The effect of rationale on classroom engagement : moderation by perceived competence
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Pervasive evidence suggests that students’ classroom engagement in science tends to decline both within a school year and across school years. Motivation theory and research grounded in self-determination and expectancy-value perspectives suggest that rationale provision may be one way to boost engagement. However, recent evidence and theory also suggest that the effects rationales may not be consistent across all students, potentially varying depending on students’ perceptions of competence. To examine this hypothesis, I conducted a secondary analysis of daily reports of classroom experiences from 207 students in 41 high school science classrooms collected across a six-week instructional unit. Multilevel modeling results revealed that students’ daily perceptions of teachers’ provision of rationales were related to increases in behavioral and emotional engagement to a greater extent among students who were low in competence for science than with those high in perceived competence for science. While the relationship between daily perceptions of rationale on cognitive engagement did not depend on students baseline level of competence, the pattern of results was in the same direction. Implications for future research are discussed.