Researchers conducted an updated review of the literature on interventions to promote overall self-determination and skills associated with self-determined action in students with disabilities in the school context. Associated skills included choice-making, decision-making, problem-solving, goal setting and attainment, planning, self-management, self-advocacy, self-awareness, and self-knowledge.
The Value of Self-Determination
Self-determination is integral to student achievement of both academic goals and positive post-school employment, community integration, and quality of life outcomes. Emerging definitional frameworks for understanding self-determination highlight the value of developing skills associated with self-determined action (i.e., choice-making, decision-making, problem solving, goal setting and attainment, planning, self-management, self-advocacy, self-awareness, and self-knowledge) in students with disabilities. Given the value of self-determination in the lives of students with disabilities and expansion in theory, research, and practice, an updated review of the literature on interventions to promote self-determination and skills associated with self-determined actions was needed.
Positive Findings in Article Search
Researchers identified 34 articles published between 2000 and 2015 that met the search criteria. Search criteria required that articles: a) be published in an English language, peer-reviewed journal, b) include participants with disabilities between the ages of 3 to 21, c) occur in the school context, and d) report outcomes of an intervention intended to promote overall self-determination or skills associated with self-determined action. Researchers analyzed types of interventions, populations of students with whom they were implemented, outcomes, and rigor of research. “Findings include (a) an increase in the number of participants in self-determination studies, (b) positive outcomes for students with diverse personal characteristics (e.g. disability status, gender), and (c) a need for improved rigor in reporting quality of research.” Results indicated positive outcomes of interventions to promote self-determination across grade levels (primarily middle and high school), disability groups, and setting using a variety of instructional methods.
Increased Focus Needed on Promoting Self-Determination
These findings highlight the need for increased focus on “promoting self-determination within inclusive, general education settings with students with disabilities and of diverse backgrounds.” Incorporating evidence-based self-determination instruction enhances transition planning and access to and participation in the general education curriculum. The most commonly implemented intervention was the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (SDLMI; Wehmeyer, Palmer, Argan, Mithaug, & Martin), a multi-component intervention targeting multiple skills associated with self-determined action. Given the strong research base supporting SDLMI as well as the availability of materials to support its implementation, teachers should consider this comprehensive intervention for integrating self-determination skills into the instruction. While interventions promoting self-determination proved effective across age ranges, the majority (i.e., 76%) of the studies reviewed included transition-age students. Given the positive outcomes and viable means reported, practitioners can “help students set and achieve education and transition related goals, benefiting students in school and in the real world.”
“Given the value of self-determination in the lives of students with disabilities, it is essential that skills associated with self-determination are integrated into instruction in the school context.”
“It is often assumed that students learn skills associated with self-determined action, such as goal setting, problem solving, and decision-making incidentally; however, more explicit instruction needs to be dedicated to these skills, which are included in almost all state or local education agency content objectives.”
“By continuing to focus on and improve instruction to promote self-determination, it is possible to further enhance the focus on enabling young people with disabilities to set and achieve goals as causal agents in their own lives.”
Self-determination positively predicts in- and post- school outcomes as well as transition planning for students with disabilities. Improved understanding of the development and skills associated with self-determination guides current assessment and intervention. Consequently, evidence-based interventions allow practitioners to feasibly and effectively integrate self-determination and skills associated with self-determined action into instruction within the school context for students with and without disabilities.
Burke, K. M., Raley, S. K., Shogren, K. A., Hagiwara, M., Mumbardó-Adam, C., Uyanik, H., & Behrens, S. (2020). A meta-analysis of interventions to promote self-determination for students with disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 41(3), 176-188.
The question of how learners’ motivation influences their academic achievement and vice versa has been the subject of intensive research due to its theoretical relevance and important implications for the field of education. This study shows how influential theories of academic motivation have conceptualized reciprocal interactions between motivation and achievement, and the kinds of evidence that support this reciprocity.
Mediating Factors Between Motivation and Achievement
Motivation and emotion can be a difficult line to draw. Both of these concepts can interact, although emotions are depicted as more temporary than motivation. For instance, certain emotions can either enhance or obstruct motivation. Just like how there have been studies on the relationship between motivation and student achievement, there are recent studies on the reciprocal relationship between emotions and student achievement.
There are several mediating factors between motivation and achievement. When effort is measured as quality of learning (e.g., selecting adaptive goals, adopting higher-quality learning strategies, etc.), there is some evidence for a positive link between academic achievement and effort. However, when effort is measured as a quantity of learning (such as study time, practice time, time-on-task, persistence, etc.), this relationship seems either weak or only significant after controlling for quality of learning. Another mediating factor can be self-regulation, as some theories suggest motivation only leads to the decision to act.
