Autonomy support: a key for understanding students learning motvation in science
Scientific literacy is an important prerequisite for societal participation as well as a basis for a scientific career. Despite the major efforts made to improve science education intrinsic motivation for learning science is low in many countries and there is a lack of young aspiring careers in the sciences. According to self-determination theory and stage-environment fit theory the need for autonomy is a key factor for the development and maintenance of intrinsic motiva- tion. In the present study we examined differences of regular science classes and science labs regarding perceived autonomy support, intrinsic motivation, and identified regulation in a sample of 649 secondary school students. In grades five and six perceived autonomy support and intrin- sic motivation were high both, in science classes and in science labs. At grades seven and eight perceived autonomy support and intrinsic motivation were still high in science labs but not in sciences classes. These results support the assumptions of stage-environment fit theory that the decline in intrinsic motivation during early adolescence can be countered by enhancing autonomy support. Furthermore, in science labs there was no gender-gap in intrinsic motivation and identi- fied regulation.
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