The Effects of Choice on Student Reading Motivation



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Background: Studies show that lack of student motivation to read is a primary cause of reading disengagement. This disengagement increases exponentially as students move into adolescence, often exacerbating already student achievement due to existing education inequities. A way to increase student motivation to read is to provide choice. However, few studies have examined the effect of choice on reading motivation exclusively in secondary classrooms. Purpose: This study examines how student choice impacts student motivation to read in secondary English classrooms. The following research questions guide the research: (RQ1) When students are provided with a choice in novels, does student reading motivation improve? (RQ2) Is there a difference in student reading motivation levels when students are provided with or without choice in novels? (RQ3) What are teacher perceptions of student reading motivation when students are provided with a choice in novels? Methods: This mixed methods study surveyed 194 ninth grade English I students at a suburban high school in southeastern Texas using an adapted reading motivation scale of 25 Likert-scale items measuring self-efficacy, intrinsic motivation, and autonomy. The scale was administered to students twice from November 2020 to January of 2021: once upon completion of a unit during which students read a teacher-selected novel and once again upon completion of a unit with controlled choice in reading. Quantitative data analysis included scale reliability analysis, descriptive statistics, and paired samples t tests. For qualitative data, four English I teachers participated in semi-structured interviews and a focus group conducted by the researcher on their perceptions of student reading motivation. Interviews were transcribed and coded using directed content analysis to establish similar categories and then coded for themes. Results: One hundred and seventy-two students completed both administrations of the reading motivation survey which revealed a Cronbach Alpha of .91 for the choice administration and .919 for the no choice novel administration which indicates a high level of internal consistency. The results from a paired samples t test indicated that the scale means for the after choice survey results (M= 3.26) were significantly greater than the scale means for the after no choice survey results (M = 2.69, t(171) = 14.27, p < .001. Two major themes contributing to motivated student reading were derived from the teacher interviews: shared experiences and established relevance in a text. Teachers observed more behaviors associated with motivation, such as progress in pages when reading and the absence of distracted behaviors while reading, when students saw relevance in what they were reading and were able to share their reading experience with teachers or peers through class or small group discussions. These observations by teachers during choice reading units are supported by the increase in motivated behaviors as indicated through student reading motivation survey results. Conclusion: Students self-reported more motivated reading behaviors when provided with a choice of book as compared to reading a teacher assigned novel. Teacher perceptions of the role of relevance in reading motivation support the use of a choice centered approach to teaching literature in the secondary English classroom.



choice, books, reading motivation, interest, autonomy