Thursday, April 5, 2012

Providing a Rationale in an Autonomy-Supportive Way as a Strategy to Motivate Others During an Uninteresting Activity

Annotation created by Melissa Han

Reeve,J.,Jang,H.,&Omura,M.(September 2002). Providing a Rationale in an Autonomy-Supportive Way as a Strategy to Motivate Others During an Uninteresting Activity. Motivation and Emotion, 26(3),183-207.


~” Only when the rationale is accompanied by facilitating autonomy-supportive conditions (i.e., non-controlling language, acknowledging negative feelings) can it be expected to increase self-determination and engagement”(186).

~” Before a rationale such as the one above can be expected to facilitate the identification experience, the socializer first needs to discover and then communicate why putting forth effort on the task would be a valuable investment for the person”(203).


This article states that providing a rationale, even if the activity is uninteresting, can raise motivation. The rationale is providing a reason as to why the activity is valuable to the person doing the activity. But the rationale proved to raise motivation if accompanied with autonomy-supportive environments and acknowledging negative feelings. For example, a teacher would state “The reason why you are being asked to try ___ is for the benefit of ___. The information so far has been difficult and at times frustrating. Still, I ask you to concentrate, persevere, and try hard.”

In this study, the subjects were asked to learn the Chinese language. The following were measured: perceived importance, perceived self-determination, effort, and interest. When the rationale was provided, perceived importance increased but not self-determination. When non-controlling language was provided, self-determination also increased but not perceived importance.


I think as educators we strive to design meaningful, relevant curriculum for our students. But the reality is that not all students will receive it as that initially or even during the whole duration of the lesson. I was relieved to find that this study addressed this issue.

Providing a rationale needs to be accompanied with autonomy-supportive conditions and acknowledgment of negative feelings in order for motivation to increase in an uninteresting activity. Stating the reason why isn’t enough. Educators still need to connect the relevance of the activity to the students’ experiences. I am struck by how the autonomy-supportive studies I have read consistently addresses the reciprocal relationship between teachers and students as they collaborate with one another to create a learning environment that stresses on the self-regulating process instead of solely on concept understanding.

Other Sources:

Berlyne, D. E. (1966). Curiosity and exploration. Science, 153, 25–33.

Grolnick, W. S., & Ryan, R. M. (1987). Autonomy in children’s learning: An experimental and individual difference investigation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 890–898.

Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise, and other bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Sansone, C., & Smith, J. L. (2000). Self-regulating interest: When, why, and how. In C. Sansone & J. M. Harackiewicz (Eds.), Intrinsic motivation: Controversies and new directions (pp. 343–373).

Skinner, E. A., & Belmont, M. J. (1993). Motivation in the classroom: Reciprocal effects of teacher behavior and student engagement across the school year. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 571–581.

Wade, S. E., Buxton, W., & Kelly, M. (1999). Using think alouds to examine reader-text interest. Reading Research Quarterly, 34, 194–216.

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