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SELF-DETERMINATION THEORY

A Research Proposal on the Self-Determination Theory and Academic Motivation


Motivation is a mystery. Why does one salesperson see his first prospect at seven in
the morning and another salesperson is just getting out of bed at eleven? I don't know. It's
part of the mysteries of life as an American entrepreneur and motivational speaker Rohn
once said (Motivational Quotes, n.d.). He brings to attentiveness the complexity of the human
mind in determining ones actions and behaviours. The question is, how does motivation
influence us in making certain decisions such that it determines our behaviours and actions?
According to Reeve (2009), there are two types of motivation: intrinsic motivation and
extrinsic motivation (p. 111). Intrinsic motivation is defined as the innate inclination to
engage ones interest as well as to exercise ones abilities in hopes to master optimal
challenges (Reeve, 2009, p. 111). On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is defined as the
external forces, for example, praises, scholarships, or money that causes someone to behave
in a particular manner (Reeve, 2009, p. 113). Extrinsic motivation tends to be independent of
the activity; unlike intrinsic motivation which arises due to a sense of satisfaction gained
from performing a particular behaviour (internal), extrinsic motivation is due to the
environment (Reeve, 2009, p. 113).
Academic motivation, as defined by Brouse, Basch, LeBlanc, McKnight, and Lei
(2010) is the internal and external forces that drive one to perform in their education. Reeve
(2009) went on to define academic motivation as a process which consist of needs,
cognitions, and emotions which influence the behaviour of an individual and gives it energy
and direction to strive academically (p. 8). Autonomy support, as defined by Liu and Fu
(2011) is ones free will to behave in any particular manner that is consistent with their own
sense of self. Being autonomy supportive can also be defined as a facilitative process,
whereby an individuals autonomy is instilled through the provision of a variety of ways,
such as by providing the individual with optimal challenges, fostering learning goals that the

SELF-DETERMINATION THEORY

student is able to relate to, as well as taking the perspective of the student in terms of thinking
(Jang, Reeve, & Deci, 2010). Fetro, Rhodes, and Hey (2010) defined competence as an
individuals motivation as well as ability to react to a particular situation. According to Cho,
Weinstein, and Wicker (2011), there are two ways to define competence. Mastery-oriented
individuals perceived competence is defined by a growth in terms of academic ability. On
the other hand, performance-oriented individuals perceived competence is defined by their
ability to exhibit ones ability by portraying to others that they can outperform them; they
also tend to avoid performing defectively. With regards to relatedness, Tong et al. (2009) has
defined relatedness as the need for fulfilling and rewarding social relationships which are
related to personal growth. As cited in Stipek (2002), relatedness is the need to feel safely
connected to others within a social group and to feel that one deserves the love and respect of
others. Hornby and Sydney (2005) defined gender as the quality of being male or female with
respect to social and cultural difference (p. 619). Dokmen (2004) defined gender as
socially-defined personal characteristics, roles, and responsibilities of males and females
(as cited in Eryilmaz & Atak, 2011).
For the purpose of this research, academic motivation is defined as the intrinsic and
extrinsic factors that compels one to strive for academic excellence, autonomy support is
defined as the amount of encouragement and help an individual perceives they get when
trying to function independently, perceived competence is confined to the aspects of learning
only, whereby it is defined as ones conscious awareness of their ability to prosper
academically, and relatedness is defined as the feeling of belongingto feel a sense of
connection with others. Gender is defined as the quality of being biologically male or female.
There appears to be a rather extensive research carried out with regards to autonomy,
competence, relatedness, and academic motivation (Gan, Matthews, & Jolly, 2010; Hui, Sun,
Chow, & Chu, 2011). A study done by Niemiec and Ryan (2009) on autonomy, competence,

SELF-DETERMINATION THEORY

and relatedness in the classroom setting with regards to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
found that the autonomy support exhibited by the teacher, their competence in terms of
teaching, as well as their relatedness with the students predicted a higher academic
performance as the student tended to have better self-regulation in terms of independents
learning. The students in this study also tended to have a better well-being. Similarly, another
study conducted by Ratelle, Larose, Guay, & Senecal (2005) on 729 young adults found that
perceived autonomy support predicted a better academic achievement as the former tended to
increase the students perceived self-competence, thereby promoting academic achievement.
The study found that Faye and Sharpe (2008) in their research conducted an experiment on
autonomy, competence, and relatedness against developmental theories with regards to
academic motivation in university. The study found that autonomy, competence, and
relatedness were a better predictor of academic motivation as compared to developmental
theories. Perceived competence and autonomy support proved to be the two constructs more
strongly associated to academic motivation.
There appears to be limited literature available with regards to opposing studies for
autonomy, competence, and relatedness with academic motivation. Nonetheless, a study
conducted by Kover and Worrell (2010) on high- achieving high school students on academic
motivation did not show any significant relation to their perceived competence for learning.
Another study conducted by Berger and Hanze (2009) on twelfth-grade students found that
the intensity of the learning unit in terms of interestingness was a weak predictor of academic
motivation. The study also found a small effect of competence in terms of motivation to
complete the task. Skinner, Furrer, Marchand, & Kinderman (2008) conducted an experiment
on 805 fourth to seventh grade students. The study which examined engagement and
dissatisfaction in the classroom found that teacher support predicted a better engagement in
class. The results were discussed in terms of academic achievement and it was found that

