Archive article #00–03

The Role of Autonomy-Support Versus Control in the Emergent Writing Behaviors of African American Kindergarten Children

Leslie Morrison Gutman and Elizabeth Sulzby

Introduction
Emergent Literacy
Research Questions
Method
Results
Discussion
Implications
Conclusions

(Published in Reading Research and Instruction 39 (2), 170-84,Winter 2000)

Children begin life with intrinsic motivation to explore, master, and manipulate their surroundings. However, as children grow older, features of their environment influence their intrinsic motivation. In particular, the context, whether autonomy-supportive or controlling, in which children learn new skills may affect their intrinsic motivation upon encountering that skill domain in the future (Boggiano, Main, & Katz, 1988; Deci & Ryan, 1985). Controlling events and contexts undermine motivation by removing choice and pressuring children toward particular outcomes. Autonomy-supportive events and contexts, on the other hand, encourage motivation by allowing self-determination, or behaviors initiated and regulated through choice (Deci & Ryan, 1985). When controlled, children may lack a true sense of choice and are "pawns" to desired outcomes even though they may intend to achieve those outcomes (deCharms, 1976; Deci & Ryan, 1987). However, although autonomy-supportive environments and interpersonal contexts may allow individuals the opportunity to choose what they wish to do, choice is not equivalent to total permissiveness. Instead, allowing children the freedom of choice means providing guidance that is informational rather than controlling (Ryan, Connell, & Deci, 1985).

Previous studies have demonstrated that the nature of the context in which interactions with others such as teachers and parents occur can have a profound impact on children’s motivation for particular tasks (Deci, Nezlek, & Sheinman, 1981; Deci, Schwartz, Sheinman, & Ryan, 1981; Swann & Pittman, 1977; Zuckerman, Porac, Lathin, Smith, & Deci, 1978). More recent studies, in particular, have focused on the importance of autonomy-supportive interactions for children’s motivated literacy behaviors. For example, Grolnick and Ryan (1987) assigned fifth grade students to read a social studies text under three conditions. The first group was instructed to read in order to answer questions that they thought were important, the second group was instructed to read on their own, and the third group was instructed to read in order to remember the content for a graded test. Although the third group was highest in rote learning, interest in the topic and conceptual learning were highest for the first group. The authors concluded that the students’ motivation was influenced by the perception of an external locus of causality in the reading assignment. The importance of autonomy in students’ motivated reading has also been shown in other studies of elementary school students, such as Gambrell (1995) and Morrow (1992), who found that the books that third to fifth grade readers enjoyed most were the ones they had the most freedom in selecting.

Other studies have also demonstrated the importance of autonomy-support for motivated reading and writing in elementary school classrooms. For example, Ng and her colleagues (1998) videotaped third and fifth grade classrooms and then interviewed the students to determine their motivations as well as their perceptions of the classroom context. Students who perceived freedom of choice in reading, writing, and interpreting texts reported more involvement, curiosity, and challenge than did students who did not perceive such freedom (Ng, Guthrie, Van Meter, McCann, & Alao, 1998). In another study of third to fifth graders, Skinner and Belmont (1993) found that when they believed that teachers were providing meaningful choices for them, students showed an increase in effort, attention, and interest in classroom reading and writing tasks.

These studies provide substantial evidence for the value of autonomy-support in children’s motivated literacy behaviors. However, they have focused primarily on how classroom context influences the literacy behaviors of older elementary school students (third to fifth graders). There is less information regarding how the context of interactions influence children’s early literacy learning. Yet, according to Teale (1982), early literacy development often depends upon the experiences the child has in reading and writing activities that are mediated by literate adults, older siblings, or events in the child's everyday life. Depending on the context, these early experiences may either encourage or hinder children's emergent reading and writing. For instance, autonomy-supportive experiences may support children's gradual progression from emergent to conventional reading and writing, whereas controlling experiences may not only limit children's opportunities to read and write emergently but also undermine their motivation to do so. Clearly, an examination of both autonomy-supportive and controlling environments seems essential in understanding the contextual influences on children's early engagements with literacy. The present study examined kindergartners' intrinsic motivation in the context of an emergent writing task in both autonomy-supportive and controlling interactions. As kindergartners, these children are in the process of becoming literate -- emerging as young readers and writers (Sulzby,1990).

