My teacher likes me

Love learning






Self Determination Conference, 2-5 June 2016, Victoria BC. An international conference with an appropriate balance between autonomy and structure. The conference committee created an exchanging  learning environment based on motivation and personal interest. 450 participants of 35 countries attended the conference to talk, discuss, exchange ideas, knowledge and research. One of the main lessons to support autonomy and to facilitate the learning process  is that the student has the feeling that “my teacher likes me”.

The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) was developed by the researchers Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan. This theory concerns with human motivation, personality and optimal functioning. Rather than just the amount of motivation, self-determination theory focuses on different types of motivation. Honours students prefer autonomy when working on their personal development and are in general intrinsic motivated. Feeding intrinsic motivation depends on meeting three psychological needs, known from the Self Determination Theory.

The founders of the Self Determination Theory                  

Richard Ryan and Edward Deci took us along at a glance and gave an overview of the long history and perspectives of the Self Determination Theory.

2016-06-05 13.20.55

The three basic psychological needs are:

  • Autonomy: behavior is in accord with abiding values and interests; actions are self-endorsed; congruence between implicit and explicit motives
  • Competence: sense of effectance and competence in one’s context
  • Relatedness: feeling cared for, connected to, sense of belonging with others; able to contribute.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about autonomy. What is autonomy not?

  • It is not independence
  • It is not about individualism versus collectivism
  • It does not require an absence of external inputs or demands, (but rather an endorsement of them or their legitimacy)
  • It is not “freedom, or the mere absence of contraints

 A SDT facilitating environment

To meet the three basic psychological needs within education, is it important to create a SDT faciliting environment

  • Supporting autonomy
    • True interest in the perspective and motives of the client
    • Non-controlling: unconditional acceptance
  • Fostering relatedness
  • Integrative emotion processing
  • Taking interest in introjected and external regulations
  • Developing autonomous and congruent goals
  • Developing and supporting competence
    • Scaffolding and structure for change, e.g. implementation goal planning
    • Active experimentation
    • Exploring the change process, resistance, barriers
  • Fostering mindfulness and interest-taking
  • Basic needs and aspirations as guideposts

And need-supportive contexts:

  • Relate from the other’s perspective
  • Encourage exploration
  • Offer relevant choices
  • Make instruction relevant for their lives
  • Provide optimal challenge
  • Offer meaningful rationales
  • Give positive feedback
  • Be interested and engaged as an authority

This asks for a balance between supporting autonomy and offering structure. Within Honours education, this balance between autonomy and structure is key.


teachers need support too

This was the starting point of our presentation which was about “How do pressure from above, mindset and motivation influence the autonomy supportive teaching style?” In order to support the autonomy of students, it is important that the lecturer does experience autonomy himself. In our research we found: The more pressure the honours lecturer perceives, the less autonomy support and the less structure he will offer. And the more a lecturer has a fixed mindset, the more structure he will offer.

It is interesting for policy makers to pay attention to the perceived pressure which can come from the administrative policy, curriculum and working with colleagues. For more information see the article in Tijdschrift voor Hoger Onderwijs.

Other main subjects of the conference were: parenting, health, disabled children, business and organisations, recent advances in SDT, Education, methodological advances.

Johnmarshall Reeves gave an excellent overview of the autonomy support in teaching

Door Tineke Kingma, fellow in de Kenniskring Excellentie in Hoger Onderwijs en Samenleving en coördinator van de Windesheim Honoursprogramma’s.

  • Kingma, T., Kamans, E., Heijne-Penninga, M., & Wolfensberger, M. V. C. (2016). De autonomie-ondersteunende doceerstijl in excellentieprogramma’s: de invloed vanmindset, motivatie en druk vanuit de sociale werkomgeving. Tijdschrift voor Hoger Onderwijs, 34(1), 5-22.
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