Declining academic achievement and poor school engagement, as a long standing issue, could be remediated by teachers by enhancing student motivation (Fredericks, Blumenfeld and Paris, 2004). Considering the significant decrease in students’ motivation to participate in physical education (PE) (Papaioannou, Bebetsos, Theodorakis, Christodoulidis and Kouli, 2006) researchers have investigated motivational constructs that can drive students toward successful learning and achievement. In this context, they consider situational interest (SI) as a powerful motivator for students (Chen, Chen and Zhu, 2012; Renninger and Hidi, 2011) in so far as it is related to their cognitive engagement and learning strategies (Shen and Chen, 2006; 2007; Zhu, Chen, Ennis, Sun, Hopple, Bonello, Bae and Kim, 2009). Chen et al. (2012) have found, in a recent meta-analysis related to the motivational constructs used to engage K-12 students in PE, that SI was a primary motivator for them. Defined as the appealing effect of the characteristics of an activity on individuals (Chen, Ennis, Martin and Sun, 2006), SI appears to be relevant when linking students’ motivation and learning strategies, in so far as learners must be motivated to be able to actively search, evaluate, and adopt effective learning strategies (Shen and Chen, 2006). However, little is known about the relationships between the dimensions of SI and learning strategies used by students. Thus, the aim of the study was to examine the effects of SI dimensions on students’ learning strategies in PE.
A total of 148 tenth-grade students (Mage = 16.12, 15-17 years, SD = 1.34, 40% boys) participated in a 30-minute body-conditioning learning task. Students’ situational interest and learning strategies were measured using validated self-reported questionnaires. The relationships between the variables were examined using correlations, regression and indirect effects analyses.
Findings confirmed the effect of SI on students’ learning strategies in PE and provided relevant information about their relationship at a situational level. The results clearly demonstrated that exploration intention is a key dimension of SI in promoting students’ learning strategies as well as acting as a linking variable for the indirect effects from attention demand, instant enjoyment and challenge toward them.
Consistent with results found within the Self-Regulated Learning framework, this study gains insight into the relationship between motivational components and students’ cognitive engagement. The results of this study are in line with Murphy and Alexander (2002) who argue that the choices between learning strategies reflect neither personality nor ability, but are dependent on the students’ environmental stimuli and their perception of SI.