We Did Our Research

This literature is the driving force behind what we do. We rely on the methods and techniques proven here to make a difference in the classroom.

When Students Experience Purpose...

The students increase their motivation to learn, interest and engagement, effort and persistence, task/course completion, retention of new information, and performance.

What’s in it for me? (Frymier & Shulman, 1995)

Abstract. Describes a scale developed to measure content relevance in the classroom; the scale was factor analyzed and determined to be a valid and reliable unidimensional instrument that could measure the degree to which teachers made content relevant to students. In addition, Ss (470 undergraduates) completed verbal immediacy and motivation scales. Making content relevant to students’ personal and career goals was hypothesized to be a factor, in addition to immediacy, that increases students’ state motivation. Relevance was found to be associated with state motivation to study. In addition, relevance accounted for a significant amount of variance in state motivation after taking verbal and nonverbal immediacy into consideration. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Supporting students’ motivation, engagement, and learning during an uninteresting activity. (Jang, 2008)

Abstract. The present study examined the capacity of 2 different theoretical models of motivation to explain why an externally provided rationale often supports students’ motivation, engagement, and learning during relatively uninteresting learning activities. One hundred thirty-six undergraduates (108 women, 28 men) worked on an uninteresting 20-min lesson after either receiving or not receiving a rationale. Participants who received the rationale showed greater identified regulation, interest-enhancing strategies, behavioral engagement, and conceptual learning. Structural equation modeling was used to test 3 alternative explanatory models to understand why the rationale produced these benefits–an identified regulation model based on self-determination theory, an interest regulation model based on interest-enhancing strategies research, and an additive model that integrated both models. The data fit all 3 models; however, only the model that included rationale-enhanced identified regulation uniquely fostered students’ engagement and hence their learning. Findings highlight the role that externally provided rationales can play in helping students generate the autonomous motivation they need to engage constructively in and learn from uninteresting, but personally important, lessons. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Choice is good but relevance is excellent: Autonomy affecting teacher behaviors that predict students’ engagement in learning. (Assor, Kaplan & Roth, 2002)

Abstract.
Background and aims: This article examines two questions concerning teacher-behaviours that are characterised in Self-Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) as autonomy-supportive or suppressive: (1) Can children differentiate among various types of autonomy-enhancing and suppressing teacher behaviours? (2) Which of those types of behaviour are particularly important in predicting feelings toward and engagement in schoolwork? It was hypothesised that teacher behaviours that help students to understand the relevance of schoolwork for their personal interests and goals are particularly important predictors of engagement in schoolwork.
Samples and methods: Israeli students in grades 3-5 (N = 498) and in grades 6-8 (N = 364) completed questionnaires assessing the variables of interest.
Results: Smallest Space Analyses indicated that both children and early adolescents can differentiate among three types of autonomy enhancing teacher behaviours – fostering relevance, allowing criticism, and providing choice – and three types of autonomy suppressing teacher behaviours – suppressing criticism, intruding, and forcing unmeaningful acts. Regression analyses supported the hypothesis concerning the importance of teacher behaviours that clarify the personal relevance of schoolwork. Among the autonomy-suppressing behaviours, ‘Criticism-suppression’ was the best predictor of feelings and engagement.
Conclusions: The findings underscore the active and empathic nature of teachers’ role in supporting students’ autonomy, and suggest that autonomy-support is important not only for early adolescents but also for children. Discussion of potential determinants of the relative importance of various autonomy-affecting teacher actions suggests that provision of choice should not always be viewed as a major indicator of autonomy support.

Enhancing interest and performance with a utility value intervention. (Hulleman, Godes, Hendricks, & Harackiewicz, 2010)

Abstract. We tested whether a utility value intervention (via manipulated relevance) influenced interest and performance on a task and whether this intervention had different effects depending on an individual’s performance expectations or prior performance. Interest was defined as triggered situational interest (i.e., affective and emotional task reactions) and maintained situational interest (i.e., inclination to engage in the task in the future). In 2 randomized experiments, 1 conducted in the laboratory and the other in a college classroom, utility value was manipulated through a writing task in which participants were asked to explain how the material they were learning (math or psychology) was relevant to their lives (or not). The intervention increased perceptions of utility value and interest, especially for students who were low in expected (laboratory) or actual (classroom) performance. Mediation analyses revealed that perceptions of utility value explained the effects of the intervention on interest and predicted performance. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Promoting interest and performance in high school science classes. (Hulleman & Harackiewicz, 2009)

Abstract. We tested whether classroom activities that encourage students to connect course materials to their lives will increase student motivation and learning. We hypothesized that this effect will be stronger for students who have low expectations of success. In a randomized field experiment with high school students, we found that a relevance intervention, which encouraged students to make connections between their lives and what they were learning in their science courses, increased interest in science and course grades for students with low success expectations. The results have implications for the development of science curricula and theories of motivation.

