Self-determination theory is a theory of motivation which posits that humans continually and actively seek challenges and new experiences to and develop and master. Within education, the theory considers that students are motivated to achieve different objectives. When a behavior is self-determined, the individual determines that the locus of control is internal to the self, whereas when the behavior is controlled, the locus of control is external to self. The important distinction between the internal or external determinants is not in whether the behaviors are motivated or intentional, but in their internal regulatory processes and how the internal regulatory processes drive external behaviors (Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991).
Keywords Autonomy; Competence; Extrinsic Motivation; Goals; Intrinsic Motivation; Learner-Centered; Locus of Control; Self-Determination Theory
Self-determination theory is a theory of motivation which posits that humans continually and actively seek challenges and new experiences to develop and master. Within education, the theory considers that students are motivated to achieve different objectives. Unlike other motivational theories, self-determination theory offers the “distinction that falls within the class of behaviors that are intentional or motivated. These motivated actions are self-determined to the extent that they are endorsed by one's sense of self” (Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991, p. 326). When a behavior is self-determined, the individual determines that the locus of control is internal to self, whereas when the behavior is controlled, the locus of control is external to self. The important distinction between the internal or external determinants is not in whether the behaviors are motivated or intentional, but in their internal regulatory processes and how the internal regulatory processes drive external behaviors. The qualities of the components of the behaviors are vastly different and need to be understood in order to promote self-determination in a classroom environment (Deci, et al., 1991, p. 327).
The Building Blocks of Self-Determination
The most self-determined type of behavior is intrinsic motivation. These behaviors are induced for their own sake, and are linked to feelings of pleasure, interest and satisfaction derived directly from participation in the behavior. Individuals that are intrinsically motivated engage in behaviors because of internal feelings of satisfaction derived from the behavior. While engaging in these behaviors, humans are self-regulated, interested in the activity, choosing to engage in the activity, and function without the aid of external rewards or constraints (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Thus, intrinsic behaviors are initiated because the individual chooses to engage in the activity according to their own wishes. When a child chooses a specific book to read and reads it just for the sake of enjoyment, this exemplifies intrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic behaviors are “instrumental in nature. They are not performed out of interest, but rather because they are believed to be instrumental” in producing a desired outcome. While research previously has indicated that extrinsic motivation is not a building block of self-determination, recent research has suggested that “these behavioral types differ in the extent to which they represent self-determined” behaviors in contrast to a more controlled response and furthermore, when paired with intrinsic motivators extrinsic motivators may not inhibit motivation (Wormington, Corpus & Anderson, 2012). The determining factor that makes these behaviors more self-determined rather than extrinsic is the factor of internalization (Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991, p. 328).
Internalization is a proactive process through which individuals transform their regulatory processes into internal processes (Schafer, 1968). In self-determination processes, internalization is viewed as a motivated process. Self-determination theorists report that they believe that (a) people are innately induced to internalize and integrate within themselves "the regulation of uninteresting activities that are useful for effective functioning in the social world" and (b) that the extent to which the process of internalization and integration proceeds effectively is a "function of the social context." The four types of extrinsic motivation that can be integrated within the interpersonal framework include:
• Integrated regulation (Deci, et al., 1991, p. 328).
External regulation behaviors are “performed because of an external contingency, and are considered the loci of initiation and regulation. External regulation represents the "least self-determined form of extrinsic motivation”. External regulation behaviors are typically induced by the offer of reward or punishment. An individual displaying external regulation is an individual that might study just because they know they will be rewarded for doing well (Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991, p. 328).
Introjected regulation is a second type of extrinsic motivation in which individuals bow to internal pressure. These pursuits are either based on the pursuits of "self-aggrandizement and (contingent) self-worth or in the avoidance of feelings of guilt and shame." Introjected regulation is a behavior that is “partially internalized and is within the person, but the individual has not accepted” the behavior as emanating from self. In short, the behaviors caused by introjected regulation are not derived from the person's sense of self and can be described as behaviors that are pressured or coerced. An example of this kind of behavior is an example of a student who studies before playing outside because they would feel guilty about not working first and playing later (Vansteenkiste, Lens & Deci, 2006, p. 21).
Identification is “the process of identifying with the value of an activity and accepting regulation of the activity as one's own” (Vansteenkiste, Lens & Deci, 2006, p. 21). When individuals value the personal relevance of an activity and willingly engage in the activity, then this represents a more significant form of internalization than other types of externalization. While behaviors resulting from identification are still extrinsic in nature, identified regulation occurs because of one's own volition, which approximates intrinsic motivation. In this way, identification behavior integrates the two types of motivation into a composite behavior. An individual executing identification behavior may study a given subject despite personal difficulty or dislike; for example, because the student knows the subject is integral in fulfilling a self-selected goal (Vansteenkiste, Lens & Deci, 2006). While the student may express personal distaste for a specific area like statistics, the student realizes and understands the importance of the course of study in helping them achieve their goal.
In the case of integrated regulation, the behavior is fully integrated within the individual's sense of self. These identifications are combined with the individual's other sense of their values, needs, and identities. A student might have one view of self-interpretation as a good student and the other as a good athlete. While these two self-identities may seem conflicting and cause internal tensions for the student, the two can become integrated and dwell harmoniously within the person and with the students' sense of self. When this internal harmony is realized then the integrated processes are completely self-willed and mainly occur in adult stages of development. Integrated regulation appears to be very similar to intrinsic motivation, because both integrated regulation and intrinsic motivation cause willing behaviors, develop creativity, and foster understanding. However, intrinsic motivation is different than integrated regulation even though they seem similar in many ways (Deci, et al., 1991, p. 330).
Motivation in a Public School Setting
In a public school setting, self-determination, or "student-directed learning" involves teaching students multiple strategies that allow them to regulate and direct their own behavior (Agran, King-Sears, Wehmeyer, & Copeland, 2003). Student directed educational strategies are aimed at teaching students to set appropriate goals for themselves, self-monitor their own performances, identify solutions to present or future problems, verbally direct their own behaviors, reinforce their own behaviors, and evaluate their own performances (Agran, Hong, & Blankenship, 2007, p. 453). These are general strategies and outcomes that can be utilized to create a student directed learning environment.
Research has suggested that teachers utilize a multitude of teaching strategies to create student-directed and...
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