Author(s):Suzanne Kapelari (presenting), Susanne Rafolt, Johannes Ruedisser, Ulrike Tappeiner, Martin Scheuch (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2015, Education and Transition

Network:15. Research Partnerships in Education


Session Information

15 SES 03 A, .

Paper Session


Room:426.Oktatóterem [C]

Chair:Elaine Hall


Students´ Monitoring Butterflies

Research has shown that in a functioning ecosystem each species, no matter how small, has an important role to play. Therefore environmental indicators are chosen and monitored to learn more how changes in particular ecosystem parameters may have a long term impact on biodiversity or ecosystem functions. Butterflies are increasingly recognized as valuable environmental indicators because many species have a rather fast life cycle and some show a repaid and sensitive response to subtle habitat or climate changes. In addition many diurnal butterflies are quite easy to identify and they are most popular with the general public as they are not only pretty but mostly do not harm humans. The latter led to a couple of initiatives engaging the public in monitoring butterflies. As a result these collaborative projects are very successful in collecting data covering large areas. Research has shown that public participation in scientific research (PPSR) are most likely to contribute to “awareness, knowledge, and/or understanding of key-scientific concepts related to the study at hand. They increase public engagement in scientific activities in the area at which PPSR projects excel and are excellent for developing science related skills“(Haywood, 2014, p.12). Thus PPSRs have a great potential to not only help scientists to generate high numbers of data, but also contribute to laypersons´ individual development. While many studies report on positive effects, others failed to “demonstrate statistically significant changes in attitudes toward science and the environment ... behaviors … or knowledge about science concepts or the scientific process …. These studies also highlight that the context in which an individual engages in informal science research has substantial implications for the long-term impacts of such engagement“(ibid, p.68). The CAISE Report on Public Participation in Scientific Research published in 2009 argues that there is a need for “significant research into motivations for members of the public to understand and participate in (scientific) research” (Haywood, 2014, p.48). Laypersons engaging in monitoring activities usually join these projects voluntary presumably because they are intrinsically motivated to do so. However this study reports on a monitoring project that aimed for encouraging young people to participate in ecological research even if this might not be their first choice right from the start. Ryan and Deci (2000) state: “To be motivated means to be moved to do something. A person who feels no impetus or inspiration to act is thus characterized as unmotivated”. However, motivation is not a unitary phenomenon but shows various shapes and characteristics that have been studied and discussed in great detail amongst scholars for decades already. While intrinsic and extrinsic types of motivations have been widely studied, this work will focus on intrinsic motivation because intrinsic motivation “has emerged as an important phenomenon for educators as it results in high-quality learning and creativity” [ibid, p 55]. The bottom line resulting from Deci and Ryan’s assumptions about intrinsic motivation development is that “experiencing feelings of competence alone will not enhance intrinsic motivation unless they are accompanied with a sense of autonomy” [ibid, p 59). In addition not only the school or project work but the home environment may facilitate or forestall the development of intrinsic motivation. We assume that understanding factors that promote intrinsic motivation development in students has the potential to improve student performance and long-term engagement in long term activities. Thus it is important to find out whether and how student’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to engage in butterfly monitoring develops in course of their first year of participation and which project specific factors might be crucial to support continuous student engagement.


The Sparkling Science project “Viel-falter - Establishing an Austrian Wide Monitoring of Diurnal Butterflies” was launched in 2013 and will continue until December 2015. The project vision is to establish a network of people engaging in monitoring butterflies all over the country. As one of the first steps “Viel-falter” is aiming to establish a lasting purpose driven cooperation between involved partners as well as with school children. 174 students, 95 girls and 79 boys at the average age of 10,4 years (2nd to 12th grade), completed an online version of the “Short Scale of Intrinsic Motivation Inventory” published by Wilde and colleagues (2009) before and after 10 month participating in the project. This questionnaire represents the factors interest/enjoyment, perceived competence, perceived choice and pressure/tension with three items each and allows us to apply statistical tests to find out whether significant changes in these items are observable. In addition they completed a set of questions in order to gain more specific information about project specific aspects. In addition the post-questionnaire was extended with seven multiple-choice questions and one open question addressing specific content knowledge required in butterfly monitoring. 30 items were covered by a five-point Likert Scale (4 = strongly agree, 3 = agree, 2 = widely disagree, 1 = strongly disagree, 0 = I don't know) and seven multiple-choice questions and one open question completed the questionnaire. The comprehensibility of the questionnaires was tested by two primary school children, grade three and four, before the questionnaires were put online. In addition 20 primary school children (4th grade) and 4 secondary school students (8th grade) were selected to participate in semi-structured interviews conducted at the end of the first project year to get a better insight into students individual intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivation development. Qualitative content analysis based on Mayring (2008) was applied and transcripts were edited with MAXQDA 10.

Expected Outcomes

The project vision is to establish a network of people engaging in monitoring butterflies all over the country. As one of the first steps “Viel-falter” was aiming to establish a lasting purpose driven cooperation between involved partners as well as with school children. Most of the students entered the project with a very high level of situated motivation and engagement and were looking forward to work with scientists and learn about butterflies. Thus it is most likely that this very high level of attainment will not be covered across the whole project duration. Questionnaire results show that students’ interest in participating in the project is decreasing slightly while students’ feeling of competence stays the same. However we experience a decrease in how students experience their freedom of choice. Although students predominately like butterflies and like to continue working in a project like the one they did, they prefer to focus on different topics after 10 months of engaging in butterflies. Although botanic topics are not very popular (Jenkins & Pell, 2006) many students said that they are interested in the flowers which are preferred by different butterfly species. Also plants and other insects are topics of choice in respect of participating in a project again. Taking our current understanding of motivation development into consideration questionnaire results indicate that because some students experienced less freedom of choice in course of the project they may not develop an intrinsic motivation to monitor butterflies over an extended period of time (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Interviews provide insight into a range of aspects that may count for explanations. Thus we conclude that if scientists aim for establishing a lasting purpose driven cooperation with their students, it is helpful to engage not only in monitoring butterflies but also in monitoring participants’ motivational development continuously.


Haywood, B.K. (2014). A “Sense of Place” in Public Participation in Scientific Research. Science Education, 98(1), pp. 64–83.
Jenkins, E. W. & Pell, R. G. (2006). The Relevance of Science Education Project (ROSE) in England: a summary of findings (Tech. Rep.). Centre for Studies in Science and Mathematics Education, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK. Retrieved from
Mayring, P. (2008). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Grundlagen und Techniken. (10. Auflage). Beltz, Weinheim.
Ryan, R.M. & Deci E.L.(2000).Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology 25, 54–67.
Wilde, M. Bätz, K. Kovaleva, A. & Urhahne, D. (2009). Testing a short scale of intrinsic motivation. Zeitschrift für Didaktik der Naturwissenschaften, 15, pp. 31- 45.

This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.

Author Information

Suzanne Kapelari (presenting)
University of Vienna
Center of Teacher Education
Susanne Rafolt
University of Innsbruck, Austria
Johannes Ruedisser
University of Innsbruck, Austria
Ulrike Tappeiner
University of Innsbruck, Austria
Martin Scheuch (presenting)
University of Vienna
Austrian Educational Compentence Centre of Biology