Teachers have long recognized that motivation is at the heart of many of the pervasive problems we face in teaching young children to read. In a study conducted by Veenman (1984), teachers ranked motivating students as one of their primary and overriding concerns. A more recent national survey of teachers also revealed that "creating interest in reading" was rated as the most important area for future research (O'Flahavan, Gambrell, Guthrie, Stahl, & Alvermann, 1992). The value teachers place on motivation is supported by a robust research literature that documents the link between motivation and achievement (Elley, 1992; Gambrell & Morrow, in press; Guthrie, Schafer, Wang, & Afflerbach, 1993; Purves & Beach, 1972; Walberg & Tsai, 1985; Wixson & Lipson, 1991). The results of these studies clearly indicate the need to increase our understanding of how children acquire the motivation to develop into active, engaged readers.
Research supports the notion that literacy learning is influenced by a variety of motivational factors (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Eccles, 1983; Ford, 1992; Kuhl, 1986; Lepper, 1988; Maehr, 1976; McCombs, 1991; Wigfield, 1994). A number of current theories suggest that self-perceived competence and task value are major determinants of motivation and task engagement. For example, Eccles (1983) advanced an "expectancy-value" theory of motivation which stated that motivation is strongly influenced by one's expectation of success or failure at a task as well as the "value" or relative attractiveness the individual places on the task. The expectancy component of Eccles' theory is supported by a number of research studies which suggest that students who believe they are capable and competent readers are more likely to outperform those who do not hold such beliefs (Paris & Oka, 1986; Schunk, 1985). In addition, there is evidence which suggests that students who perceive reading as valuable and important and who have personally relevant reasons for reading will engage in reading in a more planful and effortful manner (Ames & Archer, 1988; Dweck & Elliott, 1983; Paris & Oka, 1986).
The work of other motivational theorists, such as Ford (1992) and Winne (1985), has been grounded in the expectancy-value theory. Ford's (1992) motivational systems theory maintained that people will attempt to attain goals they value and perceive as achievable. Similarly, Winne (1985) viewed the "idealized reader" as one who feels competent and perceives reading as being of personal value and practical importance. Given the emphasis on self-concept and task value in motivation theory, it seems important that teachers have resources for assessing both of these factors.
|READING SURVEY||_________________||CONVERSATIONAL INTERVIEW|
Self-concept As a Reader Narrative Reading Value of Reading Informational Reading General Reading
The interview is designed to initiate an informal, conversational exchange between the teacher and student. According to Burgess (1980), conversational interviews are social events that can provide greater depth of understanding than more rigid interview techniques. While conversational interviews are scripted, deviations from the script are anticipated and expected (Baker, 1984). The teacher is encouraged to deviate from the basic script in order to glean information that might otherwise be missed or omitted in a more formal, standardized interview approach. Teachers need to keep in mind that the primary purpose of the conversational interview is to generate information that will provide authentic insights into students' reading experiences. Participating in a conversational interview allows children to use their unique ways of describing their reading motivation and experiences, and it also allows them to raise ideas and issues related to personal motivation that may not be reflected in the scripted interview items (Denzin, 1970).
An assessment instrument is useful only if it is valid and reliable. Validity refers to the instrument's ability to measure the trait it purports to measure, while reliability refers to the ability of the instrument to consistently measure that trait. To gain information about the validity and reliability of the MRP, the Reading Survey, and the Conversational Interview were field tested.
The criteria for item selection and development for the survey instrument included: (a) applicability to grades one through six; (b) applicability to all teaching approaches and materials; (c) suitability for group administration; and (d) accuracy in reflecting the appropriate dimension of motivation (i.e., self-concept or value). All survey items employ a Likert-type response scale. A 4-point scale was used to avoid neutral, central response patterns. A 4-point scale also seemed more appropriate for elementary students as there is some evidence to suggest that young children have difficulty simultaneously discriminating among more than five discrete categories (Case & Khanna, 1981; Nitko, 1983). In order to avoid repetition in the presentation of the response alternatives and to control for the threat of "response set" (i.e., children selecting the same responses for each item), some response alternatives proceed from most positive to least positive while others are ordered in the opposite way.
An initial pool of survey items was developed based on the criteria described above. Three experienced classroom teachers, who were also graduate students in reading, critiqued over 100 items for their construct validity in assessing students' self-concept or value of reading. The items that received 100% agreement by the teachers were then compiled. The agreed upon items were then submitted to four classroom teachers who were asked to sort the items into three categories of function: (1) measures self-concept, (2) measures values of reading, and (3) not sure or questionable. Only those items that received 100% trait agreement were selected for inclusion on the Reading Survey instrument.