Emergent Literacy
Emergent literacy is defined as the reading and writing behaviors of young children (birth through age 6-7) that proceed and develop into conventional reading and writing (Sulzby, 1990). According to this perspective, young children engage in meaningful literacy events long before they receive direct, school-based literacy instruction (Bissex, 1980; Clay, 1975; Schickendanz, 1986; Sulzby, 1990; Teale, 1982). Research has shown that much literacy learning and teaching takes place well before kindergarten within the homes of both middle- and low-income children (Heath, 1982; Sulzby & Teale, 1987; Taylor, 1983; Teale, 1987).

This focus on young children's literacy development has brought more attention to the social context in which young children learn about literacy. As a result, numerous studies have documented the importance of parent-child and teacher-child interactions to children’s early literacy development (for example; McMahon, Richmond, & Reeves-Kazelskies, 1998; Ninio, 1980; Pellegrini, Brody, & Sigel, 1985; Snow, 1983; Snow & Ninio, 1986). However, only a few studies have explored the role of autonomy versus control in such interactions (Burns & Casbergue, 1992; Turner, 1995). In one study, Burns and Casberque (1992) examined the degree of parental control in parent-child interactions during a letter-writing task. In their sample of middle-income European American families, they found that a higher degree of parental control was associated with the parent demonstrating how to complete at least one step of the task, correcting the child's performance, or verbally commanding the child to pursue a given course of action. A lower degree of parental control was associated with the parent asking the child more open-ended questions, giving the child more choices, repeating what the child said, or commenting on the child's work. They also found that lower levels of parental control were associated with a more emergent-looking letter (e.g., scribbles, drawings, invented spellings, and letter-strings), while higher levels of parental control were associated with more conventional spelling and writing. This may be due to the fact that controlling parents often wrote the letter for their children, while less controlling parents allowed their children to write their own letter. Furthermore, higher levels of parental control were associated with children who passively responded rather than initiated conversation, whereas lower levels of control were associated with more verbal input and initiation from the child.

In an observational study of the classroom context, Turner (1995) demonstrated similar findings for first graders in a predominantly middle-income European American school district. Turner (1995) found that when children were given a reasonable amount of freedom and responsibility for literacy activities, such as choosing their own books to read and deciding whether to write or draw, they demonstrated more motivated literacy behaviors. Turner (1995) concluded that motivation for early literacy learning is situated in children’s encounters with reading and writing, however she suggested that future research investigate the applicability of her results to other cultural and ethnic groups. The present study of African American kindergartners from a predominately low-income elementary school represents such an investigation.

Research Questions
Despite evidence that autonomy-support is an important consideration for motivated literacy behaviors, there has been little empirical attention to the comparison of how autonomy-supportive and controlling interactions influence young children’s motivation for emergent literacy. Additionally, there has been little work on the motivation of African American children from low-income communities (Graham, 1994), especially concerning the contextual influences on their motivation to engage in early literacy behaviors.

The present study addresses these issues by examining children's intrinsic motivation during an emergent writing task in both controlling and autonomy-supportive interactions. Using a repeated-measures design, African American kindergartners from a predominately low-income elementary school were randomly assigned to experience either the autonomy-supportive followed by the controlling interaction or the controlling followed by the autonomy-supportive interaction. There were three main hypotheses. First, we examined whether the same child's intrinsic motivation changed depending upon the context of the adult-child interaction. We hypothesized that children would make more statements of independent-mastery, interest, and competence in the autonomy-supportive context than in the controlling context. This prediction was based on numerous studies demonstrating that autonomy-supportive interpersonal contexts are positively correlated with independent mastery, perceived competence, and interest (Deci, Nezlek, et al., 1981; Deci, Schwartz, et al., 1981; Ryan & Grolnick, 1986).