SELF-DETERMINATION THEORY

autonomy support from teachers predicted a lower academic achievement as it predicted a


lower level of relatedness and competence as perceived by the student.
Few studies have been conducted that examines gender differences in academic
motivation, a study done by Brouse et al. (2010) on 856 college students found that females
had a higher overall academic motivation as compared to males. The study also found that
females had higher intrinsic and extrinsic motivation as compared to males. Another study
done by Bembenutty (2007) on self-regulation on 364 college students found that females
tended to have a higher academic motivation as compared to males as measured by effort
regulation. On the other hand, a study my McMillan et al. (2010) on 3242 sixth to twelfth
grade students found no significant gender differences in terms of academic motivation when
controlled for teachers assessment practices
It is noteworthy to point out that this study revolves very much around Deci & Ryans
(1985) Self-Determination theory (as cited in Beck, 2004). This theory is a theory of
motivation as well as personality which proposes that innate needs such as autonomy,
competence, and relatedness, if satisfied accordingly, will allow an individual to perform at
an optimal personal growth and functioning level (Reeve, 2009). The theory suggests that
there are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic which drives an individual to act in a
particular way or perform a particular task. The Self-Determination theory emphasises a
natural growth in the direction of positive motivation. However, this growth is inhibited if
ones need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness is not satisfied.
This study aims to investigate academic motivation with regards to autonomy,
competence, and relatedness in order to gain a broader understanding with regards to the
cognitive determinants of academic motivation. With this, it is hoped that the academic
motivation of students in Malaysia can be enhanced so that more intellects can be produced
to safeguard the future of Malaysia.

SELF-DETERMINATION THEORY

The study proposes the following hypotheses:


1- The higher the autonomy support, the higher the academic motivation.
2- The higher the perceived competence for learning, the higher the academic
motivation.
3- The higher the need for relatedness, the higher the academic motivation.
4- Female students are significantly more motivated academically than male students.
Methods
Study Design
The proposed study design for this research is survey and convenience sampling. A
total of 180 participants will be recruited for this study. All the participants will be answering
the same questionnaire. For the first hypothesis, the independent variable is autonomy
support and the dependent variable is academic motivation. For the second hypothesis, the
independent variable is perceived competence for learning and the dependent variable is
academic motivation. For the third hypothesis, the independent variable is the need for
relatedness and the dependent variable is academic motivation. For the fourth hypothesis, the
independent variable is gender and the dependent variable is academic motivation.
Participants
The sample will consist of Malaysian undergraduates from the Klang Valley, namely
Shah Alam, Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Klang, Kuala Lumpur, and Gombak. There will be
90 males and 90 females recruited. For each gender, the race distribution would be such that
there are 30 participants for each race (i.e. Malays, Chinese, and Indians). The proposed age
range would be from 18-25 years, and the exclusion criteria is non-Malaysians as the cultural
differences in terms of upbringing may have fostered different types of values which may
confound the study. The participants will be conveniently recruited based on their willingness
in answering the questionnaire

SELF-DETERMINATION THEORY

Measurement
Learning Climate Questionnaire (LCQ). (Williams & Deci, 1996). The LCQ is a 15
item scale which assesses the learning setting, for example a particular lecture theatre at the
college or graduate school level. Therefore, the questions can sometime be adapted slightly in
terms of instructions so that the wording used is relevant to the particular situation being
studied. However, if it is used in a general learning climate and there is more than one
instructor, then the questions are stated with regard to the faculty members in general. This
scale can also be shortened to only 6 items, that is only items 1, 2, 4, 7, 10, and 14 will be
included. Nonetheless, this study will use the long-form of the scale. An example of a
question asked in the LCQ is I feel that my instructor provides me choices and options. The
questions are rated on a Likert Scale of 1 to 7 (1= strongly disagree; 7= strongly agree) . The
total score is obtained by averaging the individual scores of the scale. Item 13 is reversely
scored. A high average indicates a higher level of perceived autonomy support while a lower
average indicates a lower level of perceived autonomy support. The LCQ has good reliability,
with a Cronbachs alpha value of 0.9 and above (Black & Deci, 2000; Williams, Saizow,
Ross, & Deci, 1997).
Perceived Competence for Learning Scale (PCS-L). (Williams & Deci, 1996). The
PCS-L is a 4-item scale which measures the feelings of an individual in pursuing their
particular course in college or university. The items are written typically for the domain that
is being studied. An example of an item asked in the PCS-L is I feel confident in my ability
to learn this material. The item is rated on a Likert Scale of 1 to 7 (1= not at all true 7= very
true). To obtain the total score, the score of each individualized item is averaged. A high
score reflects a high perceived competence while a low score reflects low perceived
competence. The PCS-L has rather good reliability (Cronbachs Alpha > 0.8). The scale also
has excellent face validity.

