Camp Supports for Motivation and Interest: A Mixed-Methods Study


  • Ann Gillard
  • Clifton E. Watts
  • Peter A. Witt


camp, interest, motivation, mixed-methods, adolescent girls


Participation in recreation activities is often performed because participants are interested in and regulated by internal motivation. Self-Determination Theory (2000) suggests that motivation and interest in these activities depend on participants’ perceptions of support for their basic needs to experience relatedness, demonstrate competence, and exercise autonomy. This theory suggests that when people have these three basic needs met, they are more likely to feel self-determined, or free to do what is interesting, valued, and personally significant to them. The purpose of this study was to understand how the anticipatory state of motivation to attend camp and perceptions of camp context were associated with the reflective state of interest in camp at its conclusion. Camp context is defined in this study as the combination of program goals, atmosphere, and activities (Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2003) found within a residential living environment. This mixed-methods study compared a skill-acquisition program (horseback riding) with an experience-based (leisureoriented) program to understand if differences existed between these programs on participant measures of motivation to attend, support for basic needs for self-determination, and interest in camp. Analysis of data from questionnaires indicated that interest was positively correlated with campers’ perceived context support of relatedness, autonomy control, peer support of competence, and internal motivation, and was negatively correlated with amotivation. Campers in experience-based programs scored highest on amotivation, while those in skill acquisition programs scored highest on interest, peer support of competence, and internal motivation. Peer support of competence (and to a lesser extent, relatedness) positively predicted interest in camp regardless of external motivation levels and countered the effects of amotivation. Data from interviews supported the quantitative results, and identified marked qualitative differences between program types in campers’ motivation to attend camp, perceptions of support for basic needs, and interest in camp. While camp context could influence interest, youth who were internally motivated to attend camp were highest in their reports of levels of interest at the end of camp. Additionally, regardless of program type, feelings of competence from peers were significantly predictive of interest. Anticipatory feelings about attending camp, such as expectations for skillbased activities and goals to achieve, combined with provision of informational feedback leading to competence, appear to be the driving mechanism of interest in camp. The results suggest that anticipatory motivations for camp have bearing on reported interest in camp at the end of camp. Additionally, the findings support the idea that developing connections in camp with peers who support needs for competence can help youth develop interest in camp, even if they are amotivated to attend camp. Implications from this study advocate developing pre-camp outreach services to children with the intention of fostering positive feelings and internal motivation to attend camp. Camp administrators are also provided guidance on how to create a camp context that helps connect campers to their peers and develop a sense of competence for these youth while in camp.?





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