Second, the order of the autonomy-supportive and controlling interaction was considered. We hypothesized that children experiencing the controlling interaction first would demonstrate less interest and competence, and more dependent mastery in the subsequent autonomy-supportive context than children who experience the autonomy-supportive interaction first. This prediction was based on research demonstrating that when controlled, children display less intrinsic motivation in similar, subsequent activities (Swann & Pittman, 1977; Zuckerman et al., 1978).

Third, we examined the quality of children's writing product in both autonomy-supportive and controlling interactions. It was expected that children's written products in the autonomy-supportive context would be more emergent-looking than their written products in the controlling context. This was based on previous research suggesting that children in autonomy-supportive contexts engage in more emergent literacy behaviors (e.g., scribbles, invented spellings, and letter-strings), whereas children in controlling contexts use more conventional spelling and writing dictated by adults (Burns & Casberque, 1992).

Method
Sample and context
The sample consisted of 20 African American kindergarten-age children (10 boys and 10 girls). The children were recruited from a kindergarten class in a public elementary school in a low-income suburb of Detroit. There was both a morning class and an afternoon class with approximately 25 children each. Ten children from the morning class and 10 children from the afternoon class participated in the study. These children were randomly selected from the African American children in both classes.

The kindergarten class had one teacher and an aide. The teacher frequently interacted with the children, while the aide organized the classroom materials. The teacher followed a routine, but was flexible in her approach. She frequently read to the children and many of her lessons incorporated writing. The classroom was organized around centers that included a writing and computer center.

Materials
All interactions took place in a small conference room in the children's school. The first researcher and a child sat side by side at a table. The researcher sat on the right-hand side of all the children. Writing materials that were used in the activity were placed on the table, including primary color markers and white paper.

The researcher used a a specific script for the controlling interactions, and another for the autonomy-supportive interactions. In order to simulate parent-child interactions, these two frameworks were developed from transcripts of parents and their children from the Burns and Casbergue (1992) study. In particular, the script for each interaction was based on one or two transcripts that exemplified either a controlling or autonomy-supportive context.

A video camera was in the room and visible to the child. The camera was placed directly in front of and focused on the faces of the researcher and the child in order to record their affect throughout the interactions. A second researcher videotaped and took notes on the interactions. She also monitored the first researcher for consistency in following the interaction script.

Procedure
Data collection occurred during a two-week period in March. Using a repeated-measures design, the first researcher wrote a letter with each of the 20 children in both the controlling and autonomy-supportive interactions. Writing a letter was chosen as an authentic task since it is an activity that young children are likely to have knowledge of, both from emergent literacy activities prior to school and in school through activities such as notes that are regularly sent to and from school. This task was also chosen because of the different ways in which a letter can be written, from an adult-controlled perspective that does not necessarily honor the child's emerging literacy to an adult autonomy-supportive perspective that accepts and supports the child's emergent literacy skills.

Order effects were controlled by random assignment of children to either the controlling followed by autonomy-supportive interaction or the reverse ordered interaction. For consistency throughout the study, and to avoid excess variables in the interactions, the first researcher alone interacted with all of the children on the letter-writing task in both the controlling and autonomy-supportive contexts.

The researcher took one child at a time and walked with him or her to the room where the videotaping was to take place. During that time, she talked with the child and often held the child's hand. Once they were in the room, the researcher interacted with the child according to the following guidelines:

Autonomy-Supportive Guidelines
In autonomy-supportive contexts, the adult allows the child to make his/her own choices; asks the child a where, when, who, tell me about or why question; uses phatics (e.g. yes, uh-huh, okay) to indicate that he/she understands the child, is listening and perhaps interested; and provides guidance that is informational rather than controlling (Deci & Ryan, 1987; Hess & Shipman, 1965; Laosa, 1980; Ryan et al., 1985; Tizard, Hughes, Pinkerton, & Carmichael, 1982; Wood, 1980).

In the autonomy-supportive context of the study, the researcher first provided information about the task to the child. The researcher then asked the child whom he or she was going to write to, what he or she was going to write about, and what color marker he or she was going use to write the letter. The researcher used phatics and repeated what the child said in order to indicate that she understood and was listening to the child. The researcher did not offer unsolicited help to the child; however, the she answered the child's questions if the child specifically asked for help. The researcher also allowed the child to write autonomously without disturbing the child.

