Article

Using Self-Determination Theory to Investigate Student Engagement in the Classroom

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Abstract

This is a report on a study that: a. explored teacher perceptions of the term engagement and b. tracked the engagement of nine early primary students who were identified by their teachers as often disengaged. In the first section of the research, teacher perceptions of the term engagement were found to focus on behavioural and emotional aspects, with little reference to the cognitive component. In the second section, the researchers used an observation rating scale to observe the students in their classrooms and recorded their levels of behavioural, emotional and cognitive engagement. At the same time, the students' learning activities were rated according to the extent to which the activities addressed their perceived competence, sense of belonging and autonomy support (aspects of Self-Determination Theory). It was found that students who were 'needy' in terms of their perceived competence or sense of belonging responded to activities that addressed these needs. This study points to the need for further investigation of Self-Determination Theory as a planning framework to address engagement issues in the classroom.©Common Ground, Leanne Fried, Deslea Konza, All Rights Reserved, Permissions.

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... Competence includes students' perceptions about their capacity to achieve success, (Fried and Konza, 2013) while relatedness refers to a sense of belonging, support and inclusion in the classroom (Ryan and Deci, 2000). ...
... Contrary to many other L2 motivation theories, SDT recognises that, within educational settings, the catalyst for behaviour is often external to the individual (Ryan and Deci, 2000). SDT therefore enables exploration and analysis of FL teachers' motivational strategies and each student's experience of them (Fried and Konza, 2013) and so provides a useful theoretical framework and motivational lens, through which to explore both students' perceptions of TPRS, leading to the following research questions: ...
... Although Millward (2012, p.416) posits that FGI are 'not suitable to the formal testing of hypotheses', Stanton et al. (1993) successfully used 'protection motivation theory' to frame a group discussion with adolescents about sexual risk, while Fried and Konza (2013) used FGI to study engagement in schools through an SDT lens. Indeed, employing theory as the focusing vehicle in FGI has been found to be highly effective (Stanton et al., 1993). ...
Working Paper
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This paper explores a group of secondary, international school students’ feelings about Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) using a self-determination theory (SDT) lens. It adds to the limited existing literature on TPRS and is the first to study the approach from a purely motivational perspective. The paper analyses the extent to which students perceived that TPRS satisfied SDT’s three basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. It employs a case study approach, using data obtained from classroom observations as well as background group interviews and focus group interviews. The findings conclude that TPRS is a decidedly motivating and engaging method for foreign language (FL) learners. The three needs of SDT were found to be highly interrelated with satisfaction of one influencing positively on the others. The findings suggest that the autonomous nature of TPRS, where students co-create the stories with the teacher, result in a heightened sense of personal ability and belongingness to the group. Additionally, the results reinforce the conclusions from other studies, which suggest that activities that are perceived as fun, interesting, novel and different are most likely to develop intrinsic motivation in FL learners. The findings have implications for both pre-service and in-service FL teachers and replication studies applying SDT to TPRS in other contexts are warranted.
... Autonomy is concerned with choice, opportunities for self-direction and student ownership of their learning (Ryan and Deci 2000). Competence includes students' perceptions about their capacity to achieve success, (Fried and Konza 2013) while relatedness refers to a sense of belonging, support and inclusion in the classroom (Ryan and Deci 2000). ...
... Contrary to many other L2 motivation theories, SDT recognises that, within educational settings, the catalyst for behaviour is often external to the individual (Ryan and Deci 2000). SDT therefore enables exploration and analysis of FL teachers' motivational strategies and each student's experience of them (Fried and Konza 2013) and so provides a useful theoretical framework and motivational lens, through which to explore students' perceptions of TPRS, leading to the following research questions: ...
... Although Millward (2012: 416) posits that FGI are 'not suitable to the formal testing of hypotheses', Stanton et al. (1993) successfully used 'protection motivation theory' to frame a group discussion with adolescents about sexual risk, while Fried and Konza (2013) used FGI to study engagement in schools through an SDT lens. Indeed, employing theory as the focusing vehicle in FGI has been found to be highly effective (Stanton et al. 1993). ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper explores a group of secondary school students' feelings about Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) using a self-determination theory (SDT) lens. It adds to the limited, existing literature on TPRS and is the first to study it from a purely motivational perspective. The paper analyses the extent to which students perceived that TPRS satisfied SDT's three basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. It employs a case study approach, using data from classroom observations, background group interviews and focus group interviews. The findings conclude that TPRS is a decidedly motivating and engaging method for foreign language (FL) learners. The three needs of SDT were found to be highly interrelated with satisfaction of one influencing positively on the others. The findings suggest that the autonomous nature of co-creating stories with the teacher, result in a heightened sense of personal ability and belongingness to the group. The results reinforce conclusions from other studies, suggesting that activities that are perceived as fun, interesting, novel and different are most likely to develop intrinsic motivation in FL learners. The findings have implications for increasing intrinsic motivation in FL classrooms around the world.