Finding of Studies Performed on Motivation and Achievement
Most studies (this article summarized multiple studies) investigating the reciprocal relationship between motivation and achievement have measured motivation through questionnaires probing academic self-concept (e.g., the Academic SelfDescription Questionnaire by Marsh & O’Neill, 1984). The studies interpreting the connection between motivation and achievement lack a causal relationship. In almost every study investigating reciprocal motivation and achievement relations, the need for experimental designs, in which either motivation or achievement is manipulated, is raised as a suggestion for future research.
The Influence of Motivation on Achievement
All the theories examined suggested that there are positive influences of motivation on achievement and vice versa. There is also a very strong relationship between motivation and student achievement. One of the hardest problems to solve is the lack of studies that allow for firm causal inferences. While there are studies that lack a controlled variable, there are other studies that do have a causal effect but consist of a third or hidden variable.
“This led to a research agenda consisting of the following recommendations for future studies on the relationship between motivation and performance: (1) include multiple motivation constructs (on top of ASC), (2) investigate behavioral mediators, (3) consider a network approach, (4) align frequency of measurement to expected change rate in intended constructs and include multiple time scales to better understand influences across time-scales, (5) check whether designs meet the criteria for measuring causal, reciprocal inferences, (6) choose an appropriate statistical model, (7) apply alternatives to self-reports, (8) consider various ways of measuring achievement, and (9) strive for generalization of the findings to various age, ethnic, and sociocultural groups.”
“We argued that the strongest support for causal claims on motivation-achievement relations would be studies manipulating either motivation or achievement at one time point and studying the effects on motivation-achievement interactions across subsequent time points.”
“…there might be culture-dependent or population-specific pathways connecting the relationship between motivation and achievement.”
Vu, T., Magis-Weinberg, L., Jansen, B. R. J., van Atteveldt, N., Janssen, T. W. P., Lee, N. C., van der Maas, H. L. J., Raijmakers, M. E. J., Sachisthal, M. S. M., & Meeter, M. (2022). Motivation-Achievement Cycles in Learning: a Literature Review and Research Agenda. Educational Psychology Review, 34(1), 39–71. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-021-09616-7.
Summarized By: Michael Ho
While there are many studies out there that examine the general intrinsic motivation for physical activity, little research has been done on emotions as a crucial factor in understanding student motivation in a PE setting. By considering the students’ subjective emotional experiences, a more holistic understanding of physical activity behavior change and why students are not getting enough daily physical activity can be better understood.
The levels of physical activity in school-aged children
In Germany, only 22.4% of girls and 29.4% of boys aged 3 to 17 reach the WHO guideline of physical activity, and their physical activity significantly decreases from age 3 to 17. Therefore, a deeper understanding of emotions among students during physical activity will better inform what is triggering their regular physical activity during leisure time. In addition, the control-value theory of learning and achievement emotions serves as an appropriate and established theoretical framework, as it presents antecedents and outcomes of emotions in school settings.
The benefits of perceived autonomy supports in student self-efficacy
The sample consisted of 1030 student participants between 11 and 18 years who attended Grades 6 to 10 of the German Mittelschule, which is a type of school with the lowest educational level among secondary schools in Germany. 408 participants were female (39.6%), and 622 participants were male (60.4%). Whether or not the PE teacher was perceived to be providing cognitive autonomy and organizational autonomy supports positively predicted students’ academic self-efficacy in PE.
Furthermore, the students’ academic self-efficacy in PE positively predicted their enjoyment in PE, which had a negative effect on their anxiety in PE. The intrinsic value that students identified in PE also positively predicted students’ enjoyment and negatively predicted their anxiety.
The students’ enjoyment in PE was a positive predictor of their physical activity during leisure time.
Finally, perceived cognitive autonomy support provided by the PE teacher positively predicted students’ physical activity in leisure time via students’ PE-related academic self-efficacy, intrinsic value, enjoyment and anxiety.
Creating positive emotional experiences
If students are provided the opportunity to influence their learning environment, they tend to have higher action-control expectancies and assign more relevance to their PE class. PE can be seen as a potentially powerful platform for the promotion of leisure-time physical activity, especially if it is conducted in a way that evokes regular positive achievement emotions in students while keeping negative ones on a minor level. This study suggests a substantial potential of emotional experiences in PE as a powerful predictor of physical behavior outside of school.
“Positive emotional experiences in PE could be seen as a main factor to increase physical activity in a lifelong perspective and could thus help students to improve their overall health.”
