Can self-determination theory explain what underlies the productive, satisfying learning experiences of collectivistically oriented Korean students?

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Recognizing recent criticisms concerning the cross-cultural generalizability of self-determination theory (SDT), the authors tested the SDT view that high school students in collectivistically oriented South Korea benefit from classroom experiences of autonomy support and psychological need satisfaction. In Study 1, experiences of autonomy, competence, and relatedness underlaid Korean students’ most satisfying learning experiences, and experiences of low autonomy and low competence underlaid their least satisfying learning experiences. In Study 2, psychological need satisfaction experiences were associated with productive (achievement and engagement) and satisfying (intrinsic motivation and proneness to negative affect) student outcomes. Study 3 replicated and extended Study 2’s structural equation modeling findings by showing that the hypothesized model explained students’ positive outcomes even after controlling for cultural and parental influences, including the collectivistic value orientation. Study 4 replicated the earlier cross-sectional findings with a semester-long prospective 3-wave design. The authors discuss how the findings support the motivation theory’s cross-cultural generalizability.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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