Self-determination theory (SDT) is a broad framework for understanding factors that facilitate or undermine intrinsic motivation, autonomous extrinsic motivation, and psychological wellness, all issues of direct relevance to educational settings. We review research from SDT showing that both intrinsic motivation and well-internalized (and thus autonomous) forms of extrinsic motivation predict an array of positive outcomes across varied educational levels and cultural contexts and are enhanced by supports for students’ basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Findings also show a dynamic link between teacher and student motivation, as teachers are themselves impacted and constrained by controlling mandates, institutional pressures, and leadership styles. Ironically, despite substantial evidence for the importance of psychological need satisfactions in learning contexts, many current educational policies and practices around the globe remain anchored in traditional motivational models that fail to support students’ and teachers’ needs, a knowledge versus policy gap we should aspire to close.
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