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Final Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
KEY-1: Promoting Interest and Performance in Math and Science Courses: the Importance of Utility Value
Time: Tuesday, 28/Aug/2012: 11:30am - 12:30pm
Session Chair: Judith M. Harackiewicz, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Location: 311

Session Abstract

I will discuss longitudinal studies that document the importance of achievement goals and perceived utility value for interest and performance in college courses, and experimental laboratory studies that show the potential for promoting utility value.  This basic research provides the basis for two recent lines of intervention research. In one, we tested utility value interventions with high school students in science classes and with college students in an introductory psychology class. We found that our simple intervention was effective in increasing interest and performance, compared to the control condition. Moreover, this effect was most pronounced for students with low expectancies for success – the students most in need of help. In the other, we have examined the role of parents in communicating utility value to their teens, and tested an intervention intended to encourage communication with teens.  In the context of a multiyear longitudinal study, we introduced an intervention in 10th grade to provide parents with information about the utility value of math and science for their teens along with guidance for communication.  We have followed these teens through graduation, and collected measures of perceived utility value, parental conversations, interest and academic choices. We found that our intervention promoted conversations about math and science, parent and teen values, and teens’ STEM course-taking. Theoretically, this research contributes to our understanding of value transmission and interest development, and practically, this research suggests that teachers and parents can make important contributions to students’ mathematics and science learning and motivation by focusing on utility value.

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