“PE teachers have the opportunity to create positive emotional experiences for students and to reduce the experience of negative emotions by use of autonomy-supportive teaching strategies.”
“PE exhibits the potential to affect students’ thoughts and feelings related to PE in leisure time and thus is a promising starting point for children and adolescents with regard to an active lifestyle in the long term.”
As special educators, we tend to focus on our students’ core subjects. We may easily forget the importance of PE and how emotions can play a big role in their motivation to do well in their physical activity. The findings of this study allow me to attend to the students’ emotional experience during physical activity in recess and PE classes. It will also allow me to use autonomy-supportive teaching strategies by considering the environment and creating opportunities in the classroom for physical activities they enjoy.
Zimmermann, J.; Tilga, H.; Bachner, J.; Demetriou, Y. The Effect of Teacher Autonomy Support on Leisure-Time Physical Activity via Cognitive Appraisals and Achievement Emotions: A Mediation Analysis Based on the Control-Value Theory. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 3987. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18083987
The purpose of the current study was to identify self-regulated learning profiles among middle school students and to investigate whether these profiles related to multiple indicators of academic success and regulatory engagement in mathematics.
What is Self-Regulated Learning?
“Self-regulated learning (SRL) refers to a process of managing one’s thoughts, actions, and environment during learning or pursuit of goals.” SRL processes include goal-setting, planning, monitoring, and reflecting on one’s learning. Substantial research supports a positive relationship between these SRL processes, student achievement, and academic skills. Furthermore, SRL theorists have also posited that SRL is a context- and task-specific phenomenon. In other words, SRL can be influenced by contextual factors (e.g., quality of instruction and teacher support) and students’ perceptions of those contexts.
Measuring Levels of Self-Regulated Learning
Three hundred and sixty-three middle school students participated in this study. Students completed self-report inventories and scales to measure perceived use of regulatory strategies, self-efficacy beliefs to engage in SRL, perception of teacher support, and feelings of connection with the school. Based on the results, researchers identified five cluster groups/profiles varying across two dimensions (i.e., SRL and perceived contextual supports) in the math classroom. Researchers then examined whether these profiles (i.e., High SRL- High Support, Solid SRL- Low Support, Low SRL- Supported, Very Low SRL- Low Support) differentially predict class engagement (i.e., measured by teacher rating scales) and math achievement (i.e., measured by report cards and standardized test scores). Students who do not feel supported or connected to school contexts and who demonstrate weak SRL skills (i.e., strategic & motivational) exhibited low levels of SRL in the classroom and were more likely to exhibit poor academic performance as reflected on standardized tests. On the other hand, students who reported frequent use of SRL skills, regardless of their level of perceived teacher support, exhibited stronger mathematics grades than those who did not frequently use SRL strategies.
Regardless of the level of support or connections that students felt in school, the groups who reported engaging more frequently in strategic and motivated behaviors for work outside of school were more likely to display adaptive SRL within the classroom, based on teacher reports.
Predictors of Student Behaviour and Academic Performance
Research on the whole suggests that perceptions of the learning environment affect learners’ school-based functioning, but identifies SRL skills and motivational beliefs as stronger predictors of student behavior and academic performance.To best support learners who struggle in school, practitioners must understand the factors that most directly influence achievement while also recognizing that many of these factors concurrently operate and intersect within individuals in particular contexts.
Given that SRL is a malleable, context-specific phenomena, efforts should be made to identify students exhibiting less adaptive function across both SRL skills and perceived contextual support and then provide relevant support targeting both dimensions for these students. This is particularly important in an online learning environment, which necessitates a higher level of student responsibility and may increase the likelihood that students feel socially isolated and disconnected from teachers and others.
“When viewed collectively, research suggests that students’ perceptions of learning contexts and teacher support are important when assessing students’ school‐based functioning, but that SRL and specific motivational beliefs may play a larger role in student behavior and academic performance.”
Self-directed learning involves motivational, strategic, and contextual factors which uniquely and interactively influence learner achievement and engagement. An understanding of these dynamic influences and student profiles will help practitioners recognize the most at-risk students and, in turn, provide relevant supports targeting SRL skills and perceived contextual support to enhance engagement and achievement.
Cleary, T. J., Slemp, J., & Pawlo, E. R. (2021). Linking student self‐regulated learning profiles to achievement and engagement in mathematics. Psychology in the Schools, 58(3), 443-457.
