The Associations of Autonomy Support and Conceptual Press with Engaged Reading and Conceptual Learning from Text

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Perencevich, Kathleen Cox
Guthrie, John T.
This study examined the associations of autonomy support and conceptual press, with reading engagement and conceptual learning from text. When students perceive their teacher to be supporting autonomy, it means that student choice, ownership, and personal goals are emphasized. When students perceive their teacher to be supporting conceptual press, it means that the teacher (a) promotes understanding of the substantial principles of a domain; (b) helps students use information integration strategies during reading, such as concept mapping, and (c) promotes persistence on moderately challenging tasks. Based on the self-process model of motivation (Connell & Wellborn, 1990) and an engagement perspective of reading (Baker, Dreher & Guthrie, 2000), it was hypothesized that as students perceived their instruction to be motivating, their reading engagement would increase. In turn, as engaged reading increases, conceptual learning from text would increase. For this investigation, 244 fourth- and fifth-grade students reported their perceptions of their teachers' use of conceptual press and autonomy support in reading instruction. Multifaceted components of reading engagement were measured. Reading engagement was defined as the manifestations of affective, behavioral, and cognitive processes during reading. In addition, participants completed a reading performance assessment in the domain of science designed to measure prior knowledge, strategic reading, and conceptual learning from text. Structural equation modeling was used to compare alternative theoretical models depicting the relations among motivated reading instruction, engaged reading, and conceptual learning from text. The direct effects model had a direct path connecting motivating reading instruction with conceptual learning from text whereas the hypothesized indirect effects model contained an indirect path from motivating reading instruction to conceptual learning from text via engaged reading. Results confirmed the hypothesis that the model including an indirect effect of motivating reading instruction on conceptual learning from text through engaged reading explained the data more fully than a direct effect model. This is consistent with the self-process model of motivation (Connell & Wellborn, 1990). These results have implications for theories of the role of social contexts in engagement and achievement, particularly in the domain of reading, and also suggest ways by which teachers might foster reading engagement among students.