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The role of choice and interest in reader engagement

Terri Lynn Flowerday, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study examined the role of choice and interest in promoting cognitive and affective engagement in the classroom. Two experiments were conducted. In Experiment 1, ninety-eight students were assigned to either an experimental (choice) condition or to a control (no choice) condition. Students in the choice group were asked to choose one of two packets with which to work during the course of the experiment. Packets were labeled simply “A” or “B.” Students in the no choice group were given a packet by the researcher. This manipulation represents the independent variable, choice. ^ Participants were asked to rate their level of interest in a series of topics about which they subsequently might be required to read. The individual rating of the topic that was actually to be assigned was used as a measure of pre-reading topic interest. After reading the text, participants were asked to rate their interest in what they had just read. This rating represents a measure of situational interest, which literature suggests is more context specific. Two measures of cognitive engagement and two measures of affective engagement were administered upon completion of the interest questionnaire. ^ Results of Experiment 1 suggest marginal effects for choice on one measure of cognitive engagement and on one measure of affective engagement. There was an interaction between choice and interest with regard to cognitive engagement. Low interest students were the primary beneficiaries of choice while moderately and highly interested students were unaffected. Interest, particularly situational interest, had a strong positive effect on affective engagement. ^ In Experiment 2, the procedures of Experiment 1 were replicated using 106 additional participants. A portion of the text was rewritten and corresponding multiple-choice items were developed. Results indicated no effects for choice on any dependent variable, affective or cognitive. Significant effects for interest, particularly situational interest, were revealed. All measures of affective engagement reflected the influence of interest and one of the measures of cognitive engagement, as well. There were no interactions. ^ Taken together, these experiments provide support for separate effects of choice and interest on cognitive and affective engagement. Additionally, it appears that interest exerts the strongest and most consistent influence. The positive effect of interest on affective engagement is nearly certain. There is less support for the effect of interest on cognitive engagement. Choice, on the other hand, is likely to have a marginal effect on affective engagement and an effect on cognitive engagement only when students come to the task with low interest. ^ From this study, two conclusions can be drawn. First, choice and interest can operate independently of one another. And second, interest has the more powerful effect on cognitive and affective engagement. ^

Subject Area

Education, Educational Psychology

Recommended Citation

Flowerday, Terri Lynn, "The role of choice and interest in reader engagement" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9967369.