Students’ self-reported effort and time on homework in six school subjects: Between-students differences and within-student variation. (Trautwein & Ludtke, 2007)

Abstract. Effort on homework has a profound impact on student achievement. Researchers typically use an interindividual research design to explain homework effort. In this study with a total of 511 students from Grades 8 and 9, an interindividual perspective (focus on between-students differences) was combined with an intraindividual perspective (focus on within-student differences). Multilevel modeling showed that students’ homework effort was a function of between-students differences in conscientiousness and within-student differences in perceived homework characteristics (subject-specific quality of tasks and homework control), perceived parental valuation of specific subjects, and homework motivation (subject-specific expectancy and value beliefs). Furthermore, a significant cross-level interaction indicated that perceived homework control by teachers had a stronger effect on students low in conscientiousness than on their more conscientious peers. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Boring but important – Self-transcendent purpose in learning fosters academic self-regulation. (Yeager et al., 2014)

Abstract. Many important learning tasks feel uninteresting and tedious to learners. This research proposed that promoting a prosocial, self-transcendent purpose could improve academic self-regulation on such tasks. This proposal was supported in four studies with over 2,000 adolescents and young adults. Study 1 documented a correlation between a self-transcendent purpose for learning and self-reported trait measures of academic self-regulation. Those with more of a purpose for learning also persisted longer on a boring task rather than giving in to a tempting alternative, and, many months later, were less likely to drop out of college. Study 2 addressed causality. It showed that a brief, one-time psychological intervention promoting a self-transcendent purpose for learning could improve high school science and math GPA over several months. Studies 3 and 4 were short-term experiments that explored possible mechanisms. They showed that the self-transcendent purpose manipulation could increase deeper learning behavior on tedious test review materials (Study 3), and sustain self-regulation over the course of an increasingly-boring task (Study 4). More self-oriented motives for learning—such as the desire to have an interesting or enjoyable career—did not, on their own, consistently produce these benefits (Studies 1 and 4).

Engineering Education Research Aids Instruction. (Fortenberry, Sullivan, Jordan, & Knight, 2007)

Abstract. Fewer students leave engineering studies when education programs link concepts to real-world practice.

Skill and will: The role of motivation and cognition in the learning of college chemistry. (Zusho, Pintrich, & Coppola, 2003)

Abstract. This study investigated how students’ level of motivation and use of specific cognitive and self-regulatory strategies changed over time, and how these motivational and cognitive components in turn predicted students’ course performance in chemistry. Participants were 458 students enrolled in introductory college chemistry classes. Participants’ motivation and strategy use were assessed at three time points over the course of one semester using self-report instruments. Results showed an overall decline in students’ motivational levels over time. There was also a decline in students’ use of rehearsal and elaboration strategies over time; students’ use of organizational and self-regulatory strategies increased over time. These trends, however, were found to vary by students’ achievement levels. In terms of the relations of motivation and cognition to achievement, the motivational components of self-efficacy and task value were found to be the best predictors of final course performance even after controlling for prior achievement.

Facilitating student learning through contextualization: A review of evidence. (Perin, 2011)

Abstract. This is a review of evidence for contextualization, defined here as an instructional approach connecting foundational skills and college-level content. Two forms of contextualization are identified, contextualized and integrated instruction. Despite methodological limitations, the available studies suggest that contextualization has the potential to accelerate the progress of academically underprepared college students.

Perceiving school performance as instrumental to future goal attainment: Effects on graded performance. (Malka & Covington, 2005)

Abstract. Three studies examined the perception among college students that school performance is instrumental to future goal attainment. Study 1, an exploratory study involving free report goal assessments, indicated that perceived instrumentality (PI) is a subjectively salient aspect of college students’ achievement motivation. Study 2 provided evidence for the structural distinctiveness of PI from self-efficacy, task value, and the achievement goals, and also demonstrated that PI prospectively predicts unique variance in graded performance beyond that accounted for by these motivational variables. Study 3 demonstrated that PI prospectively predicts unique variance in graded performance independently of future time orientation. We argue that a comprehensive understanding of the purposes underlying classroom achievement behavior requires consideration of how school performance may be perceived as instrumental to the attainment of valued life goals.

