Fostering adolescents' value beliefs for mathematics with a relevance intervention in the classroom

Dev Psychol. 2015 Sep;51(9):1226-40. doi: 10.1037/dev0000028. Epub 2015 Jul 20.


Interventions targeting students' perceived relevance of the learning content have been shown to effectively promote student motivation within science classes (e.g., Hulleman & Harackiewicz, 2009). Yet, further research is warranted to understand better how such interventions should be designed in order to be successfully implemented in the classroom setting. A cluster randomized controlled study was conducted to test whether ninth-grade students' value beliefs for mathematics (i.e., intrinsic value, attainment value, utility value, and cost) could be fostered with relevance interventions in the classroom. Eighty-two classrooms were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 experimental conditions or a waiting control condition. Both experimental groups received a 90-min intervention within the classroom on the relevance of mathematics, consisting of a psychoeducational presentation and relevance-inducing tasks (either writing a text or evaluating interview quotations). Intervention effects were evaluated via self-reports of 1,916 participating students 6 weeks and 5 months after the intervention in the classroom. Both intervention conditions fostered more positive value beliefs among students at both time points. Compared with the control condition, classes in the quotations condition reported higher utility value, attainment value, and intrinsic value, and classes in the text condition reported higher utility value. Thus, stronger effects on students' value beliefs were found for the quotations condition than for the text condition. When assessing intervention effects separately for females and males, some evidence for stronger effects for females than for males was found.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adolescent
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Psychology, Adolescent*