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Teachers' motivational prosody: a pre‐registered experimental test of children's reactions to tone of voice used by teachers

Paulmann, S. ORCID: and Weinstein, N. ORCID: (2023) Teachers' motivational prosody: a pre‐registered experimental test of children's reactions to tone of voice used by teachers. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 93 (2). pp. 437-752. ISSN 2044-8279

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/bjep.12567


Background: Teachers' behaviours drive motivational climates that shape children's engagement and well‐being in the classroom, but few studies examine how specific teachers' behaviours such as wording, body language, or voice contribute to these outcomes in isolation of one another. Aims: This pre‐registered experiment sought to examine the often‐forgotten role that teachers' tone of voice plays in children's education. Informed by the theoretical framework of self‐determination theory (SDT; Ryan & Deci, Self‐determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness, 2017), conditions manipulated controlling (pressuring, demanding), autonomy‐supportive (inviting of choice), or motivationally neutral, tones of voice to explore their effects on children's self‐reported psychological needs satisfaction, well‐being, intention to self‐disclose to and intention to cooperate with their teacher. Sample and Method: Children aged 10–16 years (n = 250) heard pre‐recorded teachers' voices holding sentence content and speakers constant across conditions, but varying tones of voice. Results: We hypothesized a‐priori and found that when children heard controlling sounding voices, they anticipated lower basic psychological need satisfaction, well‐being, and intention to disclose to teachers, as compared to neutral‐sounding voices. We also anticipated beneficial effects for autonomy‐supportive versus neutral voices, but pre‐registered analyses did not support these expectations. Intention to cooperate with teachers did not differ across conditions. Supporting relational motivation theory (RMT; Deci & Ryan, Human Motivation and Interpersonal Relationships, 2014), exploratory analyses showed that hearing autonomy‐supportive sounding voices increased autonomy and relatedness need satisfactions (but not competence need satisfaction), and through doing so indirectly related to beneficial outcomes (well‐being, intention to cooperate and self‐disclose). Conclusion: In summary, tones of voice seem to play an important role in shaping teachers' impact on their students.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:109214
Uncontrolled Keywords:education, motivation, prosody, self‐determination theory, teachers
Publisher:The British Psychological Society


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