Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom: Applying self-determination theory to educational practice

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Self-determination theory (SDT) assumes that inherent in human nature is the propensity to be curious about one's environment and interested in learning and developing one's knowledge. All too often, however, educators introduce external controls into learning climates, which can undermine the sense of relatedness between teachers and students, and stifle the natural, volitional processes involved in high-quality learning. This article presents an overview of SDT and reviews its applications to educational practice. A large corpus of empirical evidence based on SDT suggests that both intrinsic motivation and autonomous types of extrinsic motivation are conducive to engagement and optimal learning in educational contexts. In addition, evidence suggests that teachers' support of students' basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness facilitates students' autonomous self-regulation for learning, academic performance, and well-being. Accordingly, SDT has strong implications for both classroom practice and educational reform policies.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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