It can be tempting to implement rewards and punishment in the classroom and educators tend to forget about the importance of intrinsic motivation to foster academic growth and engagement. Shkedy et al. (2021) explored how implementing Visual Communication Analysis (VCA) along with self-determination theory when teaching students to type independently may provide an avenue to build intrinsic motivation among students with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities. Consequently, the learning and functional communication skills of these students would improve. —Michael Ho
Shkedy et al. (2021) examined the efficacy of using Visual Communication Analysis (VCA) in teaching children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disability (ID), and speech and language impairment to type independently as a means of expressive and functional communication. VCA is an “experiential therapy that is used to teach communication and can also be used to teach academics, while building confidence and self-esteem, and ultimately decreasing maladaptive behaviors.” In this study, Shkedy et al. (2021) investigated the relationship between instructional time each student received in typing and the letters correct per minute.
The researchers hypothesized that VCA implementation will increase psychological well-being and decrease maladaptive behaviors among children with ASD, ID, and speech and language impairment.
- “The rise in the number of students with disabilities served under the federal law of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in public schools increased between 2011 and 2017, from 6.4 million to 7.0 million students.”1
- Students with ASD and ID have been significantly increasing over the past few years, and there is a need to provide personalized support to each student based on their needs and abilities.
- “Special education classrooms are usually very structured and rigid and the majority are managed using token systems,” indicating that there is very little autonomy in a special needs classroom. This contradicts what special educators are responsible for—to meet the needs of each unique learner.
- VCA has led to significant decreases in maladaptive and self-injurious behaviors, an increase in verbalizations and effective toilet training.
- VCA combines Self-Determination Theory (SDT) with visual support, prompting, and technology; it provides students a variety of choices and perceived control when learning, in order to develop intrinsic motivation and competence.
- Deci and Ryan (1985a & 2000) defined Self-Determination Theory (SDT) as a theory of intrinsic motivation that has three components—autonomy, competence, and relatedness; these three components tend to foster motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity.2
- 27 students aged 5.5 to 11.5 years, who had at least one diagnosis of ASD, ID, speech-language impairment, were recruited from three special day classrooms across two elementary schools in South Bay Union School District, San Diego County, California.
- On average, a minimum of one class period per school day was allocated to using VCA, and data was automatically collected by a software. Based on self-determination theory, the students were provided choice, autonomy, and competence at the appropriate level without any rewards or punishments.
- The results indicated that there was a consistent positive effect of VCA-based instruction on typing efficiency for all groups of students (ASD, ID, speech-language impairment, and autism comorbid with ID), regardless of the diagnosis.
- With the use of VCA, participants learned to type effectively, thereby improving their learning and functional communication skills. In addition, participants found success with learning novel tasks, as the difficulty of the task gradually increased after each successful performance.
- Educators, professionals, and parents can use the data from this research to create opportunities for children with ASD, ID, and/or speech-language impairment to design and implement effective instruction on communication through typing.
Firstly, the time dedicated to the study varied from one student to another based on teachers’ expectations. There is also a lack of standardized assessments used prior to the beginning of this study, as age limitations on some assessments meant that younger participants were given different assessments from older participants. In addition, the age range of the participants ignored older students from secondary schools. Finally, less than 25% of the participants were females.
Shkedy, G., Shkedy, D., Sandoval-Norton, A. H., Fantaroni, G., Montes Castro, J., Sahagun, N., & Christopher, D. (2021). Visual Communication Analysis (VCA): Implementing self-determination theory and research-based practices in special education classrooms. Cogent Psychology, 8(1), 1875549.
Summary by: Michael Ho—Michael supports the MARIO Framework because it empowers learners to take full control of their personalized learning journey, ensuring an impactful and meaningful experience.
Academic researchers Dalia Shkedy and Aileen Herlinda Sandoval participated in the final version of this summary.
- National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Children and youth with disabilities. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgg.asp
- Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Cognitive evaluation theory. In Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior (pp. 43–85). Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4899-2271-7_3
As educators, we must consider our collaborative planning, teaching, and assessment practices for Special Educational Needs (SEN) students to establish a deliberate connection between their Individual Education Program (IEP) and mainstream science objectives. In the science classroom, this might include using a range of methods, techniques and strategies that will enable all students to demonstrate their conceptual understanding of science as well as to build interest and confidence in the subject. —Niki Cooper-Robbins
Scientific Literacy for SEN Students
This article outlines a Turkish study conducted with 12 grade 5-8 SEN students and the contributions of 15 science and SEN teachers. The aim of the study was to:
- develop a scientific experimental guidebook for the students;
- investigate the book’s effect on the students’ conceptual understanding of physical events in science.
