What's New in Pedagogy Research?

By Johnson, Rebecca Grooms | American Music Teacher, June-July 2009 | Go to article overview

What's New in Pedagogy Research?


Johnson, Rebecca Grooms, American Music Teacher


Motivating students is always a topic of interest to music teachers. The Journal of Educational Psychology recently published a study titled "Supporting Students' Motivation, Engagement, and Learning During an Uninteresting Activity." (1)

Previous research in this area has indicated that teachers are more successful in promoting student motivation to perform uninteresting tasks when they provide a rationale that explains the lesson's value, helps the student understand why the lesson is worth their effort, why the lesson will be useful to them and why the lesson has personal meaning for them. When successful, the rationale can help the student internalize the value of the learning activity.

The Study: This research investigated and compared two theoretical models of motivation. The Identified Regulation Model refers to the mostly internalized extrinsic motivation provided by a rationale. In this model "The individual has identified with the personal importance of an externally prescribed way of thinking or behaving and has thus accepted it as his or her own way of thinking or behaving." (2) This motivation is considered extrinsic in that the task is performed because it is useful, rather than because it is interesting. Previous research based on this model indicated that when the rationale was given in a controlling, teacher-centered way (for example, it's important because I say so) it was less effective than when it was related in a way that was non-controlling and with some reference to the uninteresting nature of the task (such as, I know that this is not exciting, but it will help you understand how to be a better teacher). In this way, the student was encouraged to take ownership of the motivation to accomplish the task.

The second theory of motivation, the Interest Regulation Model, indicates that when people find a task boring, they will usually try to generate strategies to make it more interesting. These strategies could include goal setting, varying the way they do the task, working in groups, and/or making the task into a game.

The Method: In this study, 136 college students enrolled in a teacher certification program were given a written lesson on introductory-level statistics (the uninteresting activity). The test group was given the rationale in non-controlling language that acknowledged their possible negative feelings about the lesson. The remaining students served as the control group and received the lesson, but not the rationale. Two trained raters sat in the room with small groups of the students and unobtrusively observed and scored the participants for on-task attention, effort, and persistence after 10 and 20 minutes of the activity. When the allotted study time had ended the students were given a conceptual and factual quiz on the subject matter and a posttest questionnaire.

The Post-test Questionnaire: This instrument covered areas relating to both the Identified Regulation Model and the Interest Regulation Model. It began with a nine-item list with a Likert scale that assessed perceived autonomy with statements that included "During the lesson, I felt I was doing what I wanted to be doing," "During the lesson, I felt free" and "I felt I had control to decide what to do and whether to do it." (3) Perceived importance was also assessed by Likert scale responses. …

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