ACTION RESEARCH I
Ownership, Motivation, and Class Engagement: How does an environment that supports the satisfaction of the three psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness impact student motivation and class engagement? By Jared Pangier, Hokkaido International School Sapporo email@example.com Nurturing our students to be intrinsically motivated to better themselves throughout life is a goal I imagine most teachers in this day and age aspire toward achieving. In fact, as teachers, we are tasked to prepare students for college and career, or, in other words, to ready students to move into the world on their own with less support. Yet, maturity is a long road, and motivation is hard to pin down, with so many factors impacting why each person acts in various situations. Much research has been done on autonomy, purpose, sense of control, and responsibility as essential aspects of motivation, including Ryan & Deci’s Self-Determination Theory (2018), Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning (2008), Simon Sinek’s Start with Why (2011), and Stephen Covey’s “Maturity Continuum” (2004). Furthermore, research on the impact of motivation has been conducted within academic environments. A study at a medical school in the Netherlands took the six degrees of motivation (see figure 1) to calculate a student’s Relative Autonomous Motivation (RAM) measuring relationship to student academic performance (Kusurkar, 2013). More specific to the field of literacy, the importance of creating a classroom environment that makes space for pleasure reading and access to that pleasure reading seems crucial to develop lifelong readers (Krashen, 2018; Willingham, 2015).
The catalyst for my study was a desire to more effectively increase student ownership over learning while also finding the best way to create structure in a classroom model that provides a high degree of choice. Through my study, I hoped to glean insight into the following questions: What is motivation? How can I motivate others? What can I do to make a classroom environment where students take control of their learning, where they care as much about bettering themselves through education as I do? Study Design With those questions in mind, and based on my understanding of best motivational and literacy practices from my extensive literature review, this study examined the way one teacher instituted these ideas through two intentional language and literacy models and two unexpected models (due to COVID-19), with an additional comparison to a high-achieving AP Seminar classroom, where students were given an even higher degree of autonomy in planning the structure of their course. Through these models, I explored the efficacy of satisfying the three fundamental psychological needs to grow motivation and classroom engagement, following the flow found in the figure below:
Figure 2: Engagement Model to Illustrated the Motivational Significance of Autonomy Support, Structure, and Involvement; modified from Reeve, 2018
Figure 1: Self-Determination Continuum Showing Types of Motivation; modified from Reeve, 2018 Considering the research done in the field of motivation and literacy, as well as our responsibility as teachers to prepare students to become more independent lifelong learners, in the school year 2019-2020 I conducted a yearlong action research exploratory study examining the relationship between motivation, engagement, and academic success within a literacy-heavy and student-centered classroom environment. 32 EARCOS Triannual Journal
The study examined student perception of control, used to determine the students’ Relative Autonomous Motivation (RAM; see figure 1 above), along with their reported degree of competence and relatedness. Drawing from Ryan and Deci’s Self-Determination Theory (2018), which described the three psychological needs in motivation (autonomy, competence, and relatedness), my study compared student survey responses to two classroom Language and Literacy classroom models; 1) Model A: Autonomy Focused; 2) Model B: The Balanced Model (Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness), as well as an AP Capstone Seminar model where students were given a high degree of control over the design of the course. Naturally, the pandemic that swept through our