Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Self determination theory in education
How can self determination theory be applied in educational settings?
Overview[edit | edit source]
History has shown that humans have a natural tendency to be curious and self-motivated. With a natural inclination for growth, both physically and mentally, sources of innate human motivation have forever been a topic of focus for empirical researchers. Among such research, the Self Determination Theory (SDT) has evolved as a means to explain human motivation and engagement. Comprising of 5 mini theories, the SDT is commonly used to help understand student motivation, specifically how classroom conditions may interfere with or support motivation, leading to academic success (Reeve, 2012). The baseline of the theory assumes that all students regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or economic status possess tendencies for growth. Furthermore, it offers recommendations to teachers on how to support growth and engagement to instigate academic success (Reeve, 2012). In this chapter, we review the SDT and its framework with specific orientation to educational settings, analysing the role of motivation in teaching and how to support optimal engagement for scholastic proficiency.
Self determination theory[edit | edit source]
The self-determination theory is a macro-theory of human motivation. The self-determination theory is a macro-theory of human motivation. The theory focuses on the origins and motivations of self-determined behaviour, in addition to both cultural and social influences (Deci & Ryan, 2008; Ryan, 2009). Motivation researchers have been exploring the value of goals to individuals for some time. Traditional perspectives proposed that goals which were equally valued and attained would result in the same level of performance (Deci & Ryan, 2000b). However contemporary theories, such as the SDT, have found opposing results. The SDT rationalises that both the concepts of goals and process of which the outcomes are pursued, in turn, can predict performance level (Deci & Ryan, 2000b; Ryan, 2009). SDT has a large focus on the social conditions that can support or thwart inherent tendencies for growth (Deci & Ryan, 2009). This apparent focus on social conditions has led to the theory being most apparent in educational settings and has strong implications for achieving positive results within the teaching environment of classrooms.
Underlying concepts[edit | edit source]
5 mini theories compromise the framework of the SDT. Each mini theory explains how different motivational phenomena and social conditions play an essential role in facilitating optimal functioning (Deci & Ryan, 2000a).
Basic needs theory[edit | edit source]
The Basic Needs Theory explains the relationship between a set of universal basic needs and the effects upon personal wellbeing (Ryan, 2009; Deci & Ryan, 2000a). The theory specifies 3 basic needs that are deemed essential to human growth:
- Autonomy: It reflects the innate need to experience psychological freedom, perceived choice and self-governance (Deci & Ryan, 2000b; Vansteenkiste et al., 2010).
- Competence: concerns an individual’s inherent desire to complete optimally challenging tasks (Gunnell et al., 2013).
- Relatedness: reflects an individual’s need to create meaningful connections and emotional bonds with others (Reeve, 2012).
The Basic Needs Theory explains the varying rates of engagement students may possess within the classroom environment. Fulfilment or lack thereof, of the basic needs can have a major effect on either supporting or deducting from a student’s potential engagement (Reeve, 2012). Tian et al. (2013) conducted a longitudinal study investigating this relationship between the basic needs and adolescent wellbeing. In a study of 576 students, their basic psychological needs fulfillment was measured via surveys on 2 occasions, 6 weeks apart. The results of the study presented a significant bidirectional relationship between each of the three basic needs and school satisfaction. When the basic needs were not met, negative relationships between the basic needs and school satisfaction were presented. In this way, needs satisfaction poses as a unifying concept for engaging and energising students. Such support can be garnered in a number of ways ranging from the physical elements of the classroom environment to the style of teaching.
Organismic integration theory[edit | edit source]
The Organismic Integration Theory (OIT) proposes that humans are growth orientated. The main manifestation of this theory is the theme of internalisation, which sits on a continuum of self-determination (see Figure 3) (Wasserkampf & Kleinert, 2015). Internalisation is a dynamic process regarding extrinsic motives and is essential to effective socialisation via an individual’s willingness to endorse societal norms and cultural values (Deci & Ryan, 2000b; Vansteenkiste et al., 2010). Furthermore, OIT suggests that internalisation is heavily facilitated by the 3 basic psychological needs (figure 1). This proposes that individuals are more likely to internalise and in turn integrate values into their lifestyle if they feel they have experienced a choice in doing so (Ryan, 2009).
