top of page

Motivation Module 10.4


Self-determination Theory

Background Information

Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a motivational theory developed by psychologists Richard Ryan and Edward Deci. (2012, 2008) and discussed in chapter 3..  This theory examines the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. SDT posits that every individual has psychological needs to feel motivated; namely, competency, autonomy and relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2000).  Like Maslow (1954), Ryan and Deci believe that environmental factors have an enormous impact on people’s attitudes, values, motivations and behaviors.  



Performance and motivation increases when students believe that they are engaging in self-governed behaviors. How can I support autonomy in my classroom? 

  • Give students choices 

  • Establish deadlines for assignments but allow for early submissions 

  • Collaborate with students to set their own learning goals 

  • Poll the students to make class decisions concerning learning 

  • ii. Encourage relatedness 

Encourage relatedness: In order to feel motivated, a student must feel a sense of belonging and feel connected to their teacher and their peers. How can I encourage relatedness in my classroom? 

  • Learn the students’ names and use them often 

  • Speak to each student individually at least once a week. 

  • Facilitate group projects and active learning assignments. 

  • Give individualized and personal feedback.  

  • Accept feedback from your students. 

Cultivate competence: When a student feels able and effective in their learning environment they will experience higher levels of motivation.  

How can I cultivate competence in my classroom? 

  • Avoid micromanaging and allow students to make their own mistakes. 

  • Equip students with learning strategies early on such as note taking techniques or reading strategies.  

  • Eliminate unnecessary challenges to learning by standardizing materials, assignments and color-coding documents. 



Record observations of students displaying autonomous behavior and this list becomes the template for identifying the meaning of autonomous behavior. 

Discuss with a colleague steps you now take to encourage relatedness. 

List new pedagogy you now use to cultivate competence in student behavior.

Choice Maker Self-Determination Assessment© is a curriculum-based motivation  assessment developed by Martin & Marshall (2016) who describe their work as follows: 


The ChoiceMaker Self-Determination Assessment is a curriculum-based assessment and planning tool. The Assessment questions directly match the ChoiceMaker Self-Determination Curriculum objectives. The Curriculum is designed to teach students the self-determination skills they need to be successful in life. Self-determination occurs when individuals define goals for themselves and take the initiative needed to achieve their goals. In the ChoiceMaker Self-Determination Curriculum, students learn self-determination skills by managing their own Individual Education Plans (IEPs). The ChoiceMaker Self-Determination Assessment has three parts: Part I: The ChoiceMaker Assessment consists of three sections that rate the student's skills and proficiency in performing each of 51 self-determination skills, and the opportunity the school provides for the student to engage in these behaviors. Part II: The ChoiceMaker Assessment Profile is a monitoring tool for graphically displaying student progress and showing the opportunities students have at school to exhibit these self-determination behaviors. Part III: The ChoiceMaker Curriculum Matrix enables the teacher and other team members to observe at a glance those skills in which the student needs instruction. Each “Teaching Objective” relates to a lesson or set of lessons in the ChoiceMaker Self-Determination Curriculum 


This assessment may be accessed as follows: 


bottom of page