Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Alan Goodboy

Committee Co-Chair

Matthew Martin

Committee Member

Matthew Martin

Committee Member

Scott Myers

Committee Member

Liesel Sharabi

Committee Member

Karen Rambo-Hernandez


The purpose of this dissertation was to extend the self-determination theory literature by investigating the utility of the choose your own lecture method of instruction. This method of instruction allows students to control the direction of a lesson. In line with the theoretical propositions of SDT, the researcher hypothesized that this style of teaching would support students’ inner motivational resources (i.e., autonomy-need satisfaction and intrinsic motivation) and in turn, foster students’ interest in the topic of the lesson, free-choice persistence, cognitive learning, affect for the course, and expressive dissent. A 50-minute live-lecture experiment on environmental communication (climate change, risk communication, communicating sustainability, and advocacy campaigns) was conducted which randomly assigned students to attend either a lesson where students were given the opportunity to choose the direction of the lesson (treatment) or were given no choice over the direction of the lesson (control). Participants were 207 undergraduate students who were provided minimal extra credit points for attending a lesson on environmental communication, reporting on their autonomy-need satisfaction and intrinsic motivation to learn, affect for the course, interest in the topic of climate change, free-choice persistence, intentions to expressively dissent, as well as answering a short test on the material. In contrast to the predictions, the provision of choice during the lesson did not indirectly (through students’ intrinsic motivation to learn) or directly influence students’(a) affect for the course, (b) interest in climate change, (c) free-choice persistence, (d) expressive dissent, and (e) cognitive learning. However, as SDT would posit, students’ intrinsic motivation to learn did influence their interest in the topic, likelihood of signing up for free opportunities to learn more about environmental communication, affect for the course, and slightly increased their cognitive learning. Thus, the findings seem to suggest that incorporating this style of teaching into the classroom may not be worth instructors’ time to intrinsically motivate their students. The theoretical and instructional (especially for online instruction) implications of the findings are discussed.