When Students Experience Choice...

The students increase their motivation to learn, interest and engagement, effort and persistence, independence and autonomy, confidence in learning, and personal value in learning.

Intrinsic motivation and the process of learning: Beneficial effects of contextualization, personalization, and choice. (Cordova & Lepper, 1996)

Abstract. This experiment examined the effects on the learning process of 3 complementary strategies—contextualization, personalization, and provision of choices—for enhancing students’ intrinsic motivation. Elementary school children in 1 control and 4 experimental conditions worked with educational computer activities designed to teach arithmetical order of operations rules. In the control condition, this material was presented abstractly. In the experimental conditions, identical material was presented in meaningful and appealing learning contexts, in either generic or individually personalized form. Half of the students in each group were also offered choices concerning instructionally incidental aspects of the learning contexts; the remainder were not. Contextualization, personalization, and choice all produced dramatic increases, not only in students’ motivation but also in their depth of engagement in learning, the amount they learned in a fixed time period, and their perceived competence and levels of aspiration. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

When choice motivates and when it does not. (Katz & Assor, 2007)

Abstract. This article addresses the controversy regarding the value of offering choices as a teaching practice. Inconsistent of results regarding the effects of choice in various settings suggest that choice can be either motivating or de-motivating. Based on the self-determination theory of motivation (Deci & Ryan, 2000), we propose that choice can be motivating when the options meet the students’ need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. For example, choice is motivating when the options are relevant to the students’ interests and goals (autonomy support), are not too numerous or complex (competence support), and are congruent with the values of the students’ culture (relatedness support). Given the many factors involved, it is not surprising that in some studies choice was not found to promote engagement. However, when choice was offered in a way that met the needs of the students, it was found to enhance motivation, learning, and well-being.

The effectiveness and relative importance of choice in the classroom. (Patall, Cooper, & Wynn, 2010)

Abstract. This investigation examined the effects of providing choices among homework assignments on motivation and subsequent academic performance. Students were randomly assigned within classrooms either to receive a choice of homework options or to be assigned an option for all homework in one instructional unit. Conditions were reversed for a second instructional unit. Results revealed that when students received a choice of homework they reported higher intrinsic motivation to do homework, felt more competent regarding the homework, and performed better on the unit test compared with when they did not have a choice. In addition, a trend suggested that having choices enhanced homework completion rates compared with when no choices were given. In a second analysis involving the same students, the importance of perceived provision of choice was examined in the context of student perceptions of their teachers’ support for autonomy more broadly defined. Survey data showed that the relationship between perceptions of receiving autonomy support from teachers and intrinsic motivation for schoolwork could be fully accounted for by students’ perceptions of receiving choices from their teachers. The limitations and implications of the study for research and practice are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

When choice motivates and when it does not. (Katz & Assor, 2007)

Abstract. This article addresses the controversy regarding the value of offering choices as a teaching practice. Inconsistent of results regarding the effects of choice in various settings suggest that choice can be either motivating or de-motivating. Based on the self-determination theory of motivation (Deci & Ryan, 2000), we propose that choice can be motivating when the options meet the students’ need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. For example, choice is motivating when the options are relevant to the students’ interests and goals (autonomy support), are not too numerous or complex (competence support), and are congruent with the values of the students’ culture (relatedness support). Given the many factors involved, it is not surprising that in some studies choice was not found to promote engagement. However, when choice was offered in a way that met the needs of the students, it was found to enhance motivation, learning, and well-being. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

The effectiveness and relative importance of choice in the classroom. (Patall, Cooper, & Wynn, 2010)

Abstract. This investigation examined the effects of providing choices among homework assignments on motivation and subsequent academic performance. Students were randomly assigned within classrooms either to receive a choice of homework options or to be assigned an option for all homework in one instructional unit. Conditions were reversed for a second instructional unit. Results revealed that when students received a choice of homework they reported higher intrinsic motivation to do homework, felt more competent regarding the homework, and performed better on the unit test compared with when they did not have a choice. In addition, a trend suggested that having choices enhanced homework completion rates compared with when no choices were given. In a second analysis involving the same students, the importance of perceived provision of choice was examined in the context of student perceptions of their teachers’ support for autonomy more broadly defined. Survey data showed that the relationship between perceptions of receiving autonomy support from teachers and intrinsic motivation for schoolwork could be fully accounted for by students’ perceptions of receiving choices from their teachers. The limitations and implications of the study for research and practice are discussed. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Optimizing the power of choice: Supporting student autonomy to foster motivation and engagement in learning. (Evans & Boucher, 2015)

Abstract. Choice plays a critical role in promoting students’ intrinsic motivation and deep engagement in learning. Across a range of academic outcomes and student populations, positive impacts have been seen when student autonomy is promoted through meaningful and personally relevant choice. This article presents a theoretical perspective on the motivational role of choice in learning, based on self‐determination theory. Theoretical principles and current research on student motivation and engagement are described. Conditions under which choice promotes students’ intrinsic motivation are then presented.

