Academic Interests and Attitudes:  Implications
Reviews of contemporary academic interest and attitude research (Corno et al., 2002; Eccles & Wigfield, 2002; Renninger & Hidi, 2002) suggests that positive academic interests and attitudes contribute towards positive academic outcomes.  The following implications and conclusions have been gleaned from this research literature:
  • The process of interest development is dependent on a students’ level of cognitive development and is also a product of the students’ culture that supports or constrains the development of specific interests (over others).
  • Academic interests are developmental in nature.  Young children are more likely to first shift attention, recognize, and recall contents of well-developed individual interests versus. less developed interests.  As students move through their academic careers, interest and attitude toward school, in general, begins to decline.
  • Positive academic interests and attitudes are associated with deep-level (vs surface-level) learning and understanding (e.g., recall of main ideas, coherently organized recall, better transfer, more elaborate information knowledge structures).   It is believed that higher positive academic interests and attitudes result in the greater use of metacognitive learning strategies, positive affect, heightened attention, and concentration.  In general, students working with content for which they have well-developed interest process information more efficiently.
  • Positive academic interests and attitudes may be associated with the use of more imagery during learning and the development of more personalized information knowledge structures.
  • Individual students are not always self-aware of their individual interests and, thus, may not use this self-awareness information in academic goal setting.  Positive peer or adult feedback and support is believed to help students crystallize and stabilize their academic interests and attitudes.
  • Weak academic interests and attitudes can be strengthened by engaging students in tasks and subject matter that:  (a) encourages the student to commit some effort to connecting with the task or content; (b) results in success; and (c) has built-in supports (expert-others and peers). “Tasks that fit this description are typically complex, may focus on real problems, and lead learners to use and develop skills through work with multiple resources, including peers”(Renninger & Hidi, 2002, p. 180).
  • How a student perceives or “filters”the outcome of a negative learning experience influences the impact of the experience on academic interest and attitude.  Negative feedback on the heels of failure or frustration can negatively impact academic interests and attitudes.  Conversely, positive feedback and support for a learner’s positive feelings and willingness (effort) can mitigate against a decrement in academic interest and attitude.  Interest for subject areas for which a student has less-developed interest can be facilitated via the provision of multiple instances of attention to and successfull achievement.
  • School culture contributes to students’ type of goals and may influence the development of academic interests.  As per self- determination theory, less personal choice via constraints on school curricula, particularly during the middle and junior high school years, may produce less positive academic interest and attitudes.  Although the degrees of freedom in school curricula are typically governed by external constraints, providing students a sense of some control and/or choice in their academic content (via sharing perceptions of interest and personal relevance) has been suggested as a means to maintain and increase academic interest and attitudes. Autonomy combined with opportunities to build knowledge and interaction with peers provide support for changed perceptions and can lay the groundwork for the development of a student's specific interests.
  • Students that have a well-developed interest typically need less externally imposed academic targets or academic goal setting. 
  • A student with a maintained situational interest may have positive feelings about the specific content, but may not set challenges that lead to new understanding and more permanent interests.