Reflections: SDT chunk #2 10-29-17 EDG 606

Reflections: SDT chunk due 10-29-17

Article 1:  Deci, Edward, Ryan, Richard, and Williams, Geoffrey, (1996) “Need Satisfaction and the Self-Regulation of Learning.” Learning and Individual Differences, Volume 8, Number 3, 165-183.

This article details different levels of motivation that are determined by the level of self-regulation by the individual student.  The authors impose two basic types of behavior: intrinsic and extrinsic.  Intrinsically motivated students are seen as passionate learners whose devotion to the subject matter (in the article’s example: high school biology) acts as their primary drive and reason to learn.  The idea of “learning for learning’s sake” applies to these kinds of students.  They are driven, creative, agile, spontaneous, and fearless pursuers of understanding the material.  Also, they feel autonomous and active rather than passive explorers of the subject(s) at hand.  They are happier, better supported, and better adjusted.

Conversely, extrinsically motivated learners, particularly those with pure external regulation, exhibit “behavior controlled by demands or contingencies external to the person…and are controlled by those contingencies” (p. 168).  They study and work from a psychological zone of anxiety, fear, peer and family pressure, and a sense of obligation as the basis of their motivation to perform and learn.  Rather than experiencing a euphoric sense of mastery and breaking new intellectual ground on academic frontiers, their approach to specific subject matter is encumbered by a sense of duty toward fulfilling a requirement: learning is typically a means to an end (some type of externally given award like a grade, degree, or approval).

Not all forms of extrinsically motivated behavior are undesirable, however. The authors further break down four types of extrinsically motivated behavior: external, introjected, identified, and integrated.  These represent, respectively, distinct levels of learning and degrees of self-regulation.  Integrated learning is characterized by a psychological sense of well-being, joy, curiosity, and volitional/voluntary learning. In so doing, they write about this continuum under the concept of organismic integration. Thus, the preferred path a learner takes goes from a world of external stimulation and direction (childhood) to a mature, balanced and self-directed young adult embracing the growth and challenges felt by this intrinsically motivated student.

A very interesting distinction (that I had to read over a few times) was that between students exhibiting intrinsically motivated behavior versus the above mentioned integrated extrinsic regulation behavior.  The first type has, as mentioned, a pure spontaneous pursuit of content and the process of learning.  The second type is strongly motivated (and has a degree of autonomy), and a healthy desire to do hard work.  That said, the second group's efforts in the classroom, at their core, reflect a basic belief that the study of a subject is necessary to achieve a desired outcome or goal.  Also, they mention that a student that lives and works with a sense of autonomous self-regulation achieves better recall and results, is happier, and is ultimately more effective in the workplace (be it a corporate office or hospital).

The authors then discuss the best approaches for educators and parents to use that promote student-centric learning that fulfills innate human needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness.  Non-controlling teaching styles and positive feedback together best promote intrinsic motivation in the student.  In addition, goals that are rooted in learning rather than mere performance results better develop intrinsic motivation and less anxiety in the classroom and at home.  The result is “greater engagement, deeper and fuller learning, and enhanced personal adjustment in classrooms and beyond” (p. 180).

Article 2: Reeve, John M., Halusic, Marc (2009) “How K-12 teachers can put self-determination theory principles into practice.” Theory and Research in Education (145-154).

This article focuses on how teachers can promote autonomy-supportive motivating style in the classroom.  Like the above article, the authors believe that engagement and learning are greater in classrooms where student perspectives are honored and encouraged.  They discuss key questions such as “How is autonomy-supportive teaching unique? and “Does autonomy support mean permissiveness?” (p. 148).  Teachers should act as guides, have clear expectations, and suggest ideas and solutions rather than dictate all the course of learning in the classroom.  It is also the responsibility of the teacher to make lesson plans relevant and challenging (slightly above the students’ ability, just enough to challenge and not to discourage them when too difficult).

The whole premise of this article is that student…”preferences and natural inclinations” must be nurtured and that teachers acknowledge, accept, and even welcome students’ negative emotionality as constructive information to transform an instructional activity…into something worth doing” (p. 150). 

The article concludes by stating the value of student questionnaires that can assess a teacher’s motivating style, or lack thereof.  The authors believe that the adoption of the right kind of techniques can make any teacher more effective in creating a classroom where students generate much of the energy and new ideas that drive intrinsically motivated learning.

Article 3: Nguyen, T., Deci, Edward L. (2015) “Can it be good to set the bar high? The role of motivational regulation in moderating the link from high standards to academic well-being.” Learning and Individual Differences (245-251).

