Supporting Students' Motivation, Engagement, and Learning During an Uninteresting Activity
Journal of Educational Psychology Volume 100, Issue 4, November 2008, Pages 798-811
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.