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K. Ann Renninger

Dorwin P. Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action

Educational Studies


  2. Phone: (610) 328-8347
  3. Fax: (610) 690-6892
  4. Pearson 201

Research and Teaching Interests

Motivation and learning are both essential to equalizing educational opportunity. As a high school teacher, I was struck by how much of a difference a student’s interest made in what they were ready to learn, and that, as their teacher, I was in a position to help them become interested. Consider the example of a nonreader going into his sophomore year of high school, a person who had been passed from one grade to the next despite his marginal ability to read. He had no interest in improving his reading, but was stuck in a program that required just that. Asked to identify something in a newspaper’s sports section to read, his interest in baseball became clear. Over several weeks of reading about baseball, his abilities markedly improved: he didn’t skip words, and grew willing to not only sound words out, but to step back and discuss the article he had read. The relatively simple shift in what he was asked to read made the difference.

Psychological research shows that when people develop an interest, they find it rewarding to seek information that helps them to figure things out, and that they will independently and voluntarily continue to pursue increasing their own understanding. In fact, interest may be supported to develop at any age, and in any content (e.g. reading, math, chess)—however, it requires other people, such as educators, and their design of activities and tasks to make this possible. My classes and research focus on what can be done to support interest to grow, and what is known about how and why interest, motivation, and learning develop more generally.

I have studied persons of differing ages (preschool through adult) and backgrounds, across a variety of contexts both in and out-of-school (e.g., children's play, students' work with expository

text, mathematical word problems, science, participation in online workshops).  The studies that my students and I conduct typically focus on questions that educators identify as information that they want or need answers to. This means that we use the existing research literature to design investigations that provide practical feedback for practitioners, in addition to addressing and enriching our questions as researchers.

For example:

• Since 1992, grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) have enabled my students and I to collaborate with STEM practitioners and researchers to study learning and motivation both online and in face-to-face projects.  Results of these studies have been used to improve the design and delivery of resources and programming.

          Presently, my students and I, together with researchers at Brown University and The 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education, are working on a project funded by the National Science Foundation’s CS for All : Research and RPPs program. We are studying how to prepare 8th and 9th grade math teachers to integrate computing into their mathematics teaching. This is mixed-methods research draws on surveys and longitudinal interviews with teachers, recordings of classrooms, samples of student work, and data on student assessments.

          • Through a collaboration with the EF+Math and The 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education, my students and I are studying the development of conceptual understanding, equity, and executive functions in math education, in particular for students of color. In this work we are working to describe executive functions in collaborative problem solving and students’ story telling about this experience.

• Supported by a Lang Center Engaged Scholarship Research Grant,  my students and I are addressing instructors’ questions about supporting the motivation and learning of middle-school age]youth in inquiry-oriented, out-of-school science workshops. These studies are providing guidance about how to engage participants with little to no formal background in science.  

Findings from these studies are shared with those who have been involved and are reported in articles and chapters, often with student co-authors. I am also involved in editing projects and writing that considers the implications of research for educational practice.


PhD Bryn Mawr College
MA Bryn Mawr College
BA University of Pennsylvania
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Educational Testing Service


​​​​​​​Board on Science Education (BOSE), The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Recent Publications


National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Technology Committee on Assessing Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Competencies. J. Herman and M. Hilton. (Eds.). (2017). Assessing intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies for undergraduate student success. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Renninger, K. A., & Hidi, S. E. (2016). The power of interest for motivation and engagement. New York: Routledge.

Edited Volumes

Renninger, K. A. & Hidi, S. (Eds). (2019). The Cambridge handbook of motivation and learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Renninger, K. A., Nieswandt, M., & Hidi, S. (Eds.) (2015). Interest in mathematics and science learning. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Refereed Articles (student/former student collaborators indicated with *)

Renninger, K. A. & Hidi, S. E., (in press). Interest: A unique affective and cognitive motivational variable that develops. In A. Elliot (Ed.), Advances in motivation science. Vol. 8. New York: Elsevier.

Renninger, K. A. & Hidi, S.E. (2021). Interest development, self-related information processing, and practice. Theory into Practice.

Hidi, S. E. & Renninger, K.A. (2021). By developing interest educators can motivate learning. IDEA Papers.

Boeder, J. D., Postlewaite, E. L., Renninger, K. A., & Hidi, S. E. (2021). Construction and validation of the Interest Development Scale. Motivation Science. Advance online publication.

Hidi, S. E. & Renninger, K. A. (2020). On educating, curiosity and interest. In D. Shohamy & R. Hassin (Guest Eds.), Special Issue: Curiosity (Explore vs. Exploit). Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 35, 99-103.

Renninger, K. A. & Hidi, S. E. (2020). To level the playing field, develop interest. Policy Insights from the

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 7 (1), 1-9.

