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Final Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or room to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
SYM-18: The Learning Environment, Engagement, and Interest: a Panel Discussion
Time: Thursday, 30/Aug/2012: 1:30pm - 3:00pm
Session Chair: K. Ann Renninger, Swarthmore College
Discussant: Pietro Boscolo, University of Padova
Organizer: K. Ann Renninger, Swarthmore College
Location: 311

Session Abstract

This symposium is designed to be an interactive panel discussion in which findings from current research are used to revisit how we understand the role(s) of the learning environment in learner engagement and interest. Panel participants will each contribute a short paper describing current research on which they will draw in order to describe: - their working definitions of engagement and interest - their research questions and context of research - their methods for studying engagement and interest - what presently can be said about the contribution of the learning environment to engagement and interest - necessary new directions in research on the learning environment The presentations will each draw on a study that is part of a larger project. The presenters represent different theoretical traditions and employ a diversity of methods. Each contribution focuses on a different aspect of the learning environment in relation to engagement and interest: classroom participation, grades, teacher motivation and instructional practice, and potential triggers for interest and their relation to learner characteristics. Following the presentations, the Session Moderator will facilitate discussion among the participants and with the audience on these issues, with an emphasis on needed new directions in research addressing the learning environment and its role(s) in learner engagement and interest.


Classroom Participation and Engagement

Julianne Turner, Hayal Kackar

University of Notre Dame, United States of America

Engagement is often studied as an individual experience. We conceptualize engagement as emerging from teacher-student classroom interaction. We use Rogoff’s (1995) conceptualization of the mutuality of people and environments and Tharp et al.’s (2000) definition of teaching as “assisted performance” as a framework for observing teacher-student interaction during instruction. Assisting performance provides the opportunity to build common values and perceptions among participants, thus can lead to engagement. For this study, university researchers collaborated with teachers to design instruction to foster student engagement. Participants discussed rationales and strategies related to supporting students’ engagement (e.g., providing opportunities to develop competence, autonomy, belongingness, and making learning meaningful). Researchers observed classroom instruction using categories hypothesized to capture the quality of teacher-student interaction, and thus to promote engagement. Categories included the Teacher-Student Dialogue (T-SD) and Responsive Assistance for Thinking (scaffolding; RA-T), adopted from the Activity Segment Observation System (Rivera et al., 1999). Sources of Opportunity to Learn Content was adapted from Gresalfi (2004). We present data from the changes in one teacher’s interaction with students over two years. In year 1, RA-T was used moderately, but T-SD was infrequent. In year 2, both types of assistance occurred in all observations. Teacher-provided opportunities to learn content and student uptake were coded mostly “weak” in year 1, but increased to “moderate-strong” in year 2. Implications include the utility of observation measures to explain sources of student engagement, discussion of relation of quantity (present/absent) codes to quality of interaction, and the relation of participation to student engagement.

Grades, Intrinsic Motivation, and Self-Concept of Ability

Verena Freiberger1, Birgit Spinath1, Ricarda Steinmayr2

1Heidelberg University, Germany; 2Marburg University, Germany

It is a well-known phenomenon that both students’ intrinsic motivation and their ability self-concepts are very positive at the beginning of elementary school but soon start to decline, and continue to do so until the end of compulsory education. Parents, teachers, and other practitioners often argue that this development strongly depends on the presence of grades in the school context. In the present study, a longitudinal approach was used to investigate whether this decrease in math-related intrinsic motivation and ability self-concepts is a general developmental trend and holds for all students, and to what extent differential developments according to students’ grades are observed. To address this question, a sample of N = 542 German 2nd-grade elementary school pupils (M = 7.95 years, SD = 0.58) was followed over two years. At seven measurement occasions, children delivered self-reports on their math-related intrinsic motivation and ability self-concepts. Teachers gave insight into students’ grades. Results of growth curve models showed that neither initial math grades nor initial language grades were significantly related to the decline in students’ intrinsic motivation in math. However, both grades were significantly related to the negative change in students’ math-related self-concept, indicating that the decline in self-concept is strongest for students with poor grades and smaller for those with good grades. Findings will be discussed with a view to their educational relevance and theoretical implications.

Teacher Motivation, Instructional Practices and Student Motivation

Ulrich Schiefele, Ellen Schaffner

University of Potsdam, Germany

The present study is part of a larger project exploring the relations among teachers' motivation, their instructional practices, and students' motivation. Teachers' motivation and instructional practices are assumed to represent crucial elements of students' learning environment. As aspects of teachers' motivation, we have included self-efficacy as well as dimensions of interest and goal orientation. Teachers' instructional practices referred, for example, to mastery-oriented practices and aspects of classroom management. Students' motivation entailed subject interest as well as goal orientation. The sample consisted of 50 elementary teachers and their fifth- or sixth-grade students (N = 887). The assessment of teachers' and students' motivation was based on self-reports, whereas instructional practices were measured through student ratings. In the first step, we examined the relations between teachers' and students' motivation. With respect to students' subject interest, teachers' educational interest and learning goal orientation were found to be substantial predictors. Students' learning goal orientation was significantly predicted by teacher self-efficacy. Teacher motivation did not contribute to students' ability-approach, ability-avoidance, and work-avoidance goals. In the second step, the relations between instructional practices and students' motivation were analyzed. The results revealed that all student motivational characteristics were predicted by teachers' instructional practices. Interaction tempo was of particular importance because it was related positively to students' interest and learning goals and negatively to ability-avoidance and work-avoidance goals. Both rule clarity/monitoring and mastery-oriented instruction were positively related to students' interest, learning goals, and ability-approach goals. Performance-oriented instruction contributed to ability-approach and both ability-avoidance and work-avoidance goals.

Potential Triggers for Interest and Learner Characteristics

K. Ann Renninger, Jessica Bachrach

Swarthmore College, United States of America

Triggering of interest establishes engagement (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004; Bohnert, Fredricks, & Randall, 2010). It may be fleeting, but there is also the possibility that it will yield sustained interest (Gutherie, et al., 2006; Harackiewicz, Durik, K. Barron, Linnenbrink, & Tauer, 2008; Mitchell, 1993; Palmer, 2004), and/or that it will allow interest to develop from an earlier phase to a later phase of interest (Hidi & Renninger, 2006). Triggers for interest are not well understood, however.

This presentation will report on the complexities of triggering interest, a process initiated when something catches the attention of a learner. Findings from study of the activity of eight inner-city middle school participants in an out-of-school biology workshop will be used to address symposium questions. Study 1 addresses the identification and generalizability of potential triggers for interest across activities. Study 2 is a post hoc analysis that explores the relationship between triggers for interest and learner characteristics. Taken together, findings from both studies confirm that learners do not perceive and respond identically to potential triggers for interest. The triggering process is nuanced, and is informed both by the features of the activity and the readiness of the learner to pick up on potential triggers. Applications to practice and considerations for future research will be addressed.

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