Writing - Controlling Guidelines
In controlling contexts, the adult demonstrates how to complete at least one step of the task, corrects the child's performance, limits the child's choices, or verbally commands the child to pursue a given course of action (Deci & Ryan, 1987; Hess & Shipman, 1965; Laosa, 1980; Tizard et al., 1982; Wood, 1980). The adult uses directives (e.g., "put," "place," "take," etc.) and statements of "should," "must," and so forth (Ryan, Mims, & Koestner, 1983). The adult decides what is right and utilizes highly controlling sanctions to produce the desired behavior (Deci, Nezlek, et al., 1981).

In the controlling context of the present study, the researcher first told the child about the task. The child was then told whom to write to and what to write about. The researcher told the child that he or she should write a letter to his/her mother and tell her what she/he did in school yesterday. In order to demonstrate the task, the researcher had queried the classroom teacher about a recent event that the child would have taken part in. In the session, the researcher asked the child a series of yes/no questions about the classroom event which would be the content of the letter. The researcher then asked the child whether he/she wanted her to write the letter for him/her. If the researcher wrote the letter, she wrote several sentences and then told the child to sign his or her name and draw a small picture. If the child wrote the letter, the researcher told the child what to write, where to write it, and how to spell it. The researcher also demonstrated how to write certain letters and words by placing her hand over the child's hand.

Coding System
Children's intrinsic motivation was assessed using categories based on Harter’s (1981) Scale of Intrinsic-Extrinsic Orientation in the Classroom and Harter’s (1982) Perceived Competence Scale for Children. Harter’s (1981) Scale of Intrinsic-Extrinsic Orientation in the Classroom draws on the following five dimensions defined by an intrinsic and extrinsic pole: preference for challenge versus preference for easy work, interest versus teacher approval, independent mastery versus dependence on the teacher, independent judgment versus reliance on the teacher’s judgment, and internal versus external criteria for success/failure. Harter’s (1982) Perceived Competence Scale for Children defines three discreet domains of self-evaluation that are specific to various types of competence as well as to general satisfaction with the self. These three domains of perceived competence are cognitive (competence in academics), social (competence in relation to peers), and physical (mostly competence in sports related activities), and include children’s general self-esteem (i.e., the degree to which one likes oneself as a person).

In this study, the motivational categories were based on two of Harter's (1981) intrinsic dimensions (independent mastery and interest) and one of Harter’s (1982) perceived competence domains (cognitive). The other categories in each of Harter’s scales were not considered since preliminary analyses revealed that the children did not verbalize them. Children's written products were assessed using categories based on the Forms of Writing and Rereading Checklist developed by Sulzby (1990).

Intrinsic motivation
Children's intrinsic motivation was coded using the videotapes through examination of children's statements. From the videotapes, transcripts were made of all the children's statements along with a description of their context. Children's statements were defined as those statements that were not direct answers to the adult's questions or repetitions of the adult's comments. Statements were defined according to a turn-taking pattern of adult-child exchanges. Reliability was assessed between the first and second researchers on five children in both interactions. There was perfect agreement in the number of children's statements.

The children's statements were coded using categories based on Harter's scales (1981, 1982). These categories are mutually exclusive; that is, each statement was coded into only one category, and no statements overlapped into more than one category. The motivational categories included:

1. Mastery - The child comments on or asks a question about his/her letter.
a. Independent - The child tells the adult how to write or spell a word or letter, what he/she is going
to write about or what he/she already wrote, when he/she wants to begin or finish writing, where
he/she is going to write, or what color marker he/she wants to write with.
b. Dependent - The child asks the adult how to write or spell a word or letter, what he/she should
write about or what he/she already wrote, when he/she should begin or finish writing, or where
he/she should write.
2. Interest - The child comments about his/her interest in writing the letter.
a. Claim - The child comments that he/she had fun writing the letter, that he/she wants to write
another one, or that he/she wants to write more.
b. Deny - The child comments that writing the letter is boring or that he/she is tired of writing the letter.
3. Competence - The child comments specifically on his/her cognitive ability in writing the letter.
a. Claim - The child comments that he/she knows how to write or spell a word, wrote a word or
letter correctly, or wrote a good letter.
b. Deny - The child comments that he/she does not know how to write or spell a word, wrote a
letter or word incorrectly, or does not know what to write.

