Self-determination theory in practice: how to motivate your students?

Saskia Mol

Keywords: student motivation, SDT, educational design


Sometimes students are not interested during class. The causes and solutions vary. A theory that provides practical tools to enhance motivation among students is Self-Determination Theory (SDT). The aim of my workshop is to familiarize teachers in family medicine with this theory and to assist them in incorporating it in their own teaching practice.


We will alternate theoretical background and practical exercises in 4 cycles. All exercises will be in subgroups, with plenary wrap-ups. As to content: the stages of motivation and the three basic psychological needs (autonomy, relatedness and competence) described by Deci and Ryan will be covered.
The first exercise is about getting to know one another, as an example of the importance of “relatedness” with students. In the second exercise we will use case vignettes of students to help understand the stages of motivation. Then participants will learn to identify the three psychological needs in vignettes of teaching methods. And as a last exercise participants will ameliorate one of their own lessons using their SDT-knowledge.

Expected Outcomes:

Participants learn to differentiate between the various stages of motivation and gain insight in to which degree the basic psychological needs are met. They apply this knowledge to optimize their own teaching practice. In addition participants will learn from each other by exchanging teaching experiences.

Ryan RM, & Deci EL. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from a self-determination theory perspective: Definitions, theory, practices, and future directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology 2020, 61, Article 101860.

Points for discussion:


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