Must Read: Fostering Motivation Could Help Keep Marginalized Girls in School.May 17, 2017 by Walter

Education — and girls’ education in particular — is often cited as one of the key pathways out of poverty, but in many parts of the world women and girls still face significant barriers that prevent them from attending school. Now, a field study in Malawi reveals psychological factors played an important role in whether girls attended school, even under conditions of extreme poverty and deprivation: Girls were significantly more likely to attend class when they were intrinsically excited about school and learning, even when they struggled with a lack of basic resources at home.

The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“We are prone to think that giving girls a reward for going to school will increase their motivation. Instead, our results indicate that stimulating their intrinsic joy of learning is a stronger predictor of their actual school going behavior, even under conditions of severe poverty,” says researcher Marieke van Egmond of the University of Hagen in Germany, lead author on the study.

Even though a significant part of the global population lives under conditions of poverty, empirical psychological research with people living in poverty around the world is rare. Studies like this one are vital to determining whether theories and findings obtained in Western, industrialized settings hold for people who are exposed to very different life circumstances.

“In general, girls really want to go to school, enjoy learning, and go to great lengths to do so. In psychological terms, they are intrinsically motivated,” van Egmond explained. “Poverty and social dynamics, however, work against them. Cultural beliefs and attitudes reinforce the idea that girls won’t use their education or that they are not smart enough to continue with school. In other words, they don’t feel like they belong in school, they don’t feel competent and lack power.”

To better understand the psychological factors that can help marginalized girls stay in school, van Egmond teamed up with the international development non-profit Theatre for a Change (TfaC) and researchers from One South to conduct a field study. TfaC’s program focuses on empowering marginalized girls through school-based girls clubs.

Study participants included 642 girls and young women between the ages of 10 and 22 years old living in rural Malawi, a landlocked country in southeastern Africa that ranks 170 out of 188 on the United Nation’s 2016 Human Development Index. Participants were randomly selected from girls attending schools in Theatre for a Change school programs.

Interviews for the study were conducted by a specially trained team of 24 bilingual (English and Chichewa) female interviewers. The interviewers surveyed the girls about their intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for attending school, their health, and how frequently they didn’t get enough to eat, didn’t have enough clean water, lacked medicine or medical treatment, or lacked any cash income.

The researchers measured school attendance by looking at the number of days that girls had attended school over the month of February 2015.

School attendance was significantly higher among girls who were intrinsically motivated to attend school – those who said they enjoyed school and learning for its own sake – regardless of the level of resource scarcity that the girls were exposed to. Extrinsic motivation – that is, going to school because it is expected or normative — did not predict school attendance.

The results suggest that interventions that target aspects of intrinsic motivation, such as a sense of competence and autonomy, may be as effective as economic approaches in achieving behavioral change, as long as fundamental structural barriers (such as access to pens and paper) are overcome.

“The take home message is that development projects that aim to increase the school attendance of girls in impoverished settings need to not only aim for female empowerment, but for creating environments in which girls feel that they belong and feel able to learn as well,” van Egmond says. “This will stimulate the girls’ intrinsic motivation to go to school, which is a strong predictor of their actual attendance.”

Such interventions could ultimately lead to wide-ranging benefits, as research suggests that attending school provides lifelong health and economic advantages to women and girls, including higher incomes, better health care, and better education for ensuing generations. Yet, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, there are 33 million fewer girls than boys in primary schools worldwide.

Van Egmond and colleagues plan on extending this research to other countries in the sub-Saharan region in order to see if the patterns observed hold in different cultural contexts.   

Co-authors on the research include Andrés Navarrete Berges and Tariq Omarshah of One South and Jennifer Benton of Theatre for a Change.

Theatre for a Change Malawi received funding from the U.K. Department for International Development. The current project was funded within the framework of the Girls Education Challenge (Reference No. 8329).

All materials have been made publicly available via the Open Science Framework. The complete Open Practices Disclosure for this article is available online. This article has received the badge for Open Materials.

InsideHigherEd: Model for SuccessMarch 23, 2017 by Walter

March 23, 2017 / By Colleen Flaherty

New paper proposes framework for supporting the needs of pretenure faculty members, namely making sure they’re poised to find intrinsic motivation.

Both hiring and signing on as a new assistant professor involve risk; if the commitment doesn’t work out, both the institution and the faculty member denied tenure have lost valuable time and resources. Naturally, then, there’s a large of body of literature on how to promote junior faculty members’ success, and a new study builds on three recurring themes: balance between research, teaching and service and between work and home; clear expectations about professional responsibilities; and collegiality.

