Document Type

Journal Article


Common Ground


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Education/Fogarty Learning Centre




This article was originally published by Common Ground Publishing as: Fried, L. J., & Konza, D. M. (2013). Using self-determination theory to investigate student engagement in the classroom. The International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum, 19(2), 27-40. Original article available here


This is a report on a study that: a. explored teacher perceptions of the term engagement and b. tracked the engagement of nine early primary students who were identified by their teachers as often disengaged. In the first section of the research, teacher perceptions of the term engagement were found to focus on behavioural and emotional aspects, with little reference to the cognitive component. In the second section, the researchers used an observation rating scale to observe the students in their classrooms and recorded their levels of behavioural, emotional and cognitive engagement. At the same time, the students' learning activities were rated according to the extent to which the activities addressed their perceived competence, sense of belonging and autonomy support (aspects of Self-Determination Theory). It was found that students who were 'needy' in terms of their perceived competence or sense of belonging responded to activities that addressed these needs. This study points to the need for further investigation of Self-Determination Theory as a planning framework to address engagement issues in the classroom.

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