Supporting the Autonomous Motivation of High School Students for Physics
Ruiten, Sacha van
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The school system of the Netherlands calls for 9th grade students to determine their school subjects for the subsequent years midway through the school year. This choice is called the “profielkeuze” or subject cluster choice. Teachers of electives are then faced with a specific challenge regarding the motivation of students who have not chosen their subject, as this choice indicates a lack of autonomous motivation for their subject going into the rest of the school year. In this study, principles of the Self Determination Theory were used to design a lesson series catering to the needs of students following a course they will not take in subsequent years. This lesson series spanned one full chapter and included elements students, through a questionnaire and focus group, indicated that they wanted: to work together, practice exercises, to do practical assignments, and learning to study and formulate answers for the test, as well as working with PowerPoint presentations during instructions. Prior to and at the end of the intervention, the motivation of the students was measured using the SRQ-A questionnaire, adapted to the subject of physics, and from the answers students’ Relative Autonomy Indexes (RAI) were calculated. These results showed that at the end of the intervention students from the Intervention Group demonstrated a stable RAI, i. e. a stable level of autonomous motivation, while the Control Group had their RAI decrease significantly, demonstrating a shift to more controlled forms of motivation. During follow-up semi-structured focus groups, students from the Intervention Group reported feeling supported in their basic psychological needs by the learning activities presented in the lesson series, whereas students from the Control Group had to find other sources for support. These results may be used to better cater to the needs of students who feel they will not need a subject later in life.