The purpose of this review is to highlight the “power” of interest on student engagement and learning. Specifically, the key role situational interest plays as a motivator in enhancing student engagement in the learning process is presented.
A keyword search employing the terms “interest”, “situational interest”, and “physical education” was conducted using ERIC and SportDiscus databases from 1990-2007. Both review and research articles that specifically addressed interest or situational interest in the field of education or physical education were selected. A total of thirty-one articles met this selection criterion.
Interest has been conceptualized as individual interest and situational interest and emerges as a result of an individual-environment interaction (Krapp, Hidi, & Renninger, 1992; Mitchell, 1993). Individual interest and situational interest are not dichotomous phenomenon but interact and influence each others' development. Students come into the learning environment with a wide range of individual interests and, therefore, it is difficult for teachers to impact or change individual interest directly. Teachers, however, do have control of the learning environment and could potentially manipulate the environment to trigger situational interest. The triggered situational interest could develop into individual interest at some later time when individuals have acquired the knowledge and value about a situational interest (Shen & Chen, 2006; Hidi & Anderson, 1992). Situational interest can be enhanced through the modification of certain aspects of the learning environment and contextual factors such as teaching strategies (Mitchell, 1993; Chen, Darst, & Pangrazi, 2001), task presentation (Iyengar & Lepper, 1999), and structuring of learning experiences (Isaac, Sansone, & Smith, 1999; Dyson, 2002). These factors are considered to be the determinants of situational interest. In physical education, the primary components of situational interest were Exploration Intention and Instant Enjoyment (Chen, Darst, & Pangrazi, 1999). Learning task that demands a high cognitive engagement aids in the generation of situational interest (Chen & Darst, 2001). High situational interest in the learning tasks is more likely to elicit high physical engagement regardless of students' skill level (Shen, Chen, & Guan, 2006).
The “power” of situational interest for student engagement and learning has been well-documented. If teachers are willing to give up the notion that students either have or do not have interest, and recognize that they could potentially contribute to the development of students' interest via the creation of situationally interesting learning environment, we are bound to see more motivated students willing to be actively engaged in learning.
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