Alisha Wolfrum worked with Dr. Michael Phillips to conduct a Pilot Study to Investigate the Influence of Choice on High School Students’ writing.
The purpose of her research was to explore the influence of topical choice on the quality and quantity of writing produced by high school students, in addition to the influence of choice on students motivation to write. In the educational literature regarding student motivation, the need for autonomy has been found to influence students’ behavior and willingness to engage in learning (Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier & Ryan, 1991). One way to fulfill a student’s need for autonomy and foster his or her engagement in the learning process has been to provide choice without overwhelming the student with endless choices. For this pilot study, Alisha investigaged differences in students’ level of writing growth and their motivation over a summer course.
Overall, her results suggested that, for this particular sample of students, offering topic choice did not have a significant impact on their motivation or writing quantity and quality. What appears to be a more important influence is the students’ attitudes toward school. Over the course of this summer, Alisha had a very valuable research experience, learning about the research process and about how to analyze her results. Specifically, she learned more about the IRB process and the ethics of research. The results of my analyses were not what she initially expected, and she was forced to think about what these results meant even if they are not what she was looking for.