SUNY EDU690 - Choices, Motivation and Performance


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Action Research - Impact of choice on motivation and performance.

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SUNY EDU690 - Choices, Motivation and Performance

  1. 1. Andreas Christodoulou, Jill Duncan, Gail Nelmes May, 2012
  2. 2. INTRODUCTIONResearch Question : What is the effect of choice on student performance and motivation?
  3. 3. Why is this important? We have observed that some of our students have a low level of classroom engagement. We believe this may contribute to poor performance and we feel that their interest and level of motivation needs to be sparked. We believe that this is an area that needs addressing because as IB students, our children are expected to be self- motivated learners. Our school mission states that our students are expected to be “independent critical thinkers, lifelong learners, responsible citizens, (who) gain entrance to elite universities and colleges.” We wondered if the level of engagement, independence and motivation of our students could be improved, if they were given more individual choice over content and presentation options for project work. We hoped that by fostering an environment that supports independent student project choice, our students would demonstrate heightened motivation that would in turn enhance performance.
  4. 4. Review of Literature Research results are mixed regarding the impact of providing choice. The “evidence on choice effects has not been ubiquitously positive.” (Patall et al. 2010)
  5. 5. Review of LiteratureSome researchers suggest that motivation increases when there is choice, but they make no mention of improved performance: “…a greater amount of choices available for the student promotes a greater sense of ownership and, consequently, higher levels of motivation and commitment.” Stone and Madigan (2008) cite Becker “…students who are deprived of choice are also likely deprived of motivation.” Kohn (1993)
  6. 6. Review of Literature Some researchers suggest that choice can overwhelm students and lessen motivation and performance: “...too many options seemed to produce paralysis rather than liberation…If one overcomes paralysis and choose, evidence suggests that the quality of performance deteriorates with increases in the number of options.” Barry Schwartz (2009), referring to Iyenger and Lepper (2000) and Iyenger et al . (2004) “.... choice may not always be effective or that there are more effective strategies to support motivation.”Patall et al. (2010)
  7. 7. Review of Literature Some researchers assert that when there ischoice, both motivation and performance increase: Results “clearly show that more choice equates to greater enjoyment, and presumably more engagement” and that a number of previous researchers “found that student enjoyment is closely linked to engagement, which in turn is linked to levels of performance.” Helen Moran (n.d ) “Whenever you can link the classroom curriculum to student interest, you tap into internalized achievement motivation - where goals are personal, motivation comes from within, and achievement is deeply meaningful.” Powell and Powell (2011)
  8. 8. Method Research Design : We used a three group post and post test design for motivation, assessing with a Likert Scale. We used a post and post test design for performance, using a Common Performance Rubric. Sample : Convenience Sample made up of 65 children: 21 Grade 1 (6-8yrs), 10 boys, 12 girls, 50% Qatari, 50% others 22 Grade 5 (10-11yrs), 10 boys, 12 girls, 100% Qatari 22 Grade 9 & 10 (15-16yrs), 11 boys, 11 girls, 80% Qatari
  9. 9. InterventionTreatment Using a Likert Scalesurvey and a Common Performance Rubric, studentsratedthemselveson a previousproject. Students completed a Learning My WayAssessment. Grade Onestudentswereintroducedtosixpresentationoptions. Grade Fivestudentsreviewedpresentationoptionstheyknew. Upper Middle Years students conducted a discussion on an online forum evaluating the merits of one presentation option against another.
  10. 10. InterventionTreatment Studentswereintroducedtotheproject and tothefactthattheycouldchoosetheprojectcontent and form of final presentation. TheywerealsointroducedtotheCommon Performance Rubric. Students were directed back to their Learning My Wayassessmentto think about areas of personal strength and interest and areas of possible development. Theywereencouragedtoconsiderthese as theymadetheirchoicesaboutcontent and form of presentation. Studentsweregiventheopportunitytodiscusstheir ideas withtheirpeers, toreflectontheirchoices and tochangetheirmindsiftheywanted.
  11. 11. Data Collection Three group post control and post treatment test designed to measure change in motivation toward classroom activities. (Likert Scale) Three group post control and post treatment test designed to measure performance in a class project. (Common Performance Rubric) Anecdotal records.
  12. 12. Threats to ValidityMotivation Instrumentation: By inadvertently stressing the importance of the test, the researchers may have influenced the students prior to them taking the Likert Scale surveys. Hawthorn Effect / Researcher Bias: Some students may have suspected they were part of a research project and so skewed their answers to the questions. Subject Characteristics (Age): In the Early Years, the students are eager to please their teacher and might give false positive responses. Testing: The subjects might have been influenced by what they had answered in the initial test.