The OIT focuses on why people engage in uninteresting activities (Reeve, 2012). Specifically, in relation to a classroom setting, OIT explains the process of how non-intrinsically motivated activities become internalised to foster greater motivation (Liu et al., 2016). This concept has been at the core of empirical research, confirming that increased internalisation of extrinsic motivations leads to active engagement and increased persistence from students (Stirling, 2013). This finding illustrates why it is important to strive to foster greater internalisation of extrinsic factors as a means to increase academic outcomes. This can be achieved in the classroom by cultivating a greater sense of community (Deci & Ryan, 2000a).
Goal contents theory[edit | edit source]
The Goal Contents Theory (GCT) places focus on the long-term goals that people use to guide their behaviours as well as what it is that people are striving to attain (Reeve, 2012). The main aspect of the theory is the distinction between types of goals.
- Intrinsic goals are ambitions that are likely to lead to the satisfaction of the psychological basic needs of autonomy, relatedness and competence (Vansteenkiste et al., 2010). This commonly includes goals relating to self-development, health and relationships.
- Extrinsic goals are found to be unrelated to needs satisfaction as they are more materialistic. For example, extrinsic goals commonly include wealth and attractiveness (Deci & Ryan, 2008).
According to Deci and Ryan (2008), intrinsic goals are a requirement for achieving satisfaction of the basic needs, hence the focus of these goals being centred around internal improvement of the self and one’s environment (Vansteenkiste et al., 2010). It is believed that extrinsic goals appear as a substitute when the basic needs are being thwarted, however such goals can be detrimental to mental health (Reeve, 2012).
Much of the GCT focuses on the reasoning individuals provide for partaking in particular behaviours. Deci and Ryan (2000a) illustrated the importance of the GCT in education by focusing on how both the contents of goals and the learning content within such goals, affects students’ motivation and performance. This stems from results illustrating that embarking on intrinsic goals fosters deeper learning and equates to better performance in the classroom (Reeve, 2012). Like other components of the SDT, intrinsic goals have been repeatedly associated with positive outcomes, as they promote greater satisfaction of the basic needs (Gunnel et al., 2013).
Cognitive evaluation theory[edit | edit source]
The Cognitive Evaluation Theory (CET) explains how external events can either facilitate or undermine intrinsic motivation (Ryan, 2009). Also referred to as the ‘undermining effect’, CET proposes that some reward structures can detract from an individual’s motivation (Hewett & Conway, 2015). CET is directly affiliated with the basic psychological needs of autonomy and competence, as it has been revealed that actions which detract from such feelings, also detract from motivation. This concept was illustrated in a study by Hewett and Conway (2015), whom investigated how salient verbal rewards and financial incentives could potentially impact subsequent motivation. Results from the study confirmed that both external events affected individuals perceived autonomy and competence. Furthermore, the theory specifies that all external events have two functional aspects. Segregated into controlling aspects and informational aspects, it is the relative salience between the two traits which determines effect upon intrinsic motivation:
- Controlling aspects are the external pressures coercing an individual to conform and behave in accordance to social norms and expectations.
- Informational aspects refer to the influence of verbal feedback in relation to competence.
The CET highlights how classroom conditions can enhance students’ needs for learning via pathways supporting intrinsic motivation, i.e. reducing behaviours that thwart autonomy such as teacher surveillance and enforced deadlines, while increasing opportunities that support choice such as self-directed learning and positive encouragement (Reeve, 2012). School satisfaction is also greatly impacted by studentsTemplate:Fe cognitive evaluation of their learning environment. In a study focused on how school experience reflects school satisfaction, results suggested that when the three basic needs are met and are congruent with students cognitive evaluations, school related wellbeing and academic performance are simultaneously promoted (Tian et al., 2013). Furthermore, research found that student satisfaction with their school experience contributed to an elevated sense of belonging, autonomy and competency, resulting in students feeling more nurtured and ready to learn (Tian et al., 2013).