The study took place against an identified, national need to improve the scientific literacy of SEN students through a better understanding of science topics. The launch of a new curriculum brought with it an expectation of closer collaboration between the science and SEN teachers. The importance of this research becomes apparent when you come to realize that in this context, it is the norm for SEN students to receive their Turkish, math, and science education in the separate SEN resource space as opposed to the mainstream classroom. “Resource rooms take mainstream students’ learning needs into consideration,” and this was the missing element (excuse the pun!) in the science classroom. In contrast, the science teachers had the subject knowledge, but the SEN teachers did not. The purpose of the scientific experimental guidebook was to bridge the gap referred to as ‘pedagogical content knowledge’ between the SEN and science environments.
Deliberate & Inclusive Design
The guidebook incorporated interactive techniques to increase interest in and attitudes towards science and to empower students to express, support and generate their ideas in a range of ways. Avatars of the students and QR code links to YouTube videos of experiments were designed to build confidence, interest and belonging. Discussion-based routines to support the introduction, exploration and evaluation of concepts played a key role in the simultaneous development of conceptual understanding and social skills.
The results of the study showed that the guidebook was successful in that it did support conceptual understanding in a positive way. The data revealed that the “hands-on and minds-on” experiences enhanced understanding, and the option to express insights through drawings proved more successful than the tests and interviews. When considering why, the reason given was the students’ complex and varying profiles. For example, students with dyslexia or dysphasia were less inhibited when conveying understanding through drawings as opposed to writing or speech.
The study identified that the students struggled to transfer knowledge to new situations, and this was particularly evident with the more abstract concepts. The main finding, therefore, was that learning was more effective when the learning experiences were multi-sensory and interactive.
In addition, the study was found to be “in harmony with Dilber’s (2017)1 views, emphasizing that science topics should be contextually linked with daily life … Moreover, such a learning environment (i.e. conducting science experiments within small groups, watching experimental videos, and discussion about the results) may have enabled [SEN students] to imagine the concept in their minds.2 This means that peer learning and effective teaching strategies overcome students’ difficulties in understanding science concepts.”3
Er Nas, S., Akbulut, H. İ., Çalik, M., & Emir, M. İ. (2021). Facilitating Conceptual Growth of the Mainstreamed Students with Learning Disabilities via a Science Experimental Guidebook: a Case of Physical Events. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 45–67. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-020-10140-3.
Summary by: Niki Cooper-Robbins—As an ESL Coach, Niki is an advocate for the needs of language learners and, through the MARIO Framework, endeavors to nurture and celebrate linguistic diversity in education.
- Dilber, Y. (2017). Fen bilimleri öğretmenlerinin öğrenme güçlüğü tanılı kaynaştırma öğrencileri ile yürüttükleri öğretim sürecinin incelenmesi / Examination of the instructional process carried out by the science teachers with mainstreaming students diagnosed learning disabilities [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. University of Karadeniz Technical.
- Talbot, P., Astbury, G., & Mason, T. (2010). Key concepts in learning disabilities. Sage.
- Thornton, A., McKissick, B. R., Spooner, F., Lo, Y., & Anderson, A. L. (2015). Effects of collaborative pre-teaching on science performance of high school students with specific learning disabilities. Education and Treatment of Children, 38(3), 277–304. https://doi.org/10.1353/etc.2015.0027.
Temptation can hamper engagement and perseverance directed towards a specific task and cause distractions that can impact the learning process of a student. One way to maintain motivation for a given task is to allow students to choose their tasks and activities based on their interests. Another way is to foster self-efficacy, which enables the student to believe that they are capable of maintaining a high level of motivation and focus. —Shekufeh Monadjem
Attractive Alternatives: Temptation vs Engagement
When working on important tasks, there are always attractive alternatives that tempt us away from our work, be it social media, talking to a friend or even cleaning the house. In their study, Kim,Y., (Washington University), Yu, S.L., (Ohio State University) and Shin, J. (Seoul National University) explored how the effects of self-efficacy can impact the notion of temptation over a period of time. “As students’ learning does not happen in a vacuum, target tasks should be examined in relation to the distracting tasks to better depict motivational challenges that students face within the educational context.”1
“When the attractiveness of an alternative exceeds that of the current task, students feel tempted, and the motivation for the alternative rises.”2 Even if students have high motivation for a certain academic task, they may not engage in the learning if there is another task that is more motivating or attractive to them.