  13. 13. Threats to ValidityPerformance Intervention / Location / TechnologyFacilitatorResourcesA threat to validity where performance was concerned in the UpperGrades, was the ‘snowball effect’. In the excitement of having choices, thestudents shared ideas and in this way they influenced each other’s choices. Inthe Early Years, it was noted that while the groups were completing theirprojects, two of the groups had different teachers and were confronted withnot only a new environment but also with new and novel presentationoptions.
  14. 14. Data Analysis: Motivation The results from the post treatment phase suggested an extremely significant increase in motivation compared to the post control phase, across the whole sample. Grade t df p Mean Gain SD Decrease Significance 1 2.6947 20 0.0139 1.67 1.12 Significant 5 0.7245 21 0.4768 0.41 0.27 Not 9+10 3.2262 21 0.0040 2.14 1.12 VeryAll Grades 3.8658 64 0.0003 1.40 0.7 Extremely
  15. 15. Data Analysis: Performance• The results from the post treatment phase suggested a significant increase in motivation compared to the post control phase. Grade t df p Mean Gain SD Decrease Significance 1 4.2604 20 0.0004 4.81 2.17 Extremely 5 4.1890 21 0.0004 2.36 - 0.16 Extremely 9+10 4.7503 21 0.0001 3.18 - 1.08 ExtremelyAll Grades 7.1569 64 0.0001 3.43 0.03 Extremely
  16. 16. Discussion The results of this study showed that our hypothesis was correct. We observed improvement in both student motivation and performance during the project. Using the Learning My Wayassessmentencouraged the students to think about the choices they were making in relation to their learning styles and goals. By discussing the Common Performance Rubric, an environment was created where students felt they could take risks and try new things and that these efforts would be recognized. During the process of choice, the students were excited to discuss and explore their options with peers. Once choice was made, an opportunity to reflect on their choice was given as was the chance to change. Students appreciated these options.
  17. 17. Discussion Studentscouldgivevalidreasonsforwhytheyhadmadetheirchoices, manystati ngitwasbecausetheywantedtoextendonaninterestwithintheir personal learningstylestrengthsorbecausetheywantedto explore anoptionthatwaseither new tothemorwhichhadchallengedthemon a previousoccasion. Once involved in theproject, interest, excitement, independence and ownershipwasobvious in thestudents, as wastheirhighlevel of on- goingmotivation. Motivationwasfurtherenhancedby students’ developing sense of purpose as they recognized that their product was not just to gather grades but would be used in real life contexts that would influence others. Students took independent action in many ways. They worked on their projects in their own time, developed and applied their skills, practiced to enhance their level of performance and taught their peers.
  18. 18. Discussion Generally, the quality of the final projects were higher than they had been on previous occasions. Where projects showed little or no improvement, it could possibly be because the student had had the confidence to take a risk and try skills and strategies that were new to them but were unsuited to their personal learning styles or skill level. Most of the students suggested that this had been an empowering and enjoyable experience and one that they would like to repeat.
  19. 19. Action We intend to routinely provide choices, opportunities for students to have discussions about their choices and to review their choices. We will explore how to apply this strategy for learning across other areas of the curriculum. We plan to make time to fully reflect on this experience and develop an implementation plan for applying refined elements of this project into our teaching programmes next year. We intend to use the Learning My Wayassessmentnear the beginning of the academic year and also administer Likert scales at times throughout the year. We will review and refine our Common Performance Rubric with a view to using it at all levels of the school as well as other educational platforms. We will share what we have learned with our colleagues.
  20. 20. ReferencesBaum, S., &Nicols, H. (2009). Your childs style. Retrieved from, A. (1993, September). Choices for children: why and how to let students decide. Kappan, Retrieved from giving elementarystudents choices&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5Moran , H. (n.d.). Personalised learning- engaging students by providing choice in the classroom. Retrieved from Learning - Engaging Students by Providing Choice in the ClassroomNapoleon Hill. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2012, from Web site:, E. A., Cooper, H., & Wynn, S. R. (2010). The effectiveness and relative importance of choice in the classroom.Journal of Educational Psychology , 102(4), 896-915. doi:10.1037/a0019545,, P., &Kusuma-Powell, O. (2011). How to teach now:five keys to personalized learning in the global classroom.Alexandria, VA, USA: ASCD. Retrieved from, B. (2009). Incentives, choice, education and.well-being Oxford Review of Education, 35(3), 391-403.Starnes, B., & Paris, C. (2000). Choosing to learn. Kappan, 81(5), 392. Retrieved from Stone, J. A., & Madigan, E. M. (2008). The impact of providing project choices in cs1. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 40(2), 65-68, Retrieved from