Causality orientation theory[edit | edit source]
The Causality Orientation Theory is the personality component of the SDT. This mini theory refers to the differences of individual’s motivation orientations and the effect this has on behaviour (Reeve, 2012). The theory has proposed 3 different categories of causality orientation (Deci & Ryan, 2000b; Ryan, 2009):
|Autonomy orientated:||Involves people who regulate their behaviour based on their own interests and values. This orientation is developed from satisfaction of all 3 basic needs (Deci & Ryan, 2008)|
|Control orientated:||Encapsulates people who regulate their behaviour based upon external directives guiding how they should behave. Controlled orientations are developed from experiencing satisfaction of both competence and relatedness while receiving a lack of autonomy (Deci & Ryan, 2008).|
|Impersonally orientated||This includes people who display behaviours that are antisocial. Impersonally orientated motivation styles stem from an ongoing deficiency of all 3 basic needs (Deci & Ryan, 2008).|
Students with autonomy orientations generally display greater levels of self-esteem and maturity, while students with control orientations show higher levels of stress and are more self-conscious (Reeve, 2012). Within the classroom, providing students choice in regard to their learning, has been shown to greatly enhance intrinsic motivation across various studies (Deci & Ryan, 2009). Such enhancement is drawn from the basic principles of the SDT framework, that providing students the opportunity of choice allows them to satisfy their need for autonomy (Deci & Ryan, 2009).
Motivation[edit | edit source]
Decades of research have repeatedly highlighted the importance of motivation in educational settings, stressing its significant contributions to academic performance (Boiché et al., 2008). The SDT has provided greater insight to the quality of motivation which supports greater growth through increased autonomy. Unlike previous literature, the SDT has taken a dynamic approach to motivation. Forms of motivation within the SDT have a strong emphasis on the type of motivation experienced, opposed to the amount of motivation an individual endures (Deci & Ryan, 2000b). Stemming from intrinsic and extrinsic sources, the SDT has distinguished varying subtypes of motivation.
What is motivation?[edit | edit source]
The SDT has distinguished 3 distinct motivational orientations: amotivation, extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. These orientations create the continuum of autonomy, reflecting the increased level of external versus internal motivation (figure 3).
Amotivation: is the lowest orientation of motivation proposed by the SDT, with individuals expressing no interest or intention to participate in an activity (Boiché et al., 2008). Individuals experience amotivation due to a perceived lack of competence or projected failure to achieve the desired outcome (Deci & Ryan, 2000b).
Extrinsic motivation: Extrinsic motivation refers to situations where individuals engage in activities in order to attain an outcome which is independent from the activity itself (Boiché et al., 2008). The SDT specifies four subcategories of extrinsic motivation, which vary greatly in levels of perceived autonomy (see figure 3):
- External regulation is the least autonomous. Individuals experiencing external regulation are likely to exhibit behaviours in order to strictly obtain reward or evade punishment (Neimiec &Ryan 2009). In an educational setting this can exemplified by a student studying for an exam in attempt to get a good grade in order to avoid being ridiculed by their parents.
- Introjected regulation regards behaviours that are exhibited in order to satisfy internal contingencies (Niemiec & Ryan 2009). It is supported by internal rewards and punishments in relation to ego (Deci & Ryan, 2000b). For example, a student who studies for an exam to not only score well but also who strives to experience a high sense of self-worth while avoiding guilt.
- Identified regulation sees the introduction of higher autonomy. Activities within this realm are undertaken due to a perceived generic importance or value (Deci & Ryan, 2000b). For example, a student may undertake studies in commerce and mathematics due to the insight that such subjects are important to undertake a career in the future.
- Integrated regulation is the most autonomous orientation within extrinsic motivation. This level of regulation stems from an internal and personal synthesis of additional self-aspects (Niemiec & Ryan 2009). This is exemplified in an educational setting by a student who partakes in specific subjects of which enable them to partake in a profession congruent to their personal beliefs and interests.
Intrinsic motivation: is the most autonomous motivation orientation. Referring to behaviours which are completed in the absence of an external reward or punishment, actions that are intrinsically motivated are inherently interesting or enjoyable to the individual (Niemiec & Ryan 2009). Additionally, intrinsic motivation sees individuals strive to seek out challenging tasks to extend their knowledge and learn new skills, aligning with the natural human inclination for mastery (Deci & Ryan, 2000a).
