Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


College of Education

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Rudy Pauley

Second Advisor

Ronald Childress

Third Advisor

Nega Debela


The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of West Virginia students about factors affecting their educational aspirations and to determine whether these factors differed significantly over time, by gender, or by parents‟ college history. Research questions included: (1) To what extent will constructs emerging from West Virginia student data parallel the eight constructs identified as supporting student aspirations by the University of Maine‟s National Center for Student Aspirations? (2) To what extent do students‟ perceptions of these factors differ over time, from seventh to ninth grade? (3) To what extent do students‟ perceptions of these factors differ by gender? (4) To what extent do students‟ perceptions of these factors differ by parents‟ college history? (5) What are the interactions among the independent variables of time, gender, and parents‟ college history?

This study utilized extant survey data from 664 students who completed surveys in the seventh and ninth grades for the West Virginia Department of Education GEAR UP project. In addition to gender and parents‟ college history, 28 survey items originating from the University of Maine‟s “Students Speak” survey were used. These 28 items are purported to comprise eight conditions that support students‟ aspirations.

Factor analysis resulted in five factors with Eigenvalues above 1.0: Teacher Centric, Self-Efficacy, Curriculum, Self-Responsibility, and Connectedness. MANOVA analysis revealed statistically significant differences by time, gender, and parents‟ college history; no significant interactions were found. Follow-up ANOVA analyses revealed that mean scores for all scales except Curriculum decreased significantly from seventh to ninth grade; that mean scores for all five scales were significantly higher for females than males; and that students with at least one parent with college experience scored significantly higher on Self-Efficacy than students whose parents had no college experience.

In conclusion, none of the original eight conditions emerged as exact replicas, but all were represented to some degree within the five factors. Findings support the literature in terms of a decrease in students‟ perceptions from middle to high school, gender differences, and the positive influence of parental college experience. The study emphasizes the importance of the school environment on students‟ aspirations.


Student aspirations - West Virginia


Middle school students - West Virginia - Attitudes