The final version of the Reading Survey instrument was field tested in the late fall with 330 third- and fifth-grade students in 27 classrooms in four schools from two school districts in an eastern state. To assess the internal consistency of the Reading Survey, Cronbach's (1951) alpha statistic was calculated, revealing a moderately high reliability for both third grade (.70) and fifth grade (.76).
Two raters independently compared each student's responses to items on the survey with information provided during the interview, with an interrater agreement of .87. There was consistent, supporting information in the interview responses for approximately 70% of the information tapped in the survey instrument. The results of these data analyses support the notion that the children responded consistently on both types of assessment instruments (survey, interview) and across time (fall, spring).
The administration of the Reading Survey instrument takes approximately 15-20 min. Teachers should take into consideration grade level and attention span when deciding how and when to administer the survey instrument. For example, teachers of young children may decide to administer the first 10 items in one session and the final 10 during a second session.
The survey is designed to be read aloud to students (see Appendix for Teacher Directions). One of the problems inherent in much of the motivational research is that reading ability often confounds the results so that proficient, higher ability readers are typically identified as "motivated," while less proficient, lower ability readers are identified as "unmotivated." Research indicates that this characterization is inaccurate and that there are proficient readers who are not highly motivated to read, just as there are less proficient readers who are highly motivated to read (McCombs, 1991; Roettger, 1980). When students are instructed to read independently and respond to survey items, the results for the less proficient, lower-ability readers may not be reliable due to their frustration when reading the items. For these reasons, the survey instrument is designed to be read aloud by the teacher to help ensure the veracity of student responses.
It is also important that students understand that their responses to the survey items will not be "graded." They should be told that the results of the survey will provide information that the teacher can use to make reading more interesting for them and that the information will only be helpful if they provide their most honest responses.
Directions for scoring the Reading Survey as well as a scoring sheet are provided (see Appendix). When scoring the survey, the more positive response is assigned the highest number (i.e., 4) while the least positive response is assigned the lowest number (i.e., 1). For example, if a student reported that s/he is a "good" reader, a "3" would be recorded. A percentage score on the Reading Survey can be computed for each student as well as scores on the two subscales (Self-Concept As A Reader and Value of Reading). Space is also provided at the bottom of the Scoring Sheet for the teacher to note any interesting or unusual responses that might be probed later during the conversational interview.
We suggest that teachers review student responses on the Reading Survey prior to conducting the Conversational Interview so that they may contemplate and anticipate possible topics to explore during the interview phase of the MRP. During a conversational interview, some children will talk enthusiastically without probing, while others may need support and encouragement. Children who are shy or who tend to reply in short, quick answers can be encouraged to elaborate upon their responses using nonthreatening phrases like "Tell me more about that . . .", "What else can you tell me . . .", and "Why do you think that . . . ." Probing of brief responses from children is often necessary in order to reveal important and relevant information.
Teachers are also encouraged to extend, modify, and adapt the 14 questions outlined in the Conversational Interview, especially during conversations with individual students. Follow-up questions based on comments made by the students often provide the most significant information in such an interview.
These are only a sampling of ideas of the ways in which the MRP can be used in the classroom. Each teacher will have his/her own particular insights about ways in which the MRP information can best be applied to meet the needs of students.
Also, one should be cautious when interpreting responses to individual items due to the contextual nature of reading motivation. For example, a student might feel highly competent as a reader when reading high-interest, self-selected narrative materials and yet feel far less competent when reading content area materials. It is more important to look across the survey and interview responses to determine patterns that reveal factors that are relevant to the student's reading motivation.
Finally, as with any assessment, the MRP should be used in conjunction with other assessment instruments, techniques, and procedures. Teachers should consider the MRP as one source of information about reading motivation.
There are a number of ways in which the MRP can be used to make instructional decisions, and teachers are in the best position to decide how they will apply the information gleaned from the MRP in their classrooms. Ideally, the MRP will help teachers acquire insights about individual students, particularly those students about whom teachers worry most in terms of their reading motivation and development. The individualized nature of the information derived from the MRP makes this instrument particularly appropriate for inclusion in portfolio assessment. Careful scrutiny of the responses to the Reading Survey and the Conversational Interview, coupled with teacher observations of student behaviors in various classroom reading contexts, can help teachers plan for meaningful instruction that will support students in becoming highly motivated readers.
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