Constructing motivation through choice, interest, and interestingness. (Patall, 2013)

Abstract. Psychological research and theory have traditionally suggested that opportunities for choosing will lead to motivation and performance benefits. However, evidence on choice effects has not been ubiquitously positive, and recent investigations have revealed factors that diminish or reverse the effects of choosing. This investigation sought to extend this line of inquiry by examining whether interest factors may influence preferences for choosing and the effects of choice on motivation and performance. In Study 1, participants read a series of scenarios and reported a greater preference for choosing aspects of a task when the task was more, compared to less, personally interesting. Similarly, Study 2 revealed that choosing aspects of a trivia game enhanced post-task interest for the game only for individuals high in initial individual interest for trivia games in general. In contrast, Study 3 revealed that choosing enhanced post-task interest, perceived competence, value, and relative liking for a reading comprehension task when the reading passage was boring. When the passage was interesting, choosing resulted in less adaptive motivation outcomes. Going further, exploratory analyses revealed a 3-way interaction, suggesting that choosing enhanced willingness to engage in the task again only for those high in initial individual interest for reading and when the particular version of the task was boring. Interactions between choice and interest were not revealed for task performance in either Study 2 or Study 3. Rather, performance was higher among individuals who chose compared to individuals who did not. Implications of these findings are discussed. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

The effects of choice on intrinsic motivation and related outcomes: A meta-analysis of research findings. (Patall, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008)

Abstract. A meta-analysis of 41 studies examined the effect of choice on intrinsic motivation and related outcomes in a variety of settings with both child and adult samples. Results indicated that providing choice enhanced intrinsic motivation, effort, task performance, and perceived competence, among other outcomes. Moderator tests revealed the effect of choice on intrinsic motivation was stronger (a) for instructionally irrelevant choices compared to choices made between activities, versions of a task, rewards, and instructionally relevant options, (b) when 2 to 4 successive choices were given, (c) when rewards were not given after the choice manipulation, (d) when participants given choice were compared to the most controlling forms of control groups, (e) for children compared to adults, (f) for designs that yoked choice and control conditions compared to matched designs in which choice was reduced or designs in which nonyoked, nonmatched controls were used, and (g) when the experiment was conducted in a laboratory embedded in a natural setting. Implications for future research and applications to real-world settings are discussed. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Motivating learning, performance, and persistence: The synergistic effects of intrinsic goal contents and autonomysupportive contexts. (Vansteenkiste, Simons, Lens, Sheldon, & Deci, 2004)

Abstract. A meta-analysis of 41 studies examined the effect of choice on intrinsic motivation and related outcomes in a variety of settings with both child and adult samples. Results indicated that providing choice enhanced intrinsic motivation, effort, task performance, and perceived competence, among other outcomes. Moderator tests revealed the effect of choice on intrinsic motivation was stronger (a) for instructionally irrelevant choices compared to choices made between activities, versions of a task, rewards, and instructionally relevant options, (b) when 2 to 4 successive choices were given, (c) when rewards were not given after the choice manipulation, (d) when participants given choice were compared to the most controlling forms of control groups, (e) for children compared to adults, (f) for designs that yoked choice and control conditions compared to matched designs in which choice was reduced or designs in which nonyoked, nonmatched controls were used, and (g) when the experiment was conducted in a laboratory embedded in a natural setting. Implications for future research and applications to real-world settings are discussed. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Need satisfaction and the self-regulation of learning. (Deci, Ryan, & Williams, 1996)

Abstract. Self-regulation is analyzed in terms of self-determination theory using the concepts of intrinsic motivation and the internalization of extrinsic motivation. Laboratory experiments and field studies are reviewed indicating that: (1) intrinsic motivation and fully internalized extrinsic motivation are positively associated with high quality learning and personal adjustment; and (2) maintaining intrinsic motivation and internalizing extrinsic motivation are facilitated by social contexts that allow satisfaction of the basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Such contexts are ones that are characterized by the provision of choice, optimal challenge, informational feedback, interpersonal involvement, and acknowledgment of feelings.