Motivation for optimal learning[edit | edit source]
Empirical evidence has consistently illustrated the importance of autonomy in regard to motivation. According to the SDT framework, both intrinsic motivation and autonomous orientations of extrinsic motivation lead to optimal learning and increased benefits within the classroom (Niemiec & Ryan 2009; Guay et al., 2008).
Within the classroom, achievement is continuously used to measure student learning and is often a reflection of effort and persistence displayed by a child. Research has shown that there is a positive correlation between autonomous motivation and increased academic achievement (Deci & Ryan, 2000b). This is demonstrated in a study which revealed that autonomous motivation predicted greater academic achievement over a 1-year period, showing that investment in one’s study or learning simply for personal gratification contributes to greater performance (Guay et al., 2008).
Similarly, persistence is another tool used to measure a student’s success, with such behaviours linking positively to intrinsic goals and therefore enhanced autonomous motivation (Guay et al., 2008). This is confirmed by Standage et al., (2005) whom studied British physical education classes in order to examine models of motivation within the SDT. The study revealed intrinsic motivation led to enriched concentration and preference to attempt challenging tasks among students (Standage et al., 2005).
Challenge seeking is positively influenced by autonomous motivation (Guay et al., 2008). Challenge plays a large role within autonomy motivation among students – too much challenge relative to one’s skill will thwart perceived competence leading to dwindled autonomous motivation, while too little challenge will lead to disengagement due to boredom (Deci & Ryan, 2000b). Furthermore, empirical results illustrate that retention and challenge seeking behaviours differed among children dependent on autonomy level and perceived competence (Niemiec & Ryan 2009). This concept was explained in an experimental study observing how autonomy affected retention (Guay et al., 2008). The study confirmed that students who expected to be tested on recent information, performed weaker than those who were asked to learn without the pressure of testing (Guay et al., 2008). This supports the SDT philosophy that the more pressure a student feels, the worse their performance will be (Niemiec & Ryan 2009).
Increased autonomy also reflects increased levels of wellbeing among students (Guay et al., 2008). Wellbeing within the classroom is comprised of many factors including the attainment of the basic needs (figure1) as well as the attainment of intrinsic goals (Deci & Ryan, 2000a).
A Canadian study illustrated that intrinsic motivation is linked to increased psychological wellbeing, independent of academic performance, aligning with previous empirical data that showed higher autonomous motivation reported more positive emotions in both the completion of academic work and school satisfaction (Guay et al., 2008; Niemiec & Ryan 2009).
Educational applications[edit | edit source]
Overall, a concrete understanding of the importance of satisfaction of basic needs has been developed. It is now widely understood that supporting greater intrinsic motivation will aid in greater motivation among students. However, in what way can these concepts be actively applied by teachers in the classroom?
Adopt an autonomy supporting motivating style[edit | edit source]
Autonomy supportive teaching methods have been at the forefront of empirical research, revealing specific approaches to teaching which prompt greater intrinsic motivation (Kusurkar et al., 2011). Much of this research has concluded that teachers whom conduct their lessons in autonomy supportive mannerisms, better foster students’ personal autonomous motivation (Guay et al., 2008). Adopting an autonomy supportive motivating style within the classroom can be learned through both simple practice and regular self-reflection (Kusurkar et al., 2011). Once a teacher achieves such style of teaching, students experience their own classroom participation as a means of their own volition, increasing their interest and persistence for success (Reeve & Halusic, 2009).
This is exemplified in a study by Ryan and Deci (2009) who found that when teachers provided more autonomous support, students were more intrinsically motivated and experienced increased perceived competence. Opposingly, in classrooms that lacked autonomous support with enriched control present, students not only were less motivated but also reported lower self-esteem (Deci & Ryan, 2009).
