Making Connections: Replicating and Extending the Utility Value Intervention in the Classroom

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We replicated and extended prior research investigating a theoretically guided intervention based on expectancy-value theory designed to enhance student learning outcomes (e.g., Hulleman & Harackiewicz, 2009). First, we replicated prior work by demonstrating that the utility value intervention, which manipulated whether students made connections between the course material and their lives, increased both interest and performance of low-performing students in a college general education course. Second, we extended prior research by both measuring and manipulating one possible pathway of intervention effects: the frequency with which students make connections between the material and their lives. In Study 1, we measured connection frequency and found that making more connections was positively related to expecting to do well in the course, valuing the course material, and continuing interest. In Study 2, we manipulated connection frequency by developing an enhanced utility value intervention designed to increase the frequency with which students made connections. The results indicated that students randomly assigned to either utility value intervention, compared with the control condition, subsequently became more confident that they could learn the material, which led to increased course performance. The utility value interventions were particularly effective for the lowest-performing students. Compared with those in the control condition who showed a steady decline in performance across the semester, low-performing male students randomly assigned to the utility value conditions increased their performance across the semester. The difference between the utility value and control conditions for low-performing male students was strongest on the final exam (d = .76).

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