More on how autonomy-supportive instruction promotes intrinsic motivation:

“The evidence is clear that if people in one-up positions act to facilitate a sense of autonomy and competence in others whom they teach or supervise, those others will remain interested and energized.”  –Edward Deci, Why We Do What We Do

“‘Autonomy support’ refers to the amount of freedom a teacher gives to a student so the student can connect his or her behavior to personal goals, interests, and values. The opposite of autonomy support is coercion, or being controlled…. The telltale sign of low autonomy support (i.e., high control) is a classroom rich in external rewards, pressures, and controls. In empirical studies, autonomy support is operationally defined by the extent to which the teacher provides choices (“I let this student do classwork at his or her own pace”) and options (“My teacher lets me make a lot of my own decisions when it comes to schoolwork.”), shows respect for students (by acknowledging the importance of their opinions and feelings), gives rationale for learning activities, resists using coercive behavior (control or force through authority, as in “My teacher tries to control everything I do”) and supports students’ initiatives (“Your teacher tells students to interrupt him/her whenever they have a questions). Lack of autonomy support, on the other hand, emanates from a teacher pressuring students toward teacher-directed goals and behaviors. Autonomy support is a powerful motivator for students because students have a need for autonomy, or self-determination.”   –Johnmarshall Reeve, Motivating Others

APPLICATION: How can I structure the learning environment so my students experience autonomy?

NON-CONTROLLING FEEDBACK: “The art of using noncontrolling feedback involves learning to resist using coercive language such as saying that the student ‘should,’ ‘must,’ ‘ought to,’ or ‘has to’ do such-and such (e.g., ‘Johnny, you should try harder to improve your spelling’). Instead, a teacher with a noncontrolling, supportive communication style would ask, ‘Johnny, I’ve noticed your spelling has not been improving lately; do you have any idea why this might be?’”  –Johnmarshall Reeve, Motivating Others

TRACKING FORM (see On Course, Chapter 4): I spend about 10 minutes a week having students plan, track, and report on the actions they are taking to achieve the goals they have set for the course.  I also ask them to use the Tracking Form to record, among other things, the number of hours they spend each week studying for the course.  In this way they learn that their choices of behavior determine their experiences and outcomes. Earth is, after all, a cause-effect planet. If they don’t like their experiences or outcomes, they have the freedom to make different choices. The Tracking Form gives them the data to make wise autonomous choices.

–Skip Downing, Facilitator, On Course Workshop, Skip@OnCourseWorkshop.com

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