... Kingery et al. (2011) measured peer acceptance and friendship quality in relation to predicting adjustment across the transition to middle school and found that both these factors play a significant role in student loneliness and school involvement. Fried and Konza (2013) believe that teachers should think about peer relations when preparing learning activities. Peer interaction gives students a better chance of increasing their sense of relatedness. ...
... From the literature, it is evident that cooperative learning is seen as a way of increasing students' experience of relatedness at school (Fried & Konza, 2013). Students' sense of belonging flourishes when they experience others paying attention and reacting to them. ...
Thesis
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This study employed an explanatory sequential mixed methods research design to determine levels of motivation and engagement, and the school-related conditions that might influence such levels among Sri Lankan secondary school students. This study surveyed 100 Sinhala-medium and 100 Tamil-medium eighth-grade students (50 students from each gender). The mean age of the students was 12.8 years. Schools were represented by type 2 “government” schools located in the Monaragala and Nuwara Eliya districts in Sri Lanka. Twenty-four low-motivated students (12 from each gender) were selected based on the MQ scores of the MES-JS. Students who attained the lowest MQ scores for booster thoughts and booster behaviours, and highest MQ scores for mufflers and guzzlers were selected for conducting semi-structured interviews. The mean age of interviewed students was 12.9 years. Twelve teachers and 12 principals were also interviewed. Confirmatory factor analysis was conducted to measure the construct validity of the scale. Since this did not provide a robust solution, exploratory factor analysis was also conducted. Four factors were identified; Failure Avoidance and Anxiety (FAA), Positive Motivation (PM), Uncertain Control (UC), and Positive Engagement (PE). Based on those four factors, parametric tests – t-tests, two-way MANOVA, two-way ANOVA, one-way ANOVA –and non-parametric tests – Kruskal-Wallis H tests – were employed to analyse quantitative data and thematic analysis was applied to the qualitative data. The findings of the quantitative phase of the study indicated that early adolescents’ motivation and engagement was not a major problem across the study population but there was a group of students who exhibiting low motivation and engagement. Interviews were conducted with this group. This qualitative phase of the study indicated that the quality of classroom relationships and the curriculum and resources impacted on the least motivated and engaged students’ learning. Especially, negative teacher-student relationships, lack of intrinsic motivation, the influence of peers, harsh punishments, inadequate encouragement, un-engaging teaching, unfriendly teaching-learning environment, inadequate quality learning activities, difficult subject matter, difficult and excessive homework, regular tests, inadequate classroom resources, and inadequate quality teaching-learning resources were revealed as contributing to low motivation and iii engagement. Some teachers and principals stated that they had employed: raising parental awareness, providing individual support, and short-term initiatives. It was revealed that, there was a link between the least motivated and engaged early adolescents’ learning and the impact of school-related conditions in low socio-economic districts in Sri Lanka, particularly in Tamil-medium schools. This study proposes a model to increase the motivation and engagement in learning of early adolescents in low socio-economic districts in Sri Lanka through a self-determination theory approach.
... Student engagement can be considered multidimensional-consisting of distinct, yet interrelated, capacities that when positively fostered and expressed, can create a healthy learning experience. We describe five such engagement components based on literature (Blumenfeld et al., 2005;Bowden, 2013;Bowden et al., 2019;Christenson et al., 2012;Eldegwy et al., 2018;Fredricks et al., 2004;Fried & Konza, 2013;Kahu et al., 2015;Khademi Ashkzari et al., 2018;Klem & Connell, 2004;Krause & Coates, 2008;Kuh, 2006;Mahatmya et al., 2012;National Center on Effective Secondary Schools, 1992;Nguyen et al., 2016;Reeve, 2012Reeve, , 2013Reeve & Shin, 2020;Reeve & Tseng, 2011;Schaufeli et al., 2002;Vivek et al., 2014;Wentzel, 2012;Yazzie-Mintz & McCormick, 2012): i. ...
Article
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In this article, we explore first-year students’ transition into higher education (HE), focusing on the motivational factors that enhance their engagement. We argue that Student Support Professionals (SSPs) can play a pivotal role in heightening student motivation, given the broad range of academic, administrative, and pastoral responsibilities that this role entails. Against this background, we ask two questions: Firstly, how should we understand student motivation with specific regard to its antecedents, manifestations, and consequences? Secondly, what motivation-enhancement strategies can SSPs integrate into their practice to build a productive relationship with students? Drawing on self-determination theory (SDT) insights, we provide a taxonomy of student motivation, arguing that: Motivation exists in a continuum of self-regulation, motivation is contextual, motivation is multidimensional, and motivation is causally significant. Building on this taxonomy we offer practical guidance to SSPs who are looking to catalyse students’ intrinsic motivation, identifying three specific motivational enhancement strategies, namely: Fostering competence by establishing realistic expectations between oneself and students; fostering relatedness by providing resources for holistic student engagement; and fostering autonomy by empowering students in their decision-making. We argue that central to SSPs’ ability to foster engagement is possessing a conceptual and experiential understanding of student motivation, which can heighten their ability to respond to students’ needs. SSPs should approach this process of motivation enhancement as collaborative—working with students to discover both motivational impediments and motivation-enhancing resources to better engage with their HE experience.
