Thursday, April 5, 2012

Choice is good, but relevance is excellent: Autonomy-enhancing and suppressing teacher behaviours predicting students’ engagement in schoolwork

Annotation created by Melissa Han

Assor,A., Kaplan,H., & Roth,G.(2002). Choice is good, but relevance is excellent: Autonomy-enhancing and suppressing teacher behaviours predicting students’ engagement in schoolwork. British Journal of Educational Psychology. 72, 261–278.


~” Number of educator-behaviours that affect students’ feelings toward and

engagement in learning. The theory groups those behaviours into three general

clusters: autonomy-support, competence-support (structure) and relational-support

(interpersonal involvement), according to the basic need they are assumed to support”(262).

~” According to Self Determination Theory (SDT, Ryan & Deci 2000; Ryan, 1993),

people experience a sense of autonomy when they can realise their personal goals,

values and interests”(262).

~” To foster the relevance of schoolwork for children, teachers need to take an

empathic-active role in relation to their students. This role requires the teacher first to

understand students’ goals, interests and needs, and then to link school tasks to those

goals, interests and needs”(265).

~” The primary task of the teacher is to try to understand their

students’ authentic interests and goals, and then help students to understand the

connection between their personal goals and interests and schoolwork”(273).


This article addresses components of autonomy enhancing teacher behavior. The components listed were fostering relevance, allowing criticism, providing choice, encourage self-initiation, minimize use of controls, and acknowledge others’ perspective and feelings. Autonomy suppressing teacher behavior was also listed as suppressing criticism, intruding, and forcing unmeaningful acts.

Fostering relevance was highlighted as the best predictive of positive affect and engagement. Fostering relevance is when the teacher explains the contribution of learning a task to a student’s personal goal and attempts to understand a student’s feelings and thoughts around the learning task. If the student isn’t aware of their goals, then teachers should provide choice so that students can work on tasks that allow students to realize their goals or interests contributing to student experience of autonomy in learning.


I had initially thought that autonomy was something that could be achieved if I just provided choice to my students, but according to this article the key is in connecting learning experiences to student personal goals and interests. I also struggled with how much of my presence would seem controlling or prevent the autonomy that my students needed. What is optimal autonomy in learning? According to this article, it seems that my absence doesn’t enhance autonomy, but that my presence needs to be useful in enabling my students to realize and formulate their goals and interests.

Other Sources:

Iyengar, S. S., & Lepper. M. R. (1999). Rethinking the value of choice: Acultural perspective on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 349–366.

Maehr, M. L., & Midgley, C. (1991). Enhancing student motivation: A school-wide approach. Educational Psychologist, 26, 399–427.

No comments:

Post a Comment