Twelve tips to stimulate intrinsic motivation in students through autonomy-supportive classroom teaching derived from self-determination theory

Med Teach. 2011;33(12):978-82. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2011.599896.


Background: Self-determination theory (SDT) of motivations distinguishes between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivation is observed when one engages in an activity out of genuine interest and is truly self-determined. Intrinsic motivation is the desired type of motivation for study as it is associated with deep learning, better performance and positive well-being in comparison to extrinsic motivation. It is dependent on the fulfilment of three basic psychological needs described by SDT. These are the needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness. According to SDT, autonomy-supportive teaching is important, because it makes students feel autonomous and competent in their learning and also supported (relatedness) by their teachers.

Aim: The concept of autonomy-supportive teaching is relevant to medical education, but less known. Through this article, we aim to make this concept understood and practically used by medical teachers.

Methods: We used SDT literature as a basis to formulate these 12 tips.

Results: We present 12 practical tips derived from SDT, for teachers in health professions, on how to engage in autonomy-supportive teaching behaviours in order to stimulate intrinsic motivation in their students.

Conclusion: These tips demonstrate that it is not difficult to engage in autonomy-supportive teaching behaviour. It can be learned through practice and self-reflection on teaching practices.

MeSH terms

  • Faculty, Medical
  • Feedback
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Motivation*
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Psychological Theory
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Social Support*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Teaching / methods*