Researchers suggest that the presence of temptation can hamper engagement and perseverance towards a given task by distracting the student to the extent that it will adversely affect their learning process. Milyavskaya and Inzlicht (2017) “found that simply experiencing temptation led to depletion and lower goal attainment.”3 Fries and Dietz (2007) “suggested that the negative impact of temptations comes from lowering motivation for the learning activity. Students often succumb to temptation and fall into the trap of task-switching or procrastination.”4
Self-Regulated Learning and Student Motivation
Self-regulated learning (SRL) can improve “the ability to concentrate on the target task in the presence of tempting alternatives”5 Self-regulated learners are more likely to maintain their motivation and sustain their engagement on a current task, instead of being distracted by other alternatives.
The current study focused on the aspect of self-efficacy for SRL, which is a crucial aspect of SRL. “Abundant evidence suggests the strong link between self-efficacy, motivation, and performance. If students perceive themselves as capable of planning, managing, and regulating their own academic activities, they are more likely to have higher confidence in learning and mastering their activities.” Previous research suggests that higher levels of self-efficacy for SRL can contribute to “higher academic self-efficacy, higher achievement, and less school dropout.”6
One way to maintain student motivation is to allow students to make their own choices and decisions. “It is important to provide meaningful choice opportunities to students to promote their interest, on-task engagement, and persistence.”7 Teachers have also realised that choice provides students a sense of responsibility and self-control, thus making students more involved and engaged in academic activities. This is especially important and effective for students with low interest or SRL skills.
Kim, Y. E., Yu, S. L., & Shin, J. (2021). How temptation changes across time: effects of self-efficacy for self-regulated learning and autonomy support. Educational Psychology, 1-18.
Summary by: Shekufeh Monadjem—Shekufeh believes that the MARIO Framework builds relationships that enables students to view the world in a positive light as well as enabling them to create plans that ultimately lead to their success.
Academic researcher Yeo-eun Kim participated in the final version of this summary.
- Hofer, M. (2010). Adolescents’ development of individual interests: A product of multiple goal regulation? Educational Psychologist, 45(3), 149–166.
- Hofer, M. (2007). Goal conflicts and self-regulation: A new look at pupils’ off-task behaviour in the classroom. Educational Research Review, 2(1), 28–38.
- Milyavskaya, M., & Inzlicht, M. (2017). What’s so great about self-control? Examining the importance of effortful self-control and temptation in predicting real-life depletion and goal attainment. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 8(6), 603–611.
- Fries, S., & Dietz, F. (2007). Learning in the face of temptation: The case of motivational interference. The Journal of Experimental Education, 76(1), 93–112.
- Baumann, N., & Kuhl, J. (2005). How to resist temptation: The effects of external control versus autonomy support on self-regulatory dynamics. Journal of Personality, 73(2), 443–470.
- Caprara, G. V., Fida, R., Vecchione, M., Del Bove, G., Vecchio, G. M., Barbaranelli, C., & Bandura, A. (2008). Longitudinal analysis of the role of perceived self-efficacy for self-regulated learning in academic continuance and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(3), 525–534.
- Black, A. E., & Deci, E. L. (2000). The effects of instructors’ autonomy support and students’ autonomous motivation on learning organic chemistry: A self-determination theory perspective. Science Education, 84(6), 740–756.
It is very easy to gamify or incorporate games (virtual or otherwise) into a lesson plan to improve learning and/or motivate learners to be engaged. How can we ensure that they not only improve learning but cause learning as well? Using the Universal Design for Learning framework in connection to a review of related literature on motivation and social learning, this study has identified several effective factors that need to be considered for developing serious games. —Nika Espinosa
Role of Games in Learning
Serious games are activities that “serve as mediators to directly cause learning,” as defined by Landers (2015).1 A lot of research into serious games has shown conflicting evidence on their impact on education. However, observed inconsistencies can be resolved. Drawing from theories on social learning, motivation, and the framework of Universal Design for Learning, Watt and Smith (2021) determine guidelines for designing serious games.
“Virtually all games explored in these studies were single-player computer games.” These games do not support the importance of social learning. The evidence from social constructivism tells us that learning is dependent on the interaction between the learners. “Participation in cooperative learning strongly predicts student achievement2 as well as increasing student motivation and self-efficacy and decreasing anxiety.”3 Furthermore, the literature strongly suggests that even when the game has a social component, cooperative games are found to be more effective as opposed to competitive games with leaderboards and social components.
“Motivation and engagement have been shown to have a positive effect on learning,4,5,6 and so can be considered moderators of learning.” Glynn et. al (2011)7 would like us to view motivation as having four key components: intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, and self-determination.
There were six social learning factors and eight motivation factors identified as effective serious game design guidelines based on the literature reviewed by Watt and Smith (2021) in connection to Universal Design for Learning.