The other verbal categories are:
1. Comment
The child comments about his/her class, superficial aspects of task itself, or his/her personal life.
The child asks the adult what she said.
2. Completion
The child completes the adult's statement.

Reliability was also assessed between the first and second researchers on five children in both interactions for each of the motivational categories. Mean reliability for the motivational categories was .98. The reliability was .88 for independent mastery and 1.00 for dependent mastery, claimed competence, denied competence, claimed interest, and denied interest.

Forms of writing
Children's forms of writing were coded using the children's written product from both the autonomy-supportive and controlling contexts. The children's written products were divided into several categories based on their relative level of emergent versus conventional writing. These categories were based on Sulzby's (1990) Forms of Writing and Rereading Checklist. For each written product, the categories were evaluated as present or absent. All forms of writing on the children’s letters were coded. The categories included:

1. Drawing
2. Letter-like units: These resemble manuscript letters but appear to be forms the child has created.
3. Nonphonemic Letter-strings:
a. Random- Letters that appear to be generated at random.
b. Patterned- Letters that have reoccurring patterns, particularly in alternating vowels and consonants.
c. Name-elements- The letters of the child's name recombined in numerous ways.
4. Invented Spelling: The creative or invented spelling of words.
5. Conventional: Words that approximate dictionary or "correct" spelling.
a. Adult-Produced- Words written or dictated by adult.
b. Child-Produced- Words written and composed by child.

Reliability between the first and second researcher was assessed on five children in both interactions. Mean reliability for the forms of writing was .94.

Results
Intrinsic Motivation
Multivariate analyses of variance including Order (2) as the between-subjects variable and Context (2) as the within-subjects variable or repeated-measures effect were performed separately on eight dependent variables: independent mastery, dependent mastery, claimed competence, denied competence, claimed interest, denied interest, comment, and completion. As evident in, there was a significant main effect of Context for interest F (1, 18) = 8.32, (p < .01). Children in the autonomy-supportive context made more statements of interest than children in the controlling context. There was also a significant main effect of Order for dependent mastery F(1, 18) = 4.82, (p <.05). Means indicated that children in the controlling followed by autonomy-supportive interaction made more statements of dependent mastery than children in the autonomy-supportive followed by controlling interaction.

There was also a significant interaction between Order and Context for the dependent variable independent mastery F (1, 18) = 4.58, (p <.05). In fact, the range(s) between the levels of independent mastery obtained in the autonomy-supportive context and the controlling context differed according to which context came first (Order). As shown in Figure 1, when the autonomy-supportive context was first, the mean of independent mastery was 5.7 statements, but this value declined to 2.5 in the immediately following controlling context. The pattern was very different when the controlling context was first: the level of independent mastery began at the negligible level of .5 statements, but climbed steeply to 31.3 in the following autonomy-supportive context (see Table 1).

Figure 1. Interaction between context and order for independent mastery.


Table 1
Mean Numbers of Children's Statements in the Controlling followed by Autonomy-Supportive Context and Autonomy-Supportive followed by Controlling Context

Categories
Context
1. C followed by A-S
n=10
2. A-S followed by C
n=10
Mastery
Control
A-S
A-S
Control
Independent
.5
31.3
2.8
5.7
Dependent
2.8
11.1
1.2
1.2
Competence
Claim
7
1.3
.3
.4
Deny
1.0
4.4
.3
1.2
Interest
Claim
0.0
1.2
.1
0.0
Deny
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
Comment
.5
11.9
.9
1.7
Completion
.5
0.0
.9
1.5

