Dixons Academies Trust | Self-determination
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Dixons Academies Trust


Self-determination theory posits that humans have natural growth tendencies and want to learn and develop. Theorists such as Deci and Ryan developed the theory further suggesting three universal and innate needs that must be fulfilled in order to achieve a sense of well-being and motivation: competency, autonomy, and psychological relatedness. And that there are 2 main types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Further, if the 3 basic human needs are met (competency, autonomy and relatedness), then individuals are intrinsically motivated.

Deci and Ryan recognise that extrinsic factors do motivate individuals; however, the effect can be limited and some research even suggests that extrinsic reward can, in the long term, demotivate. Extrinsic factors mean that the individual is motivated by the reward, whereas intrinsic factors lead to reward being derived from the activity itself.

These factors are considered across our academies; however, some focus in on a more recent iteration of the theory: the work of Daniel Pink in Drive. This is predicated on the intrinsic motivation derived from the drivers of mastery, autonomy and purpose.

Mastery is the urge to get better at things that matter.

Autonomy is the drive to direct our own lives.

Purpose is the drive to connect to a cause larger than ourselves.

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