A growing body of research suggests that intrinsic motivation and self-determination are key factors in academic achievement and success. The present study investigated whether children learned and retained information better when taught a social skills lesson using a self-determining approach, rather than a traditional directive lesson plan. In particular, this study examined whether lesson plans that included choice and autonomy support would affect students' intrinsic motivation for the task, and improve their learning and retention over time. Fifty-six fourth grade students from a large suburban school district in upstate New York participated. Significant group differences were found on a pre-test measure indicating that the classes differed on their prior knowledge of the topic. There were no significant differences on the post-test measure however. Two groups, those that participated in a role-play activity and those that had a choice, improved their scores from pre to post test more than the third group. Additionally, intrinsic motivation was positively correlated with the student's change in scores from pre-test to post-test. While the correlation was not significant, it indicated a positive relationship between intrinsic motivation and information learned and retained over time. The implications of these findings are discussed.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Motivation in education; Intrinsic motivation; Education, Elementary--Research
School Psychology (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
Department of Psychology (CLA)
Hesek, Emily K., "Intrinsic motivation in the classroom: Increasing learning and retention" (2004). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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