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UDL Guidelines - Version 2.0: Research Evidence

Checkpoint 8.2: Vary demands and resources to optimize challenge

III. Provide Multiple Means of Engagement

Sustaining Effort and Persistence


There is incredible amount of variability among students in terms of how they perceive and respond to challenging tasks. Some students are motivated by highly challenging or highly risky tasks, while others are more motivated by more predictable, “safer” tasks that are well within their capability. Providing a range of challenges, and a range of possible supports, allows all students to find objectives that are optimally motivating. The experimental research listed here explores the effects of optimizing resources and demands, and teaching within a student’s Zone of Proximal Development. Many of the scholarly reviews and expert opinions offer a more classroom-based perspective on challenge and threat appraisals, while Vygotsky’s work offers a theoretical perspective on the importance of providing options to vary the level of challenge and support.

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Experimental and Quantitative Evidence:

Blascovich, J., Mendes, W. B., Hunter, S. B., & Salomon, K. (1999). Social" facilitation" as challenge and threat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(1), 68-77.

Boggiano, A. K., Main, D. S., & Katz, P. A. (1988). Children's preference for challenge: The role of perceived competence and control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(1), 134-141.

Craig, S. D., Graesser, A. C., Sullins, J., & Gholson, B. (2004). Affect and learning: An exploratory look into the role of affect in learning with AutoTutor. Journal of Educational Media, 29(3), 241-250.

Donovan, C. A., Smolkin, L. B., & Lomax, R. G. (2000). Beyond the independent-level text: Considering the reader? Text match in first graders' self-selections during recreational reading. Reading Psychology, 21(4), 309-333.

Drach-Zahavy, A., & Erez, M. (2002). Challenge versus threat effects on the goal–performance relationship. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 88(2), 667-682.

Folkman, S., Lazarus, R. S., Dunkel-Schetter, C., DeLongis, A., & Gruen, R. J. (1986). Dynamics of a stressful encounter: Cognitive appraisal, coping, and encounter outcomes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(5), 992-1003.

Mak, A. S., Blewitt, K., & Heaven, P. C. L. (2004). Gender and personality influences in adolescent threat and challenge appraisals and depressive symptoms. Personality and Individual Differences, 36(6), 1483-1496.

Marino, M., Coyne, M., & Dunn, M. (2010). The effect of technology-based altered readability levels on struggling readers science comprehension. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 29(1), 31-49.

Montague, M., & Applegate, B. (2000). Middle school students’ perceptions, persistence, and performance in mathematical problem solving. Learning Disability Quarterly, 23(3), 215-227.

Oermann, M. H., & Standfest, K. M. (1997). Differences in stress and challenge in clinical practice among ADN and BSN students in varying clinical courses. The Journal of Nursing Education, 36(5), 228-233.

Ohta, A. S. (1995). Applying sociocultural theory to an analysis of learner discourse: Learner-learner collaborative interaction in the Zone of Proximal Development. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 6(2), 93-121.

Pagana, K. D. (1990). The relationship of hardiness and social support to student appraisal of stress in an initial clinical nursing situation. The Journal of Nursing Education, 29(6), 255-261.

Salomon, G., Globerson, T., & Guterman, E. (1989). The computer as a Zone of Proximal Development: Internalizing reading-related metacognitions from a reading partner. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(4), 620-627.

Stahl, E., Pieschl, S., & Bromme, R. (2006). Task complexity, epistemological beliefs and metacognitive calibration: An exploratory study. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 35(4), 319-338.

Tang, S. Y. F. (2003). Challenge and support: The dynamics of student teachers’ professional learning in the field experience. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19(5), 483-498.

Tomaka, J., Blascovich, J., Kibler, J., & Ernst, J. M. (1997). Cognitive and physiological antecedents of threat and challenge appraisal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(1), 63-72.

Tomaka, J., Blascovich, J., Kelsey, R. M., & Leitten, C. L. (1993). Subjective, physiological, and behavioral effects of threat and challenge appraisal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(2), 248-260.

Vick, S. B., Seery, M. D., Blascovich, J., & Weisbuch, M. (2008). The effect of gender stereotype activation on challenge and threat motivational states. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(3), 624-630.

Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17(2), 89-100.

Scholarly reviews and expert opinions:

Blascovich, J., & Mendes, W. B. (2000). Challenge and threat appraisals: The role of affective cues. In J. P. Forgas (Ed.), Feeling and thinking: The role of affect in social cognition (pp. 59-82). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Brabham, E. G., & Villaume, S. K. (2002). Leveled text: The good news and the bad news. Reading Teacher, 55(5), 438-441.

Coyne, M. D., Kame'enui, E. J., & Simmons, D. C. (2004). Improving beginning reading instruction and intervention for students with LD: Reconciling" all" with" each". Journal of Learning Disabilities, 37(3), 231.

Hedegaard, M. (1996). The Zone of Proximal Development as basis for instruction. In H. Daniels (Ed.), An introduction to Vygotsky (pp. 171–195). London: Routledge.

Onosko, J. J., & Jorgenson, C. M. (1998). Unit and lesson planning in the inclusive classroom: Maximizing learning opportunities for all students. In C. M. Jorgenson (Ed.), Restructuring high schools for all students: Taking inclusion to the next level (pp. 71-105). Baltimore, Maryland: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Suarez, D. (2007). When students choose the challenge. Educational Leadership, 65(3), 60-65.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1964). Thought and language. Annals of Dyslexia, 14(1), 97-98.

Last Updated: 02/03/2011

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