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Unformatted text preview: Journal of Educational Psychology 1993, Vol. 85, No. 4, 571-581 Copyright 1993 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0022-0663/V3/S3.0O Motivation in the Classroom: Reciprocal Effects of Teacher Behavior and Student Engagement Across the School Year Ellen A. Skinner and Michael J. Belmont On the basis of a new model of motivation, we examined the effects of 3 dimensions of teacher (n = 14) behavior (involvement, structure, and autonomy support) on 144 children's (Grades 3-5) behavioral and emotional engagement across a school year. Correlational and path analyses revealed that teacher involvement was central to children's experiences in the classroom and that teacher provision of both autonomy support and optimal structure predicted children's motivation across the school year. Reciprocal effects of student motivation on teacher behavior were also found. Students who showed higher initial behavioral engagement received subsequently more of all 3 teacher behaviors. These findings suggest that students who are behaviorally disengaged receive teacher responses that should further undermine their motivation. The importance of the student-teacher relationship, especially interpersonal involvement, in optimizing student motiva- tion is highlighted. What are the factors that motivate children to learn? Edu- cators and parents value motivation in school for its own sake as well as for its long-term contribution to children's learning and self-esteem. Highly motivated children are easy to iden- tify: They are enthusiastic, interested, involved, and curious; they try hard and persist; and they actively cope with chal- lenges and setbacks. These are the children who should stay in school longer, learn more, feel better about themselves, and continue their education after high school. Recent research has borne this out (Ames & Ames, 1984, 1985; Pintrich, 1991; Stipek, 1988). Although motivated students are easy to recognize, they are difficult to find. Research shows that across the preschool to high school years, children's intrinsic motivation de- creases and they feel increasingly alienated from learning (Harter, 1981). Why is it so difficult to optimize student mo- tivation? Decades of psychological and educational research Ellen A. Skinner and Michael J. Belmont, Graduate School of Education and Human Development and Department of Psychol- ogy, University of Rochester. This research was supported by a Faculty Scholars Award from the W. T. Grant Foundation, by Research Grant HD19914 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and by Training Grant 527594 from the National Institute of Mental Health. We express our thanks to the students, teachers, parents, admin- istrators, and staff of the school district in which this research project was conducted. Their cooperation, support, and cheerful- ness made carrying out this research a pleasure. We also acknowl- edge the contributions of the other members of the Motivation Research Group: James P. Connell, Edward L. Deci, and RichardResearch Group: James P....
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