Forms of Writing
Again, multivariate analyses of variance including Order (2) as the between-subjects variable and Context (2) as the within-subjects variable or repeated-measures effect were performed separately on eight additional dependent variables: drawing, letter-like units, random letter-strings, patterned letter-strings, name-elements, invented spelling, adult-produced conventional words, and child-produced conventional words. There were significant main effects of Context for drawing F(1, 18) = 18.00, p <.0001, letter-like units F(1, 18) = 6.08, p <.03, random letter-strings F(1,18) = 10.76, p <.01, patterned letter-strings F(1, 18) = 14.40, p <.001, name-elements F(1,18) = 22.22, p <.0001, adult-produced conventional words F(1,18) = 61.36, p <.0001, and child-produced conventional words F(1,18) = 4.8, p <.05. Children’s written products in the autonomy-supportive context included more drawings, letter-like units, random letter-strings, patterned letter-strings, name-elements, and child produced conventional words than in the controlling context (see Table 2). Moreover, the written products included more adult-produced conventional words in the controlling context than in the autonomy-supportive context. Although children’s written products in the autonomy-supportive context included more invented spelling than in the controlling context, the difference was not statistically significant.

Table 2
Mean Numbers of Children's Forms of Writing in Controlling and
Autonomy-Supportive Contexts

Categories
Context
Controlling
Autonomy-Supportive
Drawing
.2
1.0
Letter-like Units
0.0
.5
Nonphonemic
Letter-strings
Random
0.0
.1
Patterned
0.0
.8
Name-elements
0.0
1.1
Invented Spelling
0.0
.1
Conventional
Adult Produced
1.9
0.0
Child Produced
0.0
.4

Discussion
This study revealed three major findings.The context of the letter writing task did influence children’s intrinsic motivation. In the autonomy-supportive context, children demonstrated more interest in the letter writing task than they did in the controlling context. Second, the order of the interactions affected children’s motivation. Children who experienced the controlling followed by autonomy-supportive interaction made more statements of dependent mastery than children who experienced the autonomy-supportive followed by controlling interaction. However, children in the controlling followed by autonomy-supportive group also made more statements of independent mastery in the autonomy-supportive context than children in the autonomy-supportive followed by controlling group. Third, children used more emergent literacy in the autonomy-supportive context than in the controlling context. When children were in the autonomy-supportive context, they included more drawings, more letter-like units, more random and patterned letter-strings, more name-elements, more child-produced conventional words and less adult-produced conventional words in their letter than when they were in the controlling context. Each of these findings will be discussed below.

The present study supports previous research indicating that autonomy-support has a positive influence on children's motivation for literacy. This study also expands past research by demonstrating this association in the framework of an emergent literacy task and, in particular, for low-income African American children. Our study found that the same children demonstrated more interest in the autonomy-supportive context than in controlling context. This finding is especially important since few studies have examined the motivational influences on African American children (Graham, 1994). In support of Turner’s (1995) findings with middle-income European American children, our results suggest that low-income African American children's motivation to engage in literacy tasks are not determined solely by a general orientation toward extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, but rather may also be situated in their encounters with reading and writing.

Our study also supports previous research indicating that the context in which child learns new skills may affect their intrinsic motivation in that skill domain in the future (Boggiano et al., 1988; Deci & Ryan, 1985). In particular, our study suggests that a controlling context in which a child engages in an emergent literacy task may undermine their subsequent motivation for that task. As predicted, we found that children in the controlling followed by the autonomy-supportive group demonstrated more dependent mastery in both the controlling and autonomy-supportive contexts than children in the autonomy-supportive followed by the controlling group. However, we also found that children in the controlling followed by autonomy-supportive interaction made more statements of independent mastery in the autonomy-supportive context than children in the autonomy-supportive followed by controlling interaction. These unexpected findings may be explained, in part, by the children's prior knowledge of letter writing. As kindergartners, these children are likely to have had few experiences with letter writing. Indeed, when visiting their classroom, we did not observe any classroom lessons on writing a letter. Since research in emergent literacy clearly indicates that many facets of children's literacy development are facilitated through adult guidance, these children may have been more receptive to instruction when first learning how to write a letter. Therefore, although children in the controlling followed by autonomy-supportive interaction elicited more adult help, they also demonstrated more independent mastery because they had more previous adult guidance concerning how to write a letter.