Social Learning Factors for Game Design
The social learning factors are:
- Introducing team-building activities before the learning activities.8
- When designing games, a team identity that encourages membership maintenance should be developed.8,2
- Game design should lean more towards cooperative rather than competitive play.9,10,11,12
- Ensured opportunities where each member can be an expert through developing specialties.13
- Ensured opportunities where each member can teach other members in their expertise,13,14,15,16,17,18
- Experiential learning should be supported with a level of teacher guidance.19,20,21,22,23,24,25
Motivational Factors for Game Design
The motivational factors are:
- Considerations for themes or narratives that are compelling.26,7
- Promoting self-determination through adequate decision-making and freedom of movement.27,28
- Provision of multiple attempts and strategies as opposed to a punitive approach to failure.29,30
- In order to encourage grade motivation, learners need to be assessed on content within the game.31
- Rewarding learning as opposed to performance.7
- Student achievement must be evident in order to earn rewards.7,8
- In-game rewards for learning should be included in order to benefit later play.28
- Immersion and visual elements should be balanced so as not to add unnecessary cognitive load.32
An impressive, well-developed game can take several years to develop. “These games often require budgets of over half a billion dollars and teams of hundreds of developers to produce.” Educators do not have the time nor capacity to create such games. What educators can do instead is to deliver content material in a fun and engaging manner, by using these proposed guidelines, to ensure that it does not only improve learning but that there is learning happening as well.
Watt, K., & Smith, T. (2021). Research-Based Game Design for Serious Games. Simulation & Gaming, 104687812110067. https://doi.org/10.1177/10468781211006758
Summary by: Nika Espinosa—Nika believes that personalized learning is at the heart of special education and strives to collaborate with educators in providing a holistic, personalized approach to supporting all learners through the MARIO Framework.
- Landers, R. N. (2015). Developing a theory of gamified learning: Linking serious games and gamification of learning. Simulation and Gaming. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046878114563660
- Tsay, M., & Brady, M. (2010). A case study of cooperative learning and communication pedagogy: Does working in teams make a difference? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 10 (2), 78–89. http://mtsayvogel.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Tsay-and-Brady-JOSOTL-2010.pdf
- Courtney, D. P., Courtney, M., & Nicholson, C. (1992). The effect of cooperative learning as an instructional practice at the college level. College Student Journal, 28 (4), 471–477. https:// files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED354808.pdf
- Paas, F., Tuovinen, J. E., Van Merriënboer, J. J. G., & Darabi, A. A. (2005). A motivational perspective on the relation between mental effort and performance: Optimizing learner involvement in instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53 (3), 25–34. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02504795
- Zhao, C. M., & Kuh, G. D. (2004). Adding value: Learning communities and student engagement. Research in Higher Education, 45 (2), 115–138. https://doi.org/10.1023/ B:RIHE.0000015692.88534.de
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Improving our understanding of the mindsets of students with learning disabilities (LD) will permit the implementation of meaningful supports. However, a pilot study was inconclusive whether or not the growth mindset self-beliefs of students with LD were in fact false growth mindsets, wherein students were more focused on effort than more effective resources for support. — Matt Piercy
A False Growth Mindset
Goegan, Pelletier, and Daniels (2021) conducted a pilot study that explored the mindsets of grade 12 students with learning disabilities (LD). Dweck’s (1999) mindset theory1 was the guiding framework, and the authors’ interest was not limited to whether or not students adopted growth or fixed mindsets but questioned whether there would be a clear emergence of false growth mindsets in students. A false growth mindset is one that simplifies the need for support to merely putting in more effort.
The authors investigated the following three research questions:
- Do students with LD score similar to peers on measures of fixed and growth mindsets?
- Within the group, do students with LD identify more with growth or fixed mindsets?
- How do students’ self-beliefs about having LD correspond with mindset messaging?
The findings indicated that students with LD do in fact score similar to their peers on measures of fixed and growth mindsets. Yet, when compared within the group, students with LD reported significantly higher growth than fixed mindsets scores. It was inconclusive whether this growth mindset was more than simply tacitly tied to a notion of effort, or what is termed a false-growth mindset.
When students were asked to self-report on what it means to have a learning disability, two common words surfaced: “hard/harder” (31% response rate) and “work” (25% response rate). For example, “I just have to try harder.” The word “just” was linked in 9% of the responses, suggesting growth equates to effort.
An honest evaluation noted the study’s limitations. “First, participants were a homogenous group of students from one province in Western Canada.” Further, the sample size was 100 students.
Intriguing, however, was the authors’ suggestion that future research “could be conducted to examine the communication of mindsets messaging from teachers and other school personnel and how the information is adopted by students generally, and students who identify with having a LD in particular, to support the development of accurate growth mindsets.” The intention is to better understand the mindsets of students with LD, so appropriate and meaningful supports can be provided.
