Moos and Honkomp (2011) utilized the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to better understand the relationship between motivation and Adventure Learning (AL). SDT is based on 3 universal needs (Competence, Relatedness, and Autonomy) and when these needs are met individuals function and grow optimally (Deci & Ryan, 2008).

Moos and Honkomp (2011) argue that AL satisfies all three needs as follows:

Autonomy: encouragement of problem solving via facilitation of independent thought and promotion of student initiative.

Competence: mastery and control of environment

Relatedness: collaboration within environment satisfies belonging

Researchers proposed to answer the following questions:

  1. To what extend does adventure learning enhance learning in the area of social studies?
  2. To what extent does adventure learning enhance motivation as it relates to learning?
  3. To what extent does the SDT explain students’ perceptions of adventure learning?

Researchers used the AL environment www.Go4thesummit.com. The content was produced by a teacher from the middle school at which the grade 7 and 8 subjects attended. A total of 198 students participated, with a gender distribution of 61% female and 39% male. The study used a mixed-method approach with Quantitative measures from the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) and a pre/post test multiple choice measure. 5 Motivation Subscales from the MSLQ were used (Intrinsic and extrinsic goal orientation, task-value, self-efficacy and control beliefs). Qualitative measures were derived from interviews of 3 grade 7 (2F, 1M) and 8 grade 8 (4F, 4M) students who volunteered for the interviews. The structure of the interview questions were guided by the MSLQ constructs and a concept-indicator model saw used to analyze the data.

3 sessions with the students were performed by the researchers. In the first session they were told that the teacher was going to Africa to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro and they would be receiving updates from him. A MSLQ was performed and a knowledge pretest was given to students. In the second session interviews were performed regarding the feelings around the AL experience. In the third session a second MSLQ was performed and a post-test was given.

Quantitative data showed high initial motivation, but a statistically significant increase was seen after AL in all motivation subclass of the MSLQ. Post-test scores also showed improvement. Qualitative data suggested two themes, the role of technology in the class and that student motivation in AL is best described by the SDT.

Theme 1 – students felt tech increased their understanding of the lesson and that AL was more effective than textbooks.

Theme 2 – Students were more engaged as they new the teacher (Relatedness), they showed feeling of success (Competence) and they wanted to learn and go to Africa (Intrinsic Motivation)

The qualitative data was used to link AL to learning through an increase in motivation.

The challenges with AL as noted by the researchers are as follows:

  1. Not all students actively engage in inquiry-based learning
  2. AL is costly to implement
  3. Small body of research in AL makes link with motivation difficult
  4. Hard to separate the novelty factor of AL from the actual learning environment

There were a number of limitations discussed by the researchers in regards to this study:

  1. Students volunteered to be interviewed
  2. There was a poor gender distribution and only 1 school participated
  3. The pre-test and post-test were identical
  4. Socially desirable answers to interview questions may have resulted as the teacher that created the AL was still at the school.

Moos, D.C., and Honkomp, B. (2011) Adventure learning: Motivating students in a minnesota middle school. Journal of research on technology in education. 43(3), 231-252

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Self-determination theory: A macrotheory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology, 49(3), 182-185.

Reflections and Thoughts

I think the design of the AL environment in this study provides a unique was of designing subsequent AL designs. The familiarity of the instructor in the AL environment is a positive attribute. It has some issues with research design as noted above, but if motivation is increased via relatedness then a familiarity of the instructor would be good.

I would have like to see a different post-test in order to improve the validity of the study. The ability for the students to complete the AL program and have some insight into what to read or do from the pre-test does put into question the reliability of the outcomes.

The study has made me focus my MEd project into one of creating a local AL website that will link Science 8 curriculum with outdoor adventures in the Cascade mountains. If the study is correct in the interpretation of motivation then place-based relatedness should also improve motivation of students.