Our study also highlights the importance of autonomy-supportive contexts for children's literacy productions. As expected, the controlling context discouraged emergent literacy behaviors and limited children's opportunities to engage in natural literacy practices. In contrast, the autonomy-supportive context allowed children to write in their own way. As a result, in the autonomy-supportive context, children used many forms of emergent writing such as drawing, scribbling, and invented spellings and wrote for relatively long periods of time without soliciting adult help. These children showed such behaviors as maintaining a flow of writing while changing colors of markers, keeping an attentive eye on the paper, occasionally sounding out words, or saying letters aloud. This suggests that autonomy-supportive environments are important in encouraging children's gradual and natural literacy development.

Implications
This study has important, practical implications concerning the context in which literacy occurs. According to Teale (1982), children's literacy environments do not have independent existence, but rather they are constructed in the interactions between children and the persons around them. Our findings support Teale’s (1982) contention by suggesting that children’s motivation for emergent literacy is situated in their encounters with others and in the environment in which such encounters occur. And, as our data indicate, the context, whether autonomy supportive or controlling, in which children learn literacy tasks may not only affect their present motivation but may also influence their subsequent motivation for that task. Practically, teachers may allow children more freedom in daily literacy instruction and be more open to children’s emergent literacy behaviors. Both teachers and parents might also be more aware of how their language may affect children’s motivation for literacy. Whereas controlling language such as verbal commands or criticisms and statements of "should" may undermine children’s motivation, open-ended questions, the use of phatics, and repeating what children say may encourage children’s motivation for emergent literacy.

Our study also highlights the importance of scaffolding for emergent literacy. In particular, our data suggest that children’s literacy development is facilitated through adult guidance especially when learning a new task such as writing a letter. As Teale (1982) asserted, literacy learning is not an independent and purely autonomous activity. In addition to autonomy-support, emergent writers also need guidance, involvement, and structure. What seems important is the right combination of structure, a warm and supportive environment, and positively motivated role models (Grolnick & Ryan, 1992). In order to encourage natural literacy learning, teachers and parents need to give children the freedom of choice, encourage expressiveness and initiation, and provide guidance and structure that is informational rather than controlling.

Conclusions
This study provides both theoretical and practical insights into children’s motivated literacy learning, however, much research remains to be done. First, although we chose an authentic task for our study, this work was not embedded in the social context of children’s everyday lives. Interactions in children’s home and classroom environments have an important influence on their intrinsic motivation. For example, in our study, the children’s motivation may have been affected by previous writing interactions with the teacher. However, since our study was limited to one classroom, we could not determine how classroom interactions influenced the children’s motivated literacy behaviors beyond the effects of our study. Future research may collect data from several classrooms to determine how past writing interactions with teachers influence students’ motivation. Future research may also examine the effects of the classroom environment in interaction with the effects of the home environment. For example, can a more autonomy-supportive context in the home compensate for a more controlling context in the classroom?

Second, although we used a repeated-measures design, our study examined only a small time frame for these children. Further research may investigate the longitudinal effects of context on children’s motivation for literacy. For example, how does the context, whether autonomy-supportive or controlling, in which children engage in early literacy learning influence their literacy behaviors as they grow older? Moreover, can more autonomy-supportive contexts in children’s later literacy experiences facilitate increased motivated engagements with literacy?

In conclusion, motivation is clearly an important factor in children’s early engagements with literacy. As our data suggest, the controlling nature of the context in which children learn literacy may not only limit children’s opportunities to use emergent literacy, they may also undermine their motivation to do so. Evidently, researchers and educators need to place sharper attention on how the nature of the context influences children’s motivation for emergent literacy.

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This research was conducted as part of CIERA, the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement, and supported under the Educational Research and Development Centers Program, PR/Award Number R305R70004, as administered by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. However, the contents of the described report do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum, and Assessment or the National Institute on Early Childhood development, or the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

© 2001 CIERA. All rights reserved.