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How Do Teachers Support Students’ Motivation and Learning in Their Classrooms?


by Lynley H. Anderman, Carey E. Andrzejewski & Jennifer Allen — 2011

Background/Context: Despite the importance of students’ active engagement for learning, little is known about how teachers create environments that are supportive of students’ positive motivational and learning-related beliefs, particularly at the high school level. Furthermore, most of the studies that have described teacher practices in relation to students’ perceptions of their classroom context have focused on elementary and middle school populations; much less is known about creating supportive contexts for high school students. We conceptualized supportive instructional contexts as multidimensional, developing a profile of student perceptions that would define a classroom that would promote and sustain students’ motivation and learning, based on the literature on classroom motivation. This profile included perceptions of the motivational climate, the social climate, and the academic climate of the classroom.

Purpose and Research Questions: The goal of this study was to identify high school teachers who were perceived by their students as creating classroom contexts that were particularly supportive of students’ motivation and learning, and to describe their practice. The analysis was guided by these questions: How do effective high school teachers create classroom contexts that students perceive as supportive of their motivation and engagement? What underlying commonalities describe these teachers’ instructional practices? A secondary question focused on whether there were any discernible differences between the contexts of high school science and social studies classes, or associated with teachers’ gender.

Participants: Students (N = 2,864) in Grades 9–12 from three high schools and 4 of their teachers (2 science and 2 social studies), identified based on students’ survey reports.

Research Design: Teachers were identified for observation based on students’ reported perceptions of the instructional contexts of their classes. Observation field notes were analyzed thematically to develop a grounded model of teachers’ instructional practices.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Analysis of the field notes suggested a model that consists of three core themes: supporting understanding, building and maintaining rapport, and managing the classroom. Within this framework, a number of the teacher practices described served more than one of these three functions, and some, such as teacher movement and the use of varied participation structures, served all three. All the observed characteristics of practice were consistent across subject area domains, and differences in relation to teachers’ gender were evident only in terms of teachers’ use of humor in the classroom.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 5, 2011, p. 969-1003
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16085, Date Accessed: 6/29/2017 5:08:58 AM

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About the Author
  • Lynley Anderman
    The Ohio State University
    E-mail Author
    LYNLEY ANDERMAN is an associate professor of educational psychology at The Ohio State University. Her research interests focus on student motivation in educational settings and the ways in which it is fostered through instructional practices and supportive interpersonal relationships. Recent publications include a textbook, Classroom Motivation (Pearson); coeditorship of Psychology of Classroom Learning: An Encyclopedia (MacMillan Gale); and a chapter on promoting mastery goal orientations in the Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools (Lawrence Erlbaum).
  • Carey Andrzejewski
    Auburn University
    CAREY E. ANDRZEJEWSKI is an assistant professor of educational foundations at Auburn University. Her research interests include teacher identity, teacher expertise, and classroom culture. Recent publications include Andrzejewski & Davis (2008), Teaching and Teacher Education, and Andrzejewski (in press), Journal of Dance Education.
  • Jennifer Allen
    University of Kentucky
    JENNIFER ALLEN is a doctoral candidate in counseling psychology at the University of Kentucky and is the recipient of the Helen Thacker Fellowship in Educational and Counseling Psychology. She is currently conducting psychological and learning disability evaluations at a local private practice while working on her dissertation, which focuses on sexual harassment. She has published previously in Violence and Victims.
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