A Meta-analysis of the Effectiveness of Intervention Programs Designed to Support Autonomy

Abstract

The twofold purpose of the present study was, first, to determine whether training intervention programs designed to help people support the autonomy of others are effective and, second, to identify the set of conditions that allowed these interventions to be most effective. A meta-analysis of the findings from 19 studies with 20 effect sizes showed that the training programs were, overall, effective with a weighted effect size of 0.63. Moderator analyses of the overall effect size showed that the relatively more effective intervention programs were structured in ways that trained multiple elements of autonomy support and were presented in relatively brief (1–3 h) sessions in a laboratory training setting that focused on skill-based activities and utilized multiple types of media to deliver its content. Furthermore, relatively effective intervention programs were offered to teachers (rather than to other professionals), trainees (rather than to experienced professionals), and individuals with an autonomy (rather than a control) causality orientation. Though the small number of included studies warrants caution, results generally affirmed the effectiveness of autonomy-supportive training programs and identified the conditions under which future programs can be designed to be highly effective.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The 18 articles included 19 independent studies because the Williams et al. (1999) investigation included two independent intervention studies. The 19 independent studies included 20 effect sizes because the deCharms (1976) investigation reported separate effect sizes for the seventh and eighth grade classes.

  2. 2.

    The deCharms (1976) study was published as a book. However, deCharms published the key findings from the same research project in a scholarly journal; see deCharms (1972). The full citation appears in the references.

  3. 3.

    In one study (Williams and Deci 1996), we were unable to convert to an individual effect size because the results were reported as standardized beta coefficients with multiple predictors. Therefore, we relied on the point biserial correlation. For the causality orientation analysis in this same study, we coded the correlations between types of causality orientation and belief of autonomy-supportive care. Furthermore, both Reeve (1998) and Weber-Gasparoni (2003) had two experimental groups. For the purposes of the present meta-analysis, we used the data from only the autonomy support group and the control group, and we calculated effect sizes from the means and standard deviations for these two conditions. In Reeve (1998), both the immediate training effect and a longitudinal training effect were investigated; however, that study did not provide sufficient information on the longitudinal training effect to calculate that effect size (so only the immediate training effect was included in the present meta-analysis).

  4. 4.

    Both Barch (2006) and Edmunds et al. (2008) reported separate results from students’ self-report data and from raters’ observation, while Reeve (1998) reported separate results from participants’ self-report data and from raters’ scoring of participants’ autonomy-supportive behavior. For the “type of dependent measure” moderator analysis, these separate effect sizes are shown in Table 6. For the overall meta-analysis, we computed and used a single overall effect size for each study by averaging the two effect sizes into a single composite.

  5. 5.

    That is, effect sizes were weighted by sample sizes, corrected individually for artifacts, adjusted for sampling errors by weighting sample sizes across studies, corrected for positive bias of d value and reliabilities of dependent measures, and we adopted the formula Var(mean corrected d) = Var(d)/K to obtain the standard error of mean corrected d and its confidence intervals.

  6. 6.

    In comparing the confidence interval from one subcategory to the confidence interval of another subcategory, it is possible for a confidence interval to be the same as the effect size (i.e., when the standard error of the mean corrected d is 0). In this case, we checked if the effect size for the subcategory fell outside the middle range of the confidence interval for the other subcategories.

  7. 7.

    Even after dropping the large effect size of d = 5.759 associated with the Edmunds et al. (2008) study—5.759 is the average of 9.67 and 1.85 from the first and third columns in Table 6, the corrected observed effect size variance (\( {{{S_{\rm e}^2}} \left/ {{S_d^2}} \right.} \)) remained well below Hunter and Schmidt’s (2004) 75% rule with a percentage of variance of 40%. Hence, we are justified to continue to test for moderators even after removing the Edmunds et al. outlier effect size.

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Acknowledgment

We express our thanks to Frank L. Schmidt for help in the interpretation of the meta-analytic results. This research was supported by the WCU (World Class University) Program founded by the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, consigned to the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation (grant no. R32-2008-000-20023-0).

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Correspondence to Yu-Lan Su.

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References marked with an asterisk (including Froiland, J. M., under review. Strengthening the intrinsic motivation of children through parental autonomy support and student intrinsic learning goals, manuscript under review; Weber-Gasparoni, K., in preparation. Effectiveness of a psychoeducational intervention for early childhood caries prevention. Paper in preparation, University of Iowa, cited in the text) indicate studies included in the meta-analysis.

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Su, Y., Reeve, J. A Meta-analysis of the Effectiveness of Intervention Programs Designed to Support Autonomy. Educ Psychol Rev 23, 159–188 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-010-9142-7

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Keywords

  • Autonomy
  • Autonomy support
  • Meta-analysis
  • Self-determination theory
  • Intervention
  • Training