Autonomy and relatedness as fundamental to motivation and education

Richard M. Ryan, Cynthia L. Powelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


The institutionalization of education in the modern era removed the processes of learning and cultural transmission from contexts in which children were often guided by adults to whom they were closely attached and from activities of significance in everyday life. Despite the arbitrary nature of modern classroom structures, it is argued that some of the fundamental needs that energized learning prior to compulsory schooling still have relevance within the classroom. The fundamental needs for autonomy and relatedness are highlighted and suggested to be strongly influenced by the quality of interpersonal conditions at home and in school. Several recent studies are reviewed that examine the effects of autonomy support and quality of relatedness with respect to motivational orientations and learning outcomes. It is concluded that the success of cognitive agendas in educational settings is dependent upon affective processes within the classroom and that the creation of an optimal classroom climate serves both learning and developmental goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-66
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1991

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper was originally prepared as a ' talk for the meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Chicago (April 1991). The work was supported in part by grants from NICHD (HD 19914) and NIMH (MH 18922) to the Human Motivation Program, Department of Psychology, University of Rochester.


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