K. Ann Renninger
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 varying 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.
• Since 1992, grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) have enabled my students and I to collaborate with Math Forum project staff 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.
• With grants from the Sloan and the Mellon Foundations, I have worked with natural science professors and institutional researchers to explore factors affecting whether undergraduates choose to continue to pursue majors in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering. Findings from these studies are being used by the instructors to adjust their instructional practices.
• Supported by Howard Hughes Medical Institute funding to Swarthmore College, my students and I are addressing instructors’ questions about supporting the motivation and learning of middle-school age, economically challenged youth in out-of-school science workshops. These studies are providing guidance about how to engage participants in learning science.
Findings from these studies are shared with those who have been involved and are reported in articles and chapters. I have also collaborated on editing and writing that considers the implications of research for educational practice. Recently, I co-authored The Power of Interest for Motivation and Engagement (Routledge, 2016). In addition, I co-edited the American Educational Research Association volume: Interest in Science and Mathematics Learning (2015) as well as the forthcoming Cambridge University Press volume, The Cambridge Handbook of Motivation and Learning (2018).
PhD Bryn Mawr College
MA Bryn Mawr College
BA University of Pennsylvania
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Educational Testing Service
Renninger, K. A. & Hidi, S. (2016). The power of interest for motivation and learning. New York: Routledge.
Renninger, K. A. & Pozos-Brewer, R. K. (2015). ‘Interest, psychology of’. In J.D. Wright (Series Ed.) & J. S. Eccles and K Salmelo-Aro (Section Eds.), The international encyclopedia of social and behavioral sciences: Motivation (pp. 378-385), 2nd edition, Vol. 12. UK: Elsevier.
Renninger, K. A. & Su, S. (2012). Interest and its development. In R. Ryan (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Motivation (pp. 167-187). New York: Oxford University Press.
Renninger, K. A., & Hidi, S. (2011). Revisiting the conceptualization, measurement, and generation of interest. Educational Psychologist, 46(3), 168-184.
Renninger, K. A. (2009). Interest and identity development in instruction: An inductive model. Educational Psychologist, 44 (2), 1-14
Hidi, S. & Renninger, K. A. (2006). The four-phase model of interest development. Educational Psychologist, 41 (2), 111-127.
Renninger, K. A. & Bachrach, J. E. (2015). Studying triggers for interest and engagement using observational methods. Educational Psychologist, 50(1), 58-69.
Renninger, K. A., Kensey, C. C., Stevens, S. J., & Lehman, D. L. (2015). Perceptions of science and their role in the development of interest. In K. A. Renninger, M. Nieswandt, & S. Hidi (Eds.), Interest in mathematics and science learning (pp. 93-110). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.
Renninger, K. A., Austin, L., Bachrach, J. E., Chau, A., Emmerson, M., King, R. B., Riley, K. R., & Stevens, S. J. (2014). Going beyond Whoa! That’s Cool! Achieving science interest and learning with the ICAN Intervention. In S. Karabenick & T. Urdan, (Eds.), Motivation-based learning interventions, Advances in Motivation and Achievement series, Volume 18 (pp. 107-140). London: Emerald Group Publishing.
Crouch, C.H., Wisittanawat, P. & Renninger, K. A. (2013). Initial interest, goals, and changes in CLASS scores in Introductory Physics for Life Sciences. In PER Conference Proceedings, AIP: Melville, NY.
Renninger, K. A., & Riley, K. R. (2013). Interest, cognition, and the case of L__ in science. In Kreitler, S. (Ed.).Cognition and Motivation: Forging an Interdisciplinary Perspective (pp. 325-382). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Renninger, K. A., Bachrach, J. E., & Posey, S. K. E. (2008). Learner interest and motivation: Distinct and Complementary. In M. L. Maehr, S. A. Karabenick, & T. C. Urdan (Eds.), Social psychological perspectives (pp. 461-491). Volume 15: Advances in Motivation and Achievement. United Kingdom: Emerald.
Lipstein, R. & Renninger, K. A. (2007). "Putting things into words": The development of 12-15-year-old students' interest for writing. In Boscolo, P. & Hidi, S. (Eds.), Motivation and writing: Research and School Practice (pp. 113-140). New York: Elsevier.
Assessing learning and participation in virtual communities
Renninger, K. A., Cai, M., Lewis, M., Adams, M., & Ernst, K. (2011). Motivation and learning in an online, unmoderated, mathematics workshop for teachers. Special Issue: Motivation and New Media. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 59 (2), 229-247.
Alejandre, S. & Renninger, K. A. (2009). Moving from feedback to scaffolding: Improving the LTD student's experience. In C. DiGiano, S. Goldman, & M. Chorost (Eds.), Education learning technology designers: Guiding and inspiring creators of innovative educational tools (pp. 101-121). New York: Routledge.
Renninger, K. A., Stein, S., Koenig, J., & Mabbot, A. (2006). Conditions that support the development of mathematical thinking. In J. O. Masinglia (Ed.), Teachers engaged in research: Inquiry into mathematical practice in grades 6-8 (119-146). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Renninger, K. A., Ray, L. S., Luft, I., & Newton, E. L. (2005). Coding online content-informed scaffolding of mathematical thinking. New Ideas in Psychology, 23, pp. 152-165.
Renninger, K. A., & Shumar, W. (2002). Community building with and for teachers: The Math Forum as a resource for teacher professional development. In K. A. Renninger & W. Shumar (Eds.), Building virtual communities: Learning and change in cyberspace (pp. 60-95). New York: Cambridge University Press.
The Math Forum's Bridging Research and Practice Group (2000). Encouraging mathematical thinking: Discourse around a rich problem. http://mathforum.org/brap/wrap/
Theory to practice
Renninger, K. A. & Riley, R. R. (in press). The ICAN Intervention: Supporting learners to make connections to science content during science inquiry. Science Scope.
Järvelä, S. & Renninger, K. A. (2014). Designing for learning: Interest, motivation, and engagement. In D. Keith Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 668-685), Second Edition. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Renninger, K. A. (2010). Working with and cultivating interest, self-efficacy, and self-regulation. In D. Preiss & R. Sternberg (Eds.), Innovations in educational psychology: Perspectives on learning, teaching and human development (pp. 158-195). New York: Springer.
Lipstein, R. & Renninger, K. A. (2007). Interest for writing: How teachers can make a difference. English Journal, 96 (4), 79-85.
Renninger, K. A. (1998). Developmental psychology and instruction: Issues from and for practice. In W. Damon (Gen. Ed.) & I. E. Sigel & K. A. Renninger (Vol. Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4. Child psychology in practice (5th ed., pp. 211-274). New York: John Wiley and Sons.
EDUC 014 Pedagogy and Power: Introduction to Education
EDUC 016 Supervision of Student Teachers
EDUC 017 Curriculum and Methods Seminar
EDUC 021 Educational Psychology
EDUC 076 Pre-Student Teaching Practicum
EDUC 091 Special Topics
EDUC 121 Psychology and Practice, Honors Seminar