Research Topic

Student Engagement and Motivation for Writing: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective

About this Research Topic

The purpose of this Research Topic is to explore how self-determination theory (SDT) supports learning to write. Every writer faces significant cognitive challenges during the writing process; writing requires tapping into complex linguistic knowledge to translate meaning into text, and ongoing monitoring and editing to achieve writers’ proximal and distal goals of meeting audience needs. SDT asserts that domain-specific learning, such as writing, requires both behavioral and cognitive engagement with learning tasks. Students employ behavioral and cognitive resources to complete both short-term (e.g., pre-writing activities) and long-term writing tasks (e.g., a language arts report). When students are engaged, they are more likely to develop intrinsic motivation for writing and learn how writing can support their personal growth and well-being.

Self-determination theory differs from other learning theories that study writing in both its focal constructs and methodologies. SDT principles promote the internalization of extrinsic writing motivation (e.g., completing a high school research paper for class credit) into intrinsic writing motivation, such as writing to meet individuals’ ongoing psychological and developmental needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy. Engagement exerts a powerful influence on writers’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, which in turn energizes and directs their effort and persistence. Writing teachers measure engagement by observing students’ behavior (e.g., concentration, attention, and effort) and by observing external signs of cognitive activity (e.g., use of flexible and sophisticated learning strategies, affect that supports or inhibits performance). Importantly, a comprehensive research agenda for SDT-informed writing instruction has yet to be realized. While some studies have examined classroom activities, including how SDT is applied to EFL and L2 teaching and learning, few studies examine SDT and writing specifically. Therefore, this Research Topic identifies three closely related research goals to address the need for more writing-related SDT research:

• Develop and test writing interventions that improve student writing outcomes
• Identify and test writing activities that support students’ needs for growth and well-being
• Identify activities and learning environments that develop intrinsic motivation for writing

This Research Topic aims to aid researchers by providing them with constructs and methods that support and extend current approaches to writing inquiry in order to improve student writing outcomes. We welcome empirical and theoretical manuscripts that describe and test writing learning-activities. PreK-16 and adult writing instruction are appropriate for this Topic, and approaches may include face-to-face, blended, and online instructional activities and evaluation. We also encourage manuscripts that investigate diverse writing genres (e.g., expository and creative texts) as well as different writing mediums (e.g., typed papers and social media).


Keywords: Self-Determination Theory, Writing Instruction, Engagement, Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation, Well-Being


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The purpose of this Research Topic is to explore how self-determination theory (SDT) supports learning to write. Every writer faces significant cognitive challenges during the writing process; writing requires tapping into complex linguistic knowledge to translate meaning into text, and ongoing monitoring and editing to achieve writers’ proximal and distal goals of meeting audience needs. SDT asserts that domain-specific learning, such as writing, requires both behavioral and cognitive engagement with learning tasks. Students employ behavioral and cognitive resources to complete both short-term (e.g., pre-writing activities) and long-term writing tasks (e.g., a language arts report). When students are engaged, they are more likely to develop intrinsic motivation for writing and learn how writing can support their personal growth and well-being.

Self-determination theory differs from other learning theories that study writing in both its focal constructs and methodologies. SDT principles promote the internalization of extrinsic writing motivation (e.g., completing a high school research paper for class credit) into intrinsic writing motivation, such as writing to meet individuals’ ongoing psychological and developmental needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy. Engagement exerts a powerful influence on writers’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, which in turn energizes and directs their effort and persistence. Writing teachers measure engagement by observing students’ behavior (e.g., concentration, attention, and effort) and by observing external signs of cognitive activity (e.g., use of flexible and sophisticated learning strategies, affect that supports or inhibits performance). Importantly, a comprehensive research agenda for SDT-informed writing instruction has yet to be realized. While some studies have examined classroom activities, including how SDT is applied to EFL and L2 teaching and learning, few studies examine SDT and writing specifically. Therefore, this Research Topic identifies three closely related research goals to address the need for more writing-related SDT research:

• Develop and test writing interventions that improve student writing outcomes
• Identify and test writing activities that support students’ needs for growth and well-being
• Identify activities and learning environments that develop intrinsic motivation for writing

This Research Topic aims to aid researchers by providing them with constructs and methods that support and extend current approaches to writing inquiry in order to improve student writing outcomes. We welcome empirical and theoretical manuscripts that describe and test writing learning-activities. PreK-16 and adult writing instruction are appropriate for this Topic, and approaches may include face-to-face, blended, and online instructional activities and evaluation. We also encourage manuscripts that investigate diverse writing genres (e.g., expository and creative texts) as well as different writing mediums (e.g., typed papers and social media).


Keywords: Self-Determination Theory, Writing Instruction, Engagement, Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation, Well-Being


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 May 2020 Abstract
30 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 May 2020 Abstract
30 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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