The overarching goal of autonomy supportive teaching is aligned with the SDT framework – to create an environment in which the three basic needs are met (Reeve & Halusic, 2009). Examples of activities which can heighten autonomous support within the classroom include:
- Correct communication: ensuring that instruction and criticisms are delivered in an autonomy supportive manner is essential. This is achieved by adopting non-evaluative, flexible and informational language (Reeve & Halusic, 2009). Swapping language cues such as “You must” for prompts such as “I suggest” encourage students to take control of their own learning, resulting in increased autonomy and thus greater intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 2009). By integrating such language into the classroom, externally orientated motivators are eliminated, encouraging volitional behaviours which support intrinsic goals.
- Open lesson plans: although curriculums guide what must be taught in schools, involving the students in lesson planning and providing them with different options to complete tasks, is a fantastic tool to increase autonomous support (Kusurkar et al., 2011). This can be achieved by basing examples around students interests to maintain engagement (Reeve & Halusic, 2009)
Actively support student wellbeing[edit | edit source]
Numerous studies have revealed a strong relationship between adolescent anxiety and depression to reduced academic performance (Yu et al., 2016). Consequently, implementing mindful practices in the classroom has been associated with increased autonomous motivation and increased wellbeing (Deci & Ryan, 2008). This stems from the methods implemented in autonomous supportive style teaching, which encourages inner exploration and involves students interests and opinions into classroom activities (Deci & Ryan, 2008). This finding has been replicated in a Canadian study of secondary students which found that intrinsic motivation was positively associated with increased psychological wellbeing and, in turn, improved academic performance (Niemiec & Ryan 2009). Furthermore, a similar study was conducted using a sample of German and American students to further investigate the link between wellbeing and motivation (Guay et al., 2008). Results returned a clear relationship between autonomous motivation and increased wellbeing within both nations, identifying the cultural universality for the need of autonomy among all students (Guay et al., 2008). Such findings highlight the benefit of subjective wellbeing on improving autonomy, which in turn increased academic performance. The following strategies can be implemented by teachers to support student wellbeing:
- Forming a safe and positive atmosphere: When students feel encouraged and supported to express feelings and make mistakes, increased perceptions of relatedness are achieved (Kusurkar et al., 2011). This will enhance student-teacher relationships and foster more positive engagement, leading to improved autonomy and intrinsic motivation (Figure 5) (Yu et al., 2016).
- Class discussions: Empirical research has concluded that implementing class discussion into lesson plans is a large stress reducer (Natvig et al., 2003). Instead of calling upon students individually to respond to questions, placing them in groups heightens relatedness and reduces concern regarding embarrassment while encouraging active participation (Kusurkar et al., 2011).
Overall, these findings highlight the importance of supporting wellbeing in the classroom due to the direct links mental health has upon a student’s motivation and ability to perform academically (Deci & Ryan, 2008).
Conclusion[edit | edit source]
The Self Determination theory is a macro theory of human motivation, covering a range of matters including wellbeing, self-regulation, basic needs, goals, behaviour and origins of motivation (Deci & Ryan, 2008). Consisting of 5 macro theories, each addresses a core concept within the framework of the SDT. One of the largest components of the SDT is the theory of basic needs, which addresses 3 basic psychological needs which undermine ones motivational tendencies and wellbeing. These are autonomy, relatedness and competence. A second hallmark of the SDT is its focus on the origins of human motivation. Intrinsic motivation has continuously been identified as the most beneficial, due to its increased tendency to maximise experiences of autonomy, enhancing academic success and wellbeing (Deci & Ryan, 2009). These considerations are most relevant within the realm of education, as it explains how certain classroom conditions may either support or interfere with students’ motivation, engagement and overall success (Reeve, 2012). Future research should consider the success the SDT has gained within the educational sector and actively consider other areas which could benefit from its framework. With the current environment during the COVID-19 crisis, adapting the SDT’s applications in an online setting could be of great benefit. Overall, the SDT has been highly successful in increasing student motivation, leading to increased school performance as well as heightened student wellbeing. Providing teachers with resources backed by multitudes of research, it supports teachers to facilitate high quality student engagement and promote intrinsic goals, vitalising students to reach their optimal potential (Reeve, 2012). Research has constantly showed that the SDT concept is universal across all cultures, reinforcing the importance of ensuring the basic needs are met for all individuals across all settings (Deci & Ryan, 2009).
