Self-determination theory in schools of education: Can an empirically supported framework also be critical and liberating?

Publication Date



In many graduate schools of education there is strong resistance to formal theories, especially those that are supported through quantitative empirical methods. In this article we describe how self-determination theory (SDT), a formal and empirically focused framework, shares sensibilities with critical theorists concerning the importance of actors' own embedded experiences of the world, and the importance of liberation and resistance to hegemony. Yet we argue that, unlike many post-modern views that are largely negative, SDT is truly critical precisely because it posits a common human nature, which can be more or less supported and allowed to flourish in different cultural and institutional contexts.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access

This document is currently not available here.