The study’s authors proposed and tested a conceptual model of pretenure faculty success that incorporates additional research on motivation — namely self-determination theory. The gist is that when pretenure faculty members’ social-environmental concerns are addressed, “their basic psychosocial needs will be satisfied, resulting in optimal motivation and greater reported success in teaching and research.”

Lexia Learning’s White Paper on Choosing Educational Technology Helping Students’ Intrinsic MotivationMarch 16, 2017 by Walter

March 16, 2017 / By GlobeNewswire /

Proliferation of New Educational Technology Products Raises Question of Which Features Support and Spur an Inherent Love of Learning

Boston, March 16, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — While student motivation in traditional classroom settings is well researched, materials on how digital tools are enhancing or undermining this essential factor for academic performance are harder to find. Lexia Learning, a Rosetta Stone Inc. Company, has released a white paper titled, “The Importance of Intrinsic Student Motivation When Selecting Educational Technologies,” which not only focuses on well-researched methods of supporting students’ intrinsic motivation but also applies that research to educational technologies.

The white paper, written by Dr. Elizabeth R. Kazakoff, senior researcher at Lexia, highlights the three characteristics identified in Self Determination Theory that are critical to spark intrinsic motivation in learners:

  • Autonomy
  • Competence
  • Relatedness to the contexts of a student’s community, personal goals, interests, or knowledge base

Copy of whitepaper can be downloaded at

Self-Determination Theory in Practice: How to Create an Optimally Supportive Health Care EnvironmentMarch 10, 2017 by Walter

By SDT faculty, Jennifer La Guardia

What gets you started making a health behavior change?

And what keeps you going with those changes over the long haul?

This book is the most comprehensive manual to date detailing how to cultivate high-quality and lasting motivation for healthy living using the tools and strategies from Self-Determination Theory. If you’re a healthcare practitioner, researcher, leader in your organization, public health advocate, or just an individual who wants to be able to easily digest four decades of scientific research on human motivation, this book provides you the fundamentals for creating programs that support long-lasting health behavior change.

Get your copy from Amazon

Management Today: Why high tech customer experience still needs a human faceMarch 6, 2017 by Walter

March 06, 2017 / By John Sills /

Ask anyone about a recent great customer experience they’ve had, and they’ll probably mention the person who made it happen.

So whilst reading Drive – Dan Pink’s excellent book on motivation – I was happy to discover a theory that joins these dots and seems to confirm that the things that make for engaged employees are the very same things that also create great customer experiences.

The book focuses on self-determination theory, first proposed by Deci & Ryan in 1985, which is concerned with the motivation behind the choices people make.


New Straits Time: Gaming isn’t all badFebruary 13, 2017 by Walter

February 13, 2017 / By Aiman Maulana /

Once again, Self-Determination Theory’s research gains attention in Gaming. What are the surprising scientific evidences on gaming, and how do the basic psychological needs tap into gaming and wellbeing.

Forbes: Who Will Lead In The Smart Machine Age?February 7, 2017 by Walter

February 7, 2017 / By Ed Hess, J.D. /

Self-Determination Theory as a model for the Smart Machine Age (SMA).  Check out this article on who will lead in the business sphere of the new industrial revolution called the Smart Machine Age…and how can SDT be a part of SMA.

In the SMA, cultures and leadership models should be built upon three psychological concepts: Positivity; Self-Determination Theory; and Psychological Safety. Human excellence in the SMA will require humanistic people-centric work environments and leaders. It’s ironic that while the SMA will reduce human headcount dramatically in many businesses, it will also require many work environments to become very humanistic and people-centric. 

SDT Faculty to Give Talks @ Motivation Research Symposium / Feb 10, 2017 / AmsterdamDecember 27, 2016 by Walter

Richard Ryan and Maarten Vansteenkiste to give keynote talks at the

Research on Motivation Trends and Movements Symposium

Friday, 10th February 2017

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Organized by the Department of Research in Education @ VUmc  School of Medical Sciences

Click here to register for this one-day symposium



Psychiatric Times: New Evidence Suggests Media Violence Effects May Be MinimalNovember 24, 2016 by Walter

November 24, 2016 / By Christopher Ferguson, Ph.D. /

Another interesting article explaining how our understanding of media violence effects have changed in recent years featuring SDT work by Andrew Przybylski, Scott Rigby, and Richard Ryan.

“By contrast, new theoretical models such as Self Determination Theory and Mood Management Theory suggest that viewers actively select media to meet their motivational or mood goals. Neither the selection of media, nor outcome behaviors are driven primarily by media content but rather by a user’s goals and motivations.”

Click here to read full article