See also[edit | edit source]
- Motivation (Wikiversity)
- Self determination theory (Book chapter, 2011)
- Motivation in the workforce (Book chapter, 2013)
- Motivation in tertiary education (Book chapter, 2014)
- Autonomy (Wikipedia)
- Autonomy support and education (Book Chapter, 2020)
References[edit | edit source]
Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (2000a). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.55.1.68
Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (2000b). The "What" and "Why" of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227-268. doi: 10.1207/s15327965pli1104_01
Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (2008). Self-determination theory: A macrotheory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 49(3), 182-185. doi: 10.1037/a0012801
Guay, F., Ratelle, C., & Chanal, J. (2008). Optimal learning in optimal contexts: The role of self-determination in education. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 49(3), 233-240. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0012758
Gunnell, K., Crocker, P., Wilson, P., Mack, D., & Zumbo, B. (2013). Psychological need satisfaction and thwarting: A test of Basic Psychological Needs Theory in physical activity contexts. Psychology Of Sport And Exercise, 14(5), 599-607. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2013.03.007
Hewett, R., & Conway, N. (2015). The undermining effect revisited: The salience of everyday verbal rewards and self-determined motivation. Journal Of Organizational Behavior, 37(3), 436-455. doi: 10.1002/job.2051
Kusurkar, R., Croiset, G., & Ten Cate, O. (2011). Twelve tips to stimulate intrinsic motivation in students through autonomy-supportive classroom teaching derived from Self-Determination Theory. Medical Teacher, 33(12), 978-982. doi: 10.3109/0142159x.2011.599896
Liu, W., Wang, J., & Ryan, R. (2016). Understanding Motivation in Education: Theoretical and Practical Considerations. Building Autonomous Learners, 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-630-0_1
Natvig, G., Albrektsen, G., & Qvarnstr⊘m, U. (2003). Methods of Teaching and Class Participation in Relation to Perceived Social Support and Stress: Modifiable factors for improving health and wellbeing among students. Educational Psychology, 23(3), 261-274. https://doi.org/10.1080/0144341032000060101
Niemiec, C., & Ryan, R. (2009). Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom. Theory And Research In Education, 7(2), 133-144. doi: 10.1177/1477878509104318
Reeve, J. (2012). A Self-determination Theory Perspective on Student Engagement. Handbook Of Research On Student Engagement, 149-172. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-2018-7_7
Reeve, J., & Halusic, M. (2009). How K-12 teachers can put self-determination theory principles into practice. Theory And Research In Education, 7(2), 145-154. doi: 10.1177/1477878509104319
Ryan, R. (2009). Self determination theory and well being. Social Psychology, 84(822), 848.
Stirling, Diana. (2013). Motivation in Education. Aichi Universities English Education Research Journal
Standage, M., Duda, J., & Ntoumanis, N. (2005). A test of self-determination theory in school physical education. British Journal Of Educational Psychology, 75(3), 411-433. doi: 10.1348/000709904x22359
Tian, L., Chen, H., & Huebner, E. (2013). The Longitudinal Relationships Between Basic Psychological Needs Satisfaction at School and School-Related Subjective Well-Being in Adolescents. Social Indicators Research, 119(1), 353-372. doi: 10.1007/s11205-013-0495-4
Vansteenkiste, M., Niemiec, C., & Soenens, B. (2010). The development of the five mini-theories of self-determination theory: an historical overview, emerging trends, and future directions. Advances In Motivation And Achievement, 105-165. doi: 10.1108/s0749-7423(2010)000016a007
Wasserkampf, A., & Kleinert, J. (2015). Organismic integration as a dynamic process: a systematic review of empirical studies on change in behavioral regulations in exercise in adults. International Review Of Sport And Exercise Psychology, 9(1), 65-95. doi: 10.1080/1750984x.2015.1119873
Yu, C., Li, X., Wang, S., & Zhang, W. (2016). Teacher autonomy support reduces adolescent anxiety and depression: An 18-month longitudinal study. Journal Of Adolescence, 49, 115-123. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.03.001
[edit | edit source]
- Promoting motivation, health, and excellence: Ed Deci (Ted Talk)
- 6 strategies for promoting student autonomy (edutopia.org)
- Intrinsic motivation in the classroom (journal)