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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 8, 2005

UI's Reeve Wins Thomas N. Urban Research Award

University of Iowa education professor Johnmarshall Reeve is the recipient of the 2005 Thomas N. Urban Research Award for his study showing that teachers with the proper training can create autonomy in the classroom that spurs students to be more engaged and successful.

Reeve, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UI College of Education's Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, will receive the award during a banquet in Des Moines this fall. The award includes a $2,000 check from the First In the Nation in Education (FINE) Foundation, which sponsors the Urban Award, and an additional $2,000 from the award's namesake, Tom Urban. The money will be used by Reeve to disseminate his research findings.

Reeve was selected for the award by the Iowa Academy of Education, a group of renowned researchers known nationally and internationally for their contributions to educational research. The academy was created and is supported by the FINE Foundation.

Nominated for the award by his department's interim departmental executive officer, professor Elizabeth Altmaier, Ph.D., Reeve's study examined ways in which teachers can better motivate K-12 students and, consequently, help them perform better academically and make it likelier for them to graduate.

In his study, "Enhancing Students' Engagement by Increasing Teachers' Autonomy Support," Reeve found that student motivation is affected by teaching styles, which can range from highly controlling -- in which case teachers define what students should think, feel and do -- to highly autonomy-supportive. A controlling approach tends to bypass students' inner motives for learning, while autonomy-supportive teachers tend to create classrooms that encourage students to exercise their intrinsic motivation to guide learning and activity.

In an experiment, Reeve gave training in autonomy-support techniques to teachers who were then observed by trained raters over the course of three classes. The trained teachers displayed significantly more autonomy-supportive behaviors than did non-trained teachers.

"These findings are significant because they demonstrate that teachers can be trained to implement support of student autonomy and, more important, the students of teachers who implemented the new strategies were more engaged in their learning," said Altmaier. "The findings have implications not only for classroom teachers but for all practitioners who wrestle with the question: How can I motivate others?"

A copy of Reeve's article, which was published in June 2004 in the journal Motivation and Emotion, is available from the FINE Foundation, which can be found online at

The FINE Foundation created the Urban Award in 1997 to recognize outstanding educational research efforts in Iowa. The award, given annually, is named for Thomas N. Urban, the former CEO/chairman of Pioneer Hi-Bred International and a longtime supporter of educational research.

Reeve is the third UI College of Education faculty member to receive an Urban Award since its inception in 1997. Rose Mary Zbiek won the award in 1999 for her paper, "Prospective Teachers' Use of Computing Tools to Develop and Validate Functions as Mathematical Models," and Cynthia Lewis won the award in 2002 for her "Literary Practices as Social Acts: Power, Status and Cultural Norms in the Classroom."

Reeve, who has been at the UI since 1997, holds a bachelor's degree from Tennessee Technological University's Department of Psychology and a master of science and doctoral degrees from Texas Christian University's Department of Psychology. He has also conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Rochester.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,