Though there are mixed findings relative to whether or not students with LD identify similar levels of growth and fixed mindsets when compared to their peers, the authors remain optimistic about how commonly students, without regard to disability status, are adopting growth mindsets. “Teachers should be providing messaging to all their students that they can indeed grow with effort and appropriate implementation of learning strategies and supports.”2
Goegan, L. D., Pelletier, G. N., & Daniels, L. M. (2021). I Just Have to Try Harder: Examining the Mindsets of Students with LD. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 0829573521998954.
Summary by: Matt Piercy — Matt appreciates how at the heart of the MARIO framework is a passion to develop relationships and a desire to empower students to uncover their purpose while building upon strengths. Further, Matt is inspired by how the MARIO team supports educators and is quickly and nobly becoming a collaborative force in pursuit of educational equity.
- Dweck, C. S. (1999). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality and development. Psychology Press.
- Dweck, C. S. (2007). Boosting achievement with messages that motivate. Education Canada, 47(2), 6–10.
Elementary students with or at risk of emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) often experience failure and frustration in mathematics. With high-quality instruction and motivation strategies, such as reinforcing engagement, self-monitoring strategies, and using the high-p strategy, we can improve student engagement and motivation to scaffold learning. — Jay Lingo
We often hear about repeated experiences of frustration and failure in the mathematics classroom, more so for students with or at risk of emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). “In regards to mathematics performance, 92% of students with EBD had significant deficits in mathematics. These feelings of incompetence could lead to loss of motivation and engagement which are important for academic success.”
In order to address this, general and special educators can promote engagement in math with three motivation strategies: (1) reinforcement strategies (2) self-monitoring of attention (SMA), and (3) high preference strategy. These strategies combined with high-quality, effective mathematics instruction will promote student success.
(1) Reinforcement strategies
“Praise statement that identifies a specific behavior for attending to and being engaged during mathematics instruction rather than a general praise leads to forming positive learning habits.” For example, “Lucas, great job cooperating with your group while you worked to solve that fraction problem.” Praises with behavioral description convey more authenticity and sincerity which increases the reinforcement.
Another strategy is a token economy system to simultaneously work on money and/or decimal concepts. For example, “Great work finding your division error and re-working the problem. I am adding a dollar and 25 cents to your token account for persistence.” We could be strategic in the timing of using the system by delivering tokens when they take risks or are off-task during group work to redirect their attention back to the task.
Educators could also use tech tools to help us remind ourselves to praise or deliver a token on a continuous loop. For example, a tactile prompting device such as iWatch sends a vibratory cue every 3-5 mins. Remembering to frequently and consistently reinforce engagement over an extended period of time makes this strategy more effective.
(2) Self-Regulation and Self-Monitoring
“Students with or at risk of EBD find self-regulation challenging. This is because it relies heavily on cognitive capacities such as working memory, inhibition, and attention.” Teaching cognitive and metacognitive strategies to support learning and independence helps with this. For example, set a timer for every 5 or 10 minutes during mathematics instruction and circle “yes” or “no” when the timer sounds indicating whether or not the student was engaging in the previously defined attentive behavior. It is important that prior to this, baseline data is provided as well as teaching the student how to self-monitor. This process involves reviewing the target behavior, modeling examples and non-examples of the behavior, explaining when and how to record behavior using a self-monitoring checklist.
(3) The High Preference Strategy (High-p strategy)
Students could establish momentum when completing preferred tasks, and this momentum can carry over to facilitate the completion of non-preferred tasks. This strategy “greases the wheels” for students to tackle more effortful work. The high-p strategy also promotes engagement through increasing speed in task initiation and/or completion.
Try implementing these motivation strategies one at a time and see if it makes a difference for your students with EBD. Remember it’s important to keep track of data to see which strategies or combination of strategies work with each student. Even more important is working directly with the student to develop personalized goals for engagement and task completion.
Morano, S., Markelz, A. M., Randolph, K. M., Myers, A. M., & Church, N. (2021). Motivation Matters: Three Strategies to Support Motivation and Engagement in Mathematics. Intervention in School and Clinic, 1053451221994803.
Summary by: Jay Lingo – Jay believes the MARIO Framework is providing structure and common meaning to learning support programs across the globe. Backed up with current research on the best practices in inclusion and general education, we can reimagine education…together.
Researchers Stephanie Morano, Andrew M. Markelz, Kathleen M. Randolph, Anna M. Myers, and Naomi Church participated in the final version of this summary.