What We Know
Varying instruction based on what students want to know and how they prefer to
learn helps to create a collaborative, learner-centered climate that has
positive effects on students' achievement. Such a practice requires that
students be given opportunities to engage in hands-on, open-ended activities
and provided with time and resources to explore their interests. It also
requires that teachers seek out information related to their students'
interests and backgrounds and adopt a role as facilitator, turning more
responsibility for learning over to students (McREL, 2002; Stevenson & Carr,
1993; Tomlinson, 1999).
Research shows that students' affective states contribute to their
achievement. To be successful, students must find instruction motivating and
meaningful (Caine & Caine, 1991; Schiefele & Csikszentmihalyi, 1995;
Tomlinson, 1998). When students' personal meanings and connections to prior
knowledge are limited, they have difficulty engaging in creative behaviors and
rely on entrenched thoughts and extrinsic motivation (Caine and Caine, 1991).
The value that students place on subject matter or their interest in what they
learn is a force that drives intrinsic motivation (Schiefele &
Csikszentmihalyi, 1995). Intrinsic motivation has been shown to yield greater
success than external rewards (McREL, 2002). In addition, Schiefele &
Csikszentmihalyi (1995) found that interest is related to both quality of
experience during instruction as well as achievement.
Stevenson & Carr (1993) recommend that students be given choices in both the
content and activities that comprise their learning. Students should
contribute to the planning of units and the selection of topics they study
in-depth. The types of tasks and activities that students engage in should
strike a balance between teacher-directed and student-directed activities.
Activities should fall into one of three categories -- with all categories
No choice -- activities that develop essential skills and are required by the
Guided choice -- students select from a pool established by the teacher;
Free choice -- students can pursue their interests and options fully.
Finally, for students' interests to be used effectively as a basis for
instruction, reflection is essential. The self-direction that is required by
students in interest-based learning requires the formation of personal goals
-- goals identified and realized through self-awareness (Boaler, 1993).
Interest-based learning engages students' curiosity and motivation and
Students' affective domain consists of their emotions, interests and
motivations. These factors impact on students' cognitive domain --
their abilities, organization of ideas and achievement.
Intrinsic motivation comes from the learner's own interests and
satisfaction; extrinsic motivation depends upon such external factors
as grades, praise or tangible rewards.