... Student engagement is frequently described as being multi-dimensional, comprised of distinctyet-related capacities that, when positively attended to and expressed, coalesce to create a holistic experience. Drawing on the literature, we present provisional descriptions of five such components of engagement (Blumenfeld et al., 2005;Bowden, Tickle, & Naumann, 2019;Christenson, Reschly, & Wylie, 2012;Eldegwy, Elsharnouby, & Kortam, 2018;Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004;Fried & Konza, 2013;Kahu et al., 2015;Khademi Ashkzari, Piryaei, & Kamelifar, 2018;Klem & Connell, 2004;K. L. Krause & Coates, 2008;G. ...
... Kingery, Erdley, and Marshall (2011) measured peer acceptance and friendship quality in relation to predicting adjustment across the transition to middle school and found that both these factors play a significant role in student loneliness and school involvement. Fried and Konza (2013) believe that teachers should think about peer relations when preparing learning activities. Peer interaction gives students a better chance of increasing their sense of relatedness. ...
... Given this theory, intrinsic motivation is at the opposite end of the continuum and extrinsic motivation falls within the middle of the continuum (Ryan & Deci, 2000). SDT, when used as a theoretical lens, can argue that student involvement in learning arises from their motivation (Fried & Konza, 2013;Newbery, 2012). In other words, students' motivation leads to and facilitates their active involvement in the learning process (Lee & Reeve, 2012). ...
Article
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Learning motivation has been examined for its positive influence on learning outcomes. However, little attention has been addressed to the development of measuring instruments of learning motivation in the context of reading the Quran in Indonesian higher education. This study was designed to develop a Quran learning motivation questionnaire. The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) was applied as a theoretical framework to explore the type dan level of motivation. Participants involved in this study were 420 students. They were divided into subsample one for exploratory factor analysis (N = 200) and subsample two with confirmatory factor analysis (N = 220). The questionnaire was developed with 12 item-three factors using five points Likert scale that can measure the learning motivation in reading Quran. The results of the study show that the level of student motivation is relatively low (M= 3.12), and the intrinsic motivation type (M= 3.99) is more dominant than extrinsic motivation survival (M= 2.99) and approval (M= 2.38) with a p-value of 0.000. In addition, it was found that female students (M= 3.19) had significantly higher motivation than male students (M= 3.04), with a p-value of 0.017.
... Taylor and parsons [4] noted that building respectful and interactive relationships with students are very important to improve students. The study of Fried and Konza [5] revealed that students' engagements could be seen as vital components of academics at school, which may be a worthy outcome of school in its own right. ...
... The connection between motivation and engagement is explicit and direct, with a focus on motivation leading to and/or facilitating engagement (Dabbagh 2007;Lee and Reeve 2012;Reeve 2012;Skinner et al. 2008). SDT, when used as a lens, maintains that student engagement arises from motivation (Chen and Jang 2010;Dabbagh 2007;Fried and Konza 2013;Leach and Zepke 2012;Newbery 2012). As proposed by Ryan and Deci (2009), the taxonomy of human motivation represents an effective nexus to inform student engagement through an SDT lens; motivation is a private subjective experience and engagement is more objective with observed effect (Dabbagh 2007). ...
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The emergence of online environments has changed the landscape of educational learning. Some students thrive in this learning environment, but others become amotivated and disengaged. Drawing on self-determination theory, we report the findings of a study of 574 undergraduate business students at an Australian higher education institution on their attitude toward online learning, and its impact on their motivation and educational engagement. Data was collected via an e-mail survey and analysed using structural equation modelling and the Hayes’ bootstrapping method. The results of the study were mixed. Attitude to online learning mediated the relationships of both intrinsic motivation to know and extrinsic motivation with engagement, indicating that the design of online learning environments can play a role in enhancing learning experiences. However, attitude to online learning was not found to mediate the intrinsic motivation to accomplish and engagement relationship. A negative mediation effect was partially supported between amotivation and engagement, with study mode found as a moderated mediator to this effect, being stronger and significant for online students as opposed to on-campus students. These results have implications for how students can be engaged online, and the need for educators to design online learning environments that support the learning experience for all students.
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