Using Self-Determination Theory to Investigate Student Engagement in the Classroom

By Leanne Fried and Deslea Konza.

Published by The International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This is a report on a study that: a. explored teacher perceptions of the term engagement and b. tracked the engagement of nine early primary students who were identified by their teachers as often disengaged. In the first section of the research, teacher perceptions of the term engagement were found to focus on behavioural and emotional aspects, with little reference to the cognitive component. In the second section, the researchers used an observation rating scale to observe the students in their classrooms and recorded their levels of behavioural, emotional and cognitive engagement. At the same time, the students’ learning activities were rated according to the extent to which the activities addressed their perceived competence, sense of belonging and autonomy support (aspects of Self-Determination Theory). It was found that students who were ‘needy’ in terms of their perceived competence or sense of belonging responded to activities that addressed these needs. This study points to the need for further investigation of Self-Determination Theory as a planning framework to address engagement issues in the classroom.

Keywords: Engagement, Early Primary Students, Perceived Competence, Belonging, Autonomy

International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp.27-40. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 261.410KB).

Leanne Fried

Post Doctoral Research Fellow, School of Education, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Leanne Fried is currently employed at Edith Cowan University in the Fogarty Learning Centre as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. She is involved in several research projects, mainly focusing on student early literacy acquisition and novice teacher transition to the workforce. A primary trained teacher, her teaching experience has mainly involved working with students with learning difficulties, students at educational risk and education support students in mainstream education and education support centres. She completed a Masters in Special Education focusing on student motivation and a Doctorate of Education with a study on the emotion regulation strategies used by middle school students. Her main interest currently is in developing university and school partnerships of equality that assist teachers in using evidence and research to meet student needs.

Dr. Deslea Konza

Director, Fogarty Learning Centre, Edith Cowan University, Australia