Hidi, S. E. & Renninger, K. A. (2019). Interest development, curiosity, and needed neuroscientific research. In E. Grossnickel Peterson & S. E. Hidi (Guest Eds), Special Issue: Curiosity and interest, Educational Psychology Review, 31 (4), 833-852.

Renninger, K. A.*Bachrach, J. E., & Hidi, S. E. (2019). Triggering and maintaining in early phases of interest development. In H. Hedges & M. Birbili (Guest Eds.), Special Issue: Conceptualising and researching interest/s as a learning phenomenon. 23, 1-17.  Learning, Culture and Social Interaction.

Katz, I. & Renninger, K. A. (2018). Interest of people diagnosed with autism: A resource or an obstacle? Mifgash: Journal of social-educational work, 26 (47), 11-30.

Crouch, C. H., *Wisittanawat, P., * Cai, M., & Renninger, K. A. (2018). Life science students’ attitudes, interest, and performance in introductory physics for life sciences (IPLS): An exploratory study. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 14 (1). doi:

Chapters in Edited Volumes (student/former student collaborators indicated with *)

Renninger, K. A. & Järvelä, S. (in press). Designing for meaningful learning: Interest, motivation, and engagement. In D. K. Sawyer (Ed.). Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, third edition. NewYork: Cambridge University Press.

Renninger, K. A., *Qui, F. W., & Hidi, S. E. (in press). Curiosity and/or interest? What should educators know and consider? In R. Tierney, F. Rizvl, & K. Ercikan (Eds). International Encyclopedia of Education, I. Wilkinson & J. Parr (vol. eds.), Learning, cognition, and human development. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

Hidi, S. E. & Renninger, K.A.  (in press). How do extrinsic incentives (rewards, competition, etc.) influence motivation and interest development? In M. Bong, S. Kim, & J. Reeve. Motivation science: Controversies and insights. New York:  Oxford University Press.

Hidi, S. E., *Magnifico, A., & Renninger, K. A. (in press). Students developing as writers: How and why interest makes a difference. In R. Horowitz (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of International  Research on Writing, 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge.

Renninger, K. A., *Talian, M. E., & *Kern, H. M. (in press). Interest: How it develops and why it matters. In D. Fisher (Gen. Ed.), T. L. Good and M. M. McCaslin (Section Eds.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Education: Educational Psychology. New York: Routledge.

Renninger, K. A. & Hidi, S. E. (2019). Interest development as a dynamic process in the workplace. In C. Nye. & J. Rounds (Eds.), Vocational interests in the workplace (pp. 39-58). New York: Routledge.

Renninger, K. A. & *Su, S. (2019). Interest and its development, revisited. In R. M. Ryan (Ed.), Oxford handbook of motivation (pp. 205-228), Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Durik, A. M., & Renninger, K. A. (2019). Achievement strivings: Motives and goals that promote competence. In D. P. McAdams, R. L. Shiner, & J. L. Tackett (Eds.) The handbook of personality development (pp. 295-312). New York, NY: Guilford.

Renninger, K. A. & Hidi, S. E. (2019). Supporting the development of interest in the workplace. In F.L. Oswald, T. S. Behrens, & L. L. Foster (Eds.), Workforce readiness and the future of work (pp. 19-34). New York: Routledge.

Hidi, S. E. & Renninger, K. A. (2019). Motivation and learning. In K. A. Renninger & S. E. Hidi (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of motivation and learning (pp. 1-11). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hidi, S. E., Renninger, K. A., & Northoff, G.  (2019). The educational benefits of self-related information processing. In K. A. Renninger & S. E. Hidi (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of motivation and learning (pp. 15-35). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Renninger, K. A. & Hidi, S. E. (2019). Interest development and learning. In K. A. Renninger & S. E. Hidi (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of motivation and learning (pp. 265-296). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hidi, S. E., Renninger, K, A., & Northoff, G. (2018). The development of interest and self-related processing. In F. Guay, H. W. Marsh, D. M. McInerney, & R. G. Craven (Eds.), International advances in self research. Vol. 6: SELF – Driving positive psychology and well-being (pp. 51-70). Charlotte: Information Age Press.

Renninger, K. A., *Ren, Y., & *Kern, H. M. (2018).  Motivation, engagement, and interest: “In the end, it came down to you and how you think of the problem.” In F. Fischer, C. E. Hmelo-Silver, S. R. Goldman, & P. Reimann (Eds.), International handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 116-126). New York: Routledge.​​​​​​​


EDUC 014   Pedagogy and Power: Introduction to Education
EDUC 021   Educational Psychology
EDUC 091   Special Topics
EDUC 093   Supervision of Student Teachers
EDUC 092   Curriculum and Methods Seminar
EDUC 121   Motivation and Learning (Honors Seminar)