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What makes performance tasks motivating: Influences of task characteristics, gender and ethnicity

Jeffrey K. Smith, Alison Gilmore, David Berg, Lisa F. Smith and Madgerie Jameson-Charles

The characteristics of performance tasks that make them appealing to students in a low-stakes environment were investigated with data from the National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP) of New Zealand. Random samples of Year 4 (8-year-old) and Year 8 (12-year-old) students were assessed using a set of performance tasks in the areas of mathematics, information skills and social studies. Students indicated whether they particularly liked or disliked each task, or whether they were neutral in their reactions to them. Each task was scored on a set of task characteristics generated from the literature and from experienced assessment experts. The characteristics of tasks were then related to students’ liking of the tasks. Additionally, the effects of year in school, gender and ethnicity were examined, along with the influence of the individuals in charge of administering the tasks. Students’ liking of tasks was also related to their performances on those tasks.

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