Invisible Forces

Motivational Supports and Challenges in High School and College Classes

By Pei Pei Liu

Subjects: Educational Psychology, Higher Education, Composition And Rhetoric Studies, Psychology, Writing
Hardcover : 9781438495774, 288 pages, December 2023
Paperback : 9781438495781, 288 pages, June 2024
Expected to ship: 2024-06-02

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: The Invisible Ecosystem of Student Motivation

1. Making the Team: Cultivating High School Belonging through Collective Goals

2. Choosing Your Adventure: Promoting Value Mindsets in High School through Personal Relevance and Self-Direction

Interlude: Transitioning from High School to College

3. Trusting the Process: Embracing Growth Mindsets in a First-Year College Writing Class

4. Mastering the Game: Sustaining Competence Mindsets through New Challenges in College Learning and Teaching

5. Illuminating the Invisible


Explores the critical role that classroom educators play in supporting student motivation throughout the transition from high school to college.


Educators consistently identify student motivation as a top concern, particularly during the transition to college, but often feel helpless to influence it. Some assume that students are simply motivated or not. Others are daunted by trying to shape an unobservable psychological phenomenon. Invisible Forces provides a framework for thinking of student motivation as a set of internal "mindsets" that are promoted or thwarted through a complex ecology of personal, classroom, institutional, and systemic factors. Using the method of portraiture, Pei Pei Liu brings this ecology to life. The book presents a series of four rich case studies of educators' efforts to support student motivation and the challenges they encounter in secondary and postsecondary writing classrooms. Attuned to the unique status of writing-based courses as a near universal academic experience throughout the transition from high school to college, these portraits shed light on different strategies, make a case for institutional support of instructors, and pave the way for greater alignment between secondary and postsecondary settings.

Pei Pei Liu is Assistant Professor of Education at Colby College.


"This book offers an in-depth look at the complexities of supporting students' motivation in the classroom, dispelling any sense that there is a formula for teachers to follow that will magically change students' learning behaviors. Motivational change will require an iterative process of study, meaningful collaboration with peers, enactment of new instructional strategies, and reflection on the outcomes." — Andrea Christensen, University of Notre Dame

"Liu's focus on the motivational ecosystems swirling around pedagogical identities, classroom authority, and ongoing professional development makes Invisible Forces a must read for any teacher‐researcher interested in pedagogical theory and application in our current moment." — Michael Harker, author of The Lure of Literacy: A Critical Reception of the Compulsory Composition Debate