Learning environment, motivation and interest: Perspectives on self-determination theory

Journal Article


Journal Title

South African Journal of Psychology

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

The relationship between university students' motivation and their learning environment is the focus of this article. Following self-determination theory (SDT) and the theory of interest, it is proposed that perceived support of basic psychological needs (support of autonomy, competence and social relatedness), as well as aspects of a constructivist learning environment (teachers' interest, relevance of contents, and quality of instruction, as well as transparency and fit of requirements) are associated with self-determined motivation and with study interest. The responses of a sample of undergraduate students in psychology (N = 123) to measures of these variables were analysed. The students were asked about their motivation to learn, their interest in psychology and about the perceived learning environment in psychology. The results showed that most of the students were motivated on an intrinsic and identified level, and displayed high study interest. Study interest, intrinsic motivation and self-determined forms of extrinsic motivation were particularly associated with perceived support of autonomy and competence, as well as with the relevance of the contents, the quality of instruction and with the perceived transparency of requirements.