Virtual Choir

Theoretical Frameworks

Mom, you don’t need to read this blog post.  But for anyone who is interested in motivational theory, read on!

I am currently researching the Virtual Choir project.  There are many things that I find fascinating about the project, but primarily I am interested in motivation.  The primary theoretical framework of motivation that I am drawing on is Deci and Ryan’s, Self-Determination Theory (SDT) (Ryan & Deci, 2000). 

SDT is defined as, “an approach to human motivation and personality that uses traditional empirical methods while employing an organismic metatheory that highlights the importance of humans’ evolved inner resources for personality development and behavioral self-regulation” (as cited in Ryan & Deci, 2000, p. 68). This theory allows and encourages educational research to use traditional empirical methods, but also paying careful attention to intrinsic desires.

In other words, it is very important to consider intrinsic motivation factors when you desire completion of a task.  According to this research, adding external rewards (attaching a grade to a project, paying someone for work they are already interested in, etc.) , can actually decrease the motivation of a learner. In a participatory environment where each person is there for their own reasons, the intrinsic motivation factors become very important.


Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68.


How did you validate your study?

Q. How were the categories used in your survey developed? Validated? Analyzed? How do you carry out thematic analysis?

The categories in my survey were developed and built in part, based on a larger survey developed in our larger research group with Dr. Bonk that has been with a variety of populations.  We had 159 participants respond to the larger survey after Dr. Bonk’s MOOC last summer and we had over 1,400 survey responses to users of MIT OpenCourseWare. My study questions and categories, however, were meant to be a simpler version of the larger survey. We established face validity, which is a qualitative measure of validity, through multiple rounds of review within the research group, as well as expert review from Dr. Bonk.  To be clear, the survey was simply meant to guide participants and inform the participant interviews, which would go deeper into investigating the research questions. The survey responses were analyzed primarily using descriptive statistics only as this was a limited sample size and face validity is not quantified with statistical methods. This is a clear limitation of the first part of this study that I want to improve on in future research.

The thematic analysis that is ongoing follows Braun and Clarke’s, 2006 paper that outlines a 6 phase guide to performing thematic analysis. This is also a recursive process that involves constantly moving back and forth through the phases, and as I am finding out, may take longer than initially expected.  (The six phases are 1. Familiarizing yourself with the data. 2. Generating initial codes. 3. Searching for themes. 4. Reviewing themes. 5. Defining and naming themes. 6. Producing the report.) I am currently in the coding phase and moving into the themes phase.  Some of my initial codes relate to elements of the survey such as “global nature of the project,” or “I love Whitacre’s music,” but other emergent codes have emerged more directly related to specific singing techniques such as “improved breath control,” or “learning about American styles of choral singing compared to classical European styles.”

Sampling in your study

Q. What were the gender representations in your study?

Overall, there were 77 respondents that completed the survey. However, 9 of the respondents indicated that they did not participate, but were fans of the project only and for the purposes of this study, they were excluded from the results leaving n=68.  Of the participants, 49 identify as female (~70%) and 18 identify as male (~30%). 1 participant did not report gender.

For the participant interviews, I interviewed 14 participants and 7 were male and 7 were female.  Since a large portion of the survey results suggested that participation in a global project was a high motivation factor so I selected individuals from various regions.  I interviewed 6 individuals from North America (including Hawaii), 5 from Europe, and 3 from Asia.