Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Research

First Advisor

Robert Stupnisky


The path from student pilot to professional aviator is lengthy, expensive and full of obstacles (Philips, 2016, Wilson & Daku, 2016). An individual pilot’s motivations to persevere and ultimately succeed within this field are yet to be clearly defined. Two motivation theories, Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) (Bandura, 1986) and Self-Determination Theory (SDT) (Deci & Ryan, 1985) may inform our understanding the connection between motivation and performance. Through three studies of a program of research, the researcher investigated relationships between distinct types of motivation and performance within the applied discipline of Aviation and Airline Pilot career performance. To begin the research, we evaluated a set of exploratory variables focused on perspectives of airline managers and training personnel on newly hired airline pilots (N = 37). This study offered us better understanding of relationships between individual variables associated with subscales of professionalism and technical knowledge as new hire pilots transition into their career. From this study, the researchers expanded into Study 2 (N = 229) which focused on potential causal relationships between motivation and academic performance. The researchers evaluated several motivation subscales and their relationship to mean exam score in a senior-level technical course, finding a student’s self-efficacy to be most predictive of academic outcome. Within Study 3 (N = 204), the researchers sought to better understand if a student’s enrollment within two distinct course delivery methods of a senior-level technical course may influence what type of motivation they exhibit. This study included subscales on Intrinsic Motivation, Identified Motivation, Introjected Motivation, Externally Regulated Motivation, and Amotivation (Vallerand et al., 1992). The study found no differences between individual motivation subscales of students enrolled in blended versus online asynchronous course offerings. Taken together, the study findings contribute to the research literature on how today’s aviation students engage in learning and how their individual motivations towards learning may influence outcome on aircraft technical assessments. This information may serve to inform how they may perform during entrance into the airline career path. Airline and aviation management personnel who have influence over recruitment, hiring, training and development of new hire pilots may find this information useful as they consider how to design recruitment and training programs. Future research should address study limitations by expanding data collection to other institutions and aviation training delivery outside of collegiate aviation.