The Motivational and Learning Benefits of Autonomy-Supportive Classroom Practices

Do classrooms that support students’ feelings of autonomy improve student motivation, attitudes, and behaviors?

Prior research has suggested some instructional practices facilitate such feelings, but little is known about how and why they work. One problem is that there are few existing cost-effective measures of the practices themselves. This study aims to create such a measure to provide a better understanding of how specific instructional practices support feelings of autonomy, motivate positive behavior, and foster learning among high school students. Patall will identify which teacher practices support students’ psychological needs and whether they are related to greater student motivation, engagement, and achievement. The research will be conducted in high school science classrooms in the Austin (TX) Independent School District. Prompted by email reminders, students will use an Apple iPod Touch to report on their teachers’ practices. In addition to these reports, classrooms will be videotaped and trained observers will code data on a parallel set of teacher practices. The video data would be used to validate the students’ reports.