This article introduced to me the concept of Personal Standards Perfectionism (PSP).  It outlines the positive and negative outcomes of PSP: drive to mastery and fulfillment in the former case and anxiety and anxiety and self-blame in the latter.  A person’s anxiety is also linked to the degree of life pressures, depression, and loneliness in their life that can create forms of “maladaptive perfectionism” and a perfectionist tendency that overwhelms the student and inhibits happiness and true fulfillment (p. 246). Thus, controlled, extrinsic regulation in the classroom and at home intensify the drive to make no mistakes, to impress and satisfy others, and ultimately to fail at some point.  This contributes to a negative self-image and unsatisfying outcomes for the student.  Indeed, this theme recurs through all three articles.

The article continues with a technical analysis on the interaction between PSP and StC (Susceptibility to Control (p. 247).  They measure test anxiety and learning progress as a function of low to high PSP.  They conclude that the lower the controlled regulation (degree of extrinsic control exerted on students), and the higher the PSP, the healthier the student and thus the more productive and positive the drive to perfectionism will be.  The outcome of the interplay between controlled regulation and PSP is called ECP, or Evaluative Concern Perfectionism.  They note that all perfectionists, both those with high and low levels of CR, or Controlled Regulation, exert great effort in their class work.  Yet, those how have more anxiety and higher CR, although they may receive the preferred goal of a high grade or other reward, in the long run suffer “detrimental effects of setting high standards in controlled ways (p. 249).

These driven students can internalize the anxiety, but the impact can be harmful on many levels, as noted above.   The article concludes by suggesting that educators and other influencers can help the students decrease their controlled motivations and regulated behaviors by providing “more autonomy support in any of those settings….(including) motivational interviewing or mindfulness training…” (p. 250). 


The goals of student driven learning are still difficult for me to see working consistently in my own personal and in my teaching experience...although there are flashes of it from time to time. I haven't achieved the experience or skill to know how to run, on a consistent basis, a class of special education students and do my best to encourage them to "drive the bus" and take ownership of their happiness and intrinsic motivations to learn for learning's sake.  I do accept the possibility that dynamic learning can take place for most if not all students in any classroom as mentioned in these articles.  It will take time and experience to not over direct the proceedings on my end in the interest of attaining performance goals that are, let's face it, ever present.  There is a dialectic between the two....yet the goal is to have the results flow from the pursuit of student-centered motivated learning.

When I was reading about intrinsic motivation that is the ideal for a workplace or classroom, I thought of entrepreneurs and start up businesses that are growing by the day.  I compared these forces between intrinsic and extrinsic driven pursuits to the creators of Apple and Microsoft in the 1970s (or any visionaries toiling 24/7 in pursuit of a dream--those who usually were driven by an idea and perfecting that idea or passion.)  Whether they were Henry Ford or Hewlett and Packard, they were (and are) at the outset intrinsically motivated learners; and they drove and drive others to work as hard, sometimes for little pay, and to share their vision.  Ironically, if they are successful, performance goals, rewards, larger numbers of employees, and other extrinsic factors often change the original ideal goal....Again it is a continuum and pendulum between "pure" learning and controlled behavior similar to what the authors write about here, only on a different playing field.


    • Gerald Ardito
      Gerald Ardito


      Once again, your work here is very thorough and thoughtful.

      And I believe you have asked the $64 million question:

      The goals of student driven learning are still difficult for me to see working consistently in my own personal and in my teaching experience...although there are flashes of it from time to time. I haven't achieved the experience or skill to know how to run, on a consistent basis, a class of special education students and do my best to encourage them to "drive the bus" and take ownership of their happiness and intrinsic motivations to learn for learning's sake.  

      In my experience, I have found that students can take ownership when given the chance, but the reservations on both sides (teachers and students) can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      • David Evans
        David Evans

        Dr. Ardito:

        With each passing day, I do see more of these flashes of student driven intrinsic motivation.  Watching my lead teacher, who is very effective, swing the dialogue and questioning to the students, and having them rely on each other for help (and for developing the ability to formulate their own questions on the text being studied (this is an ELA class) is very helpful.  The kids are motivated to learn more about character traits and motivations, and it's great to see their growth.  To your last point, there are numerous obstacles and behaviors that, most (but not all!) of the time, can be left at the door when the students jump into the work and leave their troubles behind for forty-five minutes. Assigning students jobs and responsibilities is a gradual and effective means of motivating them toward a sense of control and ownership; we are still working out the kinks on that.  Also, designing the right kind of timely, rigorous, differentiated yet doable assignments for them during class is a creative challenge and work in progress.  But we are motivated to make it happen!

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