Motivation and ways to enhance it have been explored for decades, and various advancements in this field have been achieved. Self-determination theory (SDT) is one of the frameworks that can help in explaining and improving student motivation. SDT was introduced by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci in the mid-1980s (Ryan & Deci, 2018). According to this paradigm, a person can be motivated to behave in certain ways when three major needs are met. The needs making an individual self-determined are autonomy, competence, and connection. The concepts described by the researchers are applicable in the educational setting, so this theory can be used to help students become more motivated, which can be illustrated by a particular case.
An interview was conducted to analyze the causes of low motivation in a student. The interviewee stated that he had lost interest in studies, although he understands that he needs to perform well academically to land a good job in the future. The student mentioned that his motivation became increasingly low after his long illness. During the interview, it became clear that the students’ needs for competence and connection have not been met, which may be the primary reason for his deteriorated motivation.
According to SDT, individuals need to master certain tasks and develop diverse skills to have the feeling that they can achieve success (Wehmeyer & Zhao, 2020). In the present case, the student was unable to grasp a considerable portion of the material, so he admits he does not have sufficient knowledge to complete given tasks. He is often distracted during classes and unwilling to be active, which worsens his situation. A new course started recently, so the student has a new teacher who (as felt by the interviewee) doubts that the student can perform well. The students’ feelings and attitudes towards the new teacher suggest that his need for connectedness is also unmet, which has a negative impact on his motivation.
In order to help the student to improve his motivation, it is necessary to undertake some measures. The student needs to receive extra training so that he could grasp the material and fill in the gaps in his knowledge. The interviewee can get an additional course or ask his peers to help him with the material. The teacher should also contribute to addressing the student’s competence needs by providing positive feedback. When people receive positive feedback, they feel more empowered and knowledgeable to be successful, so their competence need is met and motivation increases (Behzadnia et al., 2018). It is also important to ensure proper communication between the new teacher and the student. The teacher should be supportive and inspirational, which is also achieved through the provision of feedback, support, and guidance (Behzadnia et al., 2018). Although it is not made clear whether the autonomy need is met, it is important to empower the student and enhance his sense of autonomy. The teacher should not provide excessive positive feedback on tasks and behaviors the student enjoys.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that the self-determination theory can be instrumental in improving students’ motivation. I will also use this framework to ensure that I am motivated and ready to perform well. I will reflect on the three needs (competence, autonomy, connectedness) regularly in order to make sure they are all met. The need for connectedness seemed quite irrelevant to me, but I can see now its importance for sustaining motivation. I will develop proper relationships with mentors (in occupational settings), teachers (in my academic life), and peers to be able to address the other two needs.
Behzadnia, B., Adachi, P. J. C., Deci, E. L., & Mohammadzadeh, H. (2018). Associations between students’ perceptions of physical education teachers’ interpersonal styles and students’ wellness, knowledge, performance, and intentions to persist at physical activity: A self-determination theory approach. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 39, 10-19. Web.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2018). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. Guilford Publications.
Wehmeyer, M. L., & Zhao, Y. (2020). Teaching students to become self-determined learners. ASCD.