SELF-DETERMINATION THEORY

Need for Relatedness at College Questionnaire (NRC-Q). (Guiffrida, Gouveia, Wall,


& Seward, 2008). The NRC-Q consists of 12 items which assesses the different reason
college students can be motivated to attend college with regards to 4 domains. These domains
are relatedness to home (altruistic), relatedness to home (keep up), relatedness to peers, and
relatedness to faculty and staff. An example of an item in this scale is To be able to help my
family. The items in the scale are scored on a Likert Scale of 1 to 7 (1= does not correspond
at all; 7= corresponds exactly). The respective domain score are obtained by summing the
score of the respective items in each domain together. The total score is obtained by summing
the items of the respective domains together. Items 1, 4, and 11 make up the relatedness to
home (altruistic) domain, items 6.8. and 10 make up the domain relatedness to home (keep
up), items 2, 9, and 12 make up the relatedness to peers domain, and items 3,5, and 7 make
up the relatedness to faculty and staff. The scale has good reliability (Cronbachs Alpha= .74,
.79, .84, .81, .86) for the domain relatedness at home (altruistic), relatedness at home (keep
up), relatedness with peers, relatedness with faculty, and overall relatedness respectively. The
scale has good convergent validity with social contact, with a correlation coefficient value of
.77.
Academic Motivation Scale (AMS-C 28) College (Undergraduate) Version.
(Vallerand, Pelletier, Blais, Briere, Senecal, & Vallieres, 1989). The AMS-C 28 consists of
28 items assessing academic motivation with regards to intrinsic motivation, extrinsic
motivation, and amotivation. For intrinsic motivation, the scale is further divided into 3 (to
know, towards accomplishment, and to experience stiumulation). For extrinsic motivation,
the scale is also further divided into 3; they are identified, introjected, and external regulation.
An example of an item asked in the AMS-C 28 scale is Because with only a high school
degree I would not find a high-paying job later on. The scale is scored on a Likert scale of 1
to 7 (1= does not correspond at all; 7= corresponds exactly). The score for each domain is

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obtained by summing the score of the respective items in the domain together. Items 2, 9, 16,
23 make up the intrinsic motivation (to know) domain, items 6, 13, 20, and 27 make up the
intrinsic motivation (toward accomplishment) domain, items 4, 11, 18, and 25 make up the
intrinsic motivation (to experience stimulation) domain, items 3, 10, 17, and 24 make up the
extrinsic motivation (identified) domain, items 7, 14, 21, and 28 make up the extrinsic
motivation (introjected) domain, items 1, 8, 15, and 22 make up the extrinsic motivation
(external regulation) domain, and items 5, 12, 19, and 26 make up the motivation domain. A
high score indicates high academic motivation while a low score indicates low academic
motivation. The scale has good reliability, with Cronbach alpha values of .85, .83, .84, .62,
.84, .85, and .86 for the domains amotivation, external regulation, introjected regulation,
identified regulation, to know, accomplishment, and stimulation domains respectively. The
correlations for the test-retest reliability were >.7 across all domains.
Procedure
First and foremost, participants will be asked if they are a Malaysian. In the event that
they are, a brief description of the study will be given to them to engage their interest in
participating in the study. On the other hand, if they are not a Malaysian, then attempts to
recruit them will not be carried out. Next, a consent form will be given to participants who
are willing to participate in the study. This will be followed by a demographic sheet, and then
the questionnaire. The questionnaire will take approximately 10 minutes to be completed.
Participants were free to withdraw from the study at any time without facing any penalties.
Participants will be debriefed about the study after they have completed the questionnaire
successfully. There could be a possible risk of weariness from answering the survey
questions. To minimise this risk, participants are allowed to answer the survey questions at
their own pace. No compensation will be given for participating in this study.

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Proposed Statistical Analysis


Using the SPSS verison 19.0 for Windows, hypothesis 1, 2, and 3 will be analysed
using Pearsons Correlation to examine the relationship between autonomy, competence, and
relatedness with respect to motivation. For hypothesis 4, the independent sample t-test will be
used to analyse the differences between males and females in terms of academic motivation.