Active Learning Ideas


1. The Dark Side of Rewards.

Students often find the idea that rewards undermines intrinsic interest counterintuitive. To help them see how rewards can be used in a controlling fashion, bring small candies to class and reward people for speaking in class. Find a topic that students have a lot to say about (e.g., what was the best and the worst class they every had? Why?). At first, my classes get excited when they see the bag of candy, but as the discussion goes on, many students become frustrated with the procedure: They have something to say and see the candy as distracting, superfluous, and annoying. Some will refuse the candy (reward them anyway). Other will give the candy back. Some may shut down and refuse to talk any further. Once students start to object to the rewards, shift the discussion to how they are feeling, why they are reacting to the candy (“Don’t you like candy?”) and bring them around to discovering how controlling rewards can undermine autonomy.

2. Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness in School

Have students write about or discuss in small groups, their favorite and least favorite classes. Were their needs for autonomy, competence, and related met? What parts of the environment were particularly supportive or unsupportive of their needs? Peers? Teachers? Parents? Can students find evidence for the presence or absence of autonomy support, structure and optimal challenge, and involvement?

3. The Aspiration Index (AI)

Kasser and Ryan (1993) created a questionnaire to measure the relative strength of extrinsic and materialistic goals (e.g., financial success, image, popularity) and intrinsic goals (e.g., personal growth, affiliation, community feeling). Read more about the research and download a copy of the AI here.

4. SDT Crossword Puzzle

A crossword puzzle is available here, based on material contained in Chapter 9: Regulation and Motivation: Self-Determination Theory from Miserandino, M. (2012). Personality Psychology: Foundations and Findings. Boston, MA: Pearson. The answers are available here but please don’t peek until you’ve tried it!

From: Miserandino, M. (2012) Instructor’s Manual to Accompany Miserandino Personality Psychology 1/e. Boston, MA: Pearson.

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