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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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The Trajectory of Student Interest and its Implications for Learning and Achievement

Chris Hulleman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Olga Godes, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Bryan Hendricks, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Judith Harackiewicz, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: Interest is state of "being engaged, engrossed, or entirely taken up with some activity (Dewey, 1913, p. 17)." Prior research (Schiefele, 1998) has demonstrated that topic interest has been associated with enhanced performance on learning tasks (e.g., comprehension, free recall, problem solving). Interest has also been shown to predict future academic choices such as course enrollment and college major (Harackiewicz et al, 2002). The four-phase model of interest development proposes that experiencing positive affect and value with an activity will lead to subsequent interest in activities (Hidi & Renninger, in press). Three studies are presented that demonstrate the role of utility value in interest development and performance. Study 1 is a survey study that demonstrates the association between utility value, interest, and performance. Study 2 is a laboratory study that establishes a causal connection between value and interest on a math task. The intervention consisted of participants writing about the relevance of the activity in their lives. Study 3 is a randomized trial in a college classroom that tested the relevance intervention in an actual classroom. The results indicated that the relevance intervention enhanced the amount of utility value and interest that students found in the math activity (Study 2) and in a psychology course (Study 3). This enhanced utility value in turn predicted performance on the math task (Study 2) and final grades (Study 3). In addition, perceptions of utility value mediated the direct effect of the intervention on interest. Implications for theory, practice, and educational policy are discussed.