions, whereas students placed more focus on university preparation. Dare and Nowicki conclude that “educators may sometimes overlook the self-determined motivations that secondary students have for participating in concurrent enrollment” (p. 206).  All in all, the Dare and Nowicki (2017) study provides ground for educators to recognize and support the unique motivations, thoughts, beliefs, and talents of students. When we understand what motivates students, we can better meet their academic needs.   Concurrent enrollment may be an effective solution for high school students to ward off boredom and disengagement from the senior year to college (Dare and Nowicki, 2017).  Keeping students engaged and accumulating college credit can assist them in their transition to college.

Dare, Dare, & Nowicki (2015 & 2017) looked at high-ability students throughout, and note that future research should study eligible students who opted out of concurrent enrollment to truly compare motivations.  For practical implications, high schools could consider offering concurrent enrollment programming to support more high school students’ transition to college. For colleges and universities, they could look at concurrent enrollment programs to prepare and recruit students to college based on student motivations, while offering tailored advising and support in their transition.  Further, Dare, Dare, & Nowicki (2015) propose concurrent enrollment as a student-centered educational practice for students who are motivated to learn at a faster pace, and call to educators to offer options like concurrent enrollment to meet student learning motivations and needs.

Implications: High school students transitioning to college require students to navigate a new educational and social system.  There are cognitive (e.g., academic achievement and coursework) and non-cognitive factors (e.g., commitment to academic goals and effort) to consider when high school students transition to college.  To offer effective support, educators need to understand what motivates students.  The research presented above takes steps in attempting to understand the non-cognitive factor of motivation as it relates to concurrent enrollment.  From this research, it appears concurrent enrollment is a positive influence on students’ motivation and can be a viable bridging strategy from high school to college.

How to Access the Research: Studies are available at ERIC (EBSO Host) and available through many academic libraries.

Spotlight Author: Katie McGowan Bucci


Research Spotlight Disclosure: The Research Spotlights are written by members of the NACEP Research Commission. The spotlights are not intended to be comprehensive reviews of research articles and are not reviewed or approved by the study’s authors. The commentary and interpretation of the study represent the Commissioner’s perspectives and not the study’s author(s).