The conflict between on-task and off-task actions in the classroom and its consequences for motivation and achievement

  • Britta Kilian
  • Manfred Hofer
  • Stefan Fries
  • Claudia Kuhnle


The relations between students’ value orientations, decisions in conflicts between on-task and off-task actions in the classroom, and experiences of motivational interference following these conflicts were investigated. It was expected that well-being value orientation was positively linked and achievement value orientation was negatively linked to decision for off-task behavior in such conflicts and that the higher students’ well-being value orientation, the higher their motivational impairment when deciding for the on-task behavior and the lower when deciding for the off-task behavior. For achievement orientation, the relationships were predicted to be reversed. The experience of motivational interference while performing on-task behavior was, in turn, expected to be related to worse grades. Data from 817 students (mean age 13.44) from 35 classrooms were collected using self-report questionnaires and analyzed in a series of hierarchical linear models. Analyses showed the relationships as predicted. All relationships found were comparable to the relationships found for a conflict between school and leisure actions after class. Results point out that even if students resist the off-task temptation in class, the mere possibility of off-task behavior can impair motivation and achievement.


Learning motivation Motivational interference Off-task behavior School–leisure conflict Value orientation 


Dans le présent ouvrage, les décisions des élèves en cas de conflits entre un comportement attentif et inattentif en classe ont été analysées en même temps que leurs sentiments durant cette interférence motivationnelle. L’hypothèse de travail était que l’orientation vers les valeurs de bien-être avait une corrélation positive tandis que celle vers les valeurs de réussite scolaire corrélait négativement avec la décision pour l’inattention en classe et que, avec une plus grande orientation vers le bien-être, l’élève se trouvait moins motivé dans la décision pour la réussite scolaire et plus motivé, s’il optait pour l’inattention et vice versa en cas d’orientation inverse. Il était supposé que cette interférence motivationnelle correspondait à des résultats scolaires inférieurs. Les données de 817 élèves (moyenne d’âge 13.44) dans 35 classes ont été collectionnées à l’aide d’un questionnaire d’autoévaluation et analysées en utilisant des modèles hiérarchiques linéaires. Ces analyses confirment les relations comme prévues. Toutes les relations étaient comparables aux relations de conflits entre le travail pour l’école et les activités de loisirs d’après-midi. Les résultats montrent que même si l’élève résiste à la tentation de l’inattention en classe, la seule possibilité du comportement inattentif peut gêner la motivation et la réussite scolaire.



The study presented in this paper was supported by the research grant HO 649/19-1 by the German Research Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa, Portugal and Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Britta Kilian
    • 1
  • Manfred Hofer
    • 1
  • Stefan Fries
    • 2
  • Claudia Kuhnle
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of MannheimMannheimGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany

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