Self Determination Theory Meets Flipped

Flipped classroom theoretical model

Figure 1 (Abeysekera & Dawson, 2015)

Deci and Ryan’s (2000) self-determination theory holds great weight in the research on the flipped classroom. It, along with cognitive load theory, are the basis of one of the latest theoretical models for why the flipped framework should be effective in higher education. The focus on active learning during the face to face portion of the model has potential to increase a sense of autonomy and confidence (Abeysekera & Dawson, 2015).  Additionally, it is during this active participation that a greater sense of relatedness between the student and the instructor can occur as well as through interactions among students. The instructor should be taking the time to work with students and mentor them as students are progressing through increasingly complex hands on minds on learning activities. Increasing the trio of senses, competence, relatedness, and autonomy, would lead to increased intrinsic motivation in instances where the content or activity is inherently interesting or satisfying. However, interest and intrinsic motivation typically decline as learners progress from elementary school to college. It is important then to look at how increasing the sense of competence, relatedness, and autonomy through the flipped model could increase extrinsic motivation in such a way that leads to integrated regulation.

A learner’s sense of autonomy needs to be satisfied in order to advance toward integrated regulation. Technology mediated or enhanced instruction has been shown to increase a learner’s sense of autonomy (Gabrielle, n.d.). In Gabrielle’s study, the personal digital assistants were given to participants for use in the courses which afforded autonomy. This sense of autonomy led to greater motivation. The flipped model proposes the integration of a flexible learning environment on diverse and seamless learning platforms that is learner-centered (Chen, Wang, Kinshuk, & Chen, 2014). Both the environment and the encouragement for students to take an active role in their learning should lead to a greater sense of autonomy.

Two aspects of the flipped practice influencing a sense of relatedness are that teacher’s should be more responsive to students’ social and emotional needs and be able to provide real-time feedback on the learning process (Goodwin & Miller, 2013). This second is pivotal since feedback is seen as one of the strongest factors in student learning (Black & Wiliam, 2009; Evans, 2013; Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Kluger & DeNisi, 1996; Shute, 2008). Efficacious flipped classrooms should be entirely opposite of the large lecture format rampant in higher education. The structure should promote small group interaction and relatedness among learners and just-in-time feedback from the instructor.

Finally, a sense of competence can be increased through active classroom participation. As students take ownership of their learning, construct knowledge and engage in meaningful discussion, they tend to feel more competent. How are students to feel empowered and competent when an instructor takes the position of sage on a stage? This does not lead to active learners with a sense that their presence, thinking, or skills matter. Through the flipped approach, the instructor is forced to relegate much of the control and decision making to the learner. In turn, as the learner’s sense of competence, autonomy, and relatedness increases, their motivation and learning should follow suit.

Abeysekera, L., & Dawson, P. (2015). Motivation and cognitive load in the flipped classroom: Definition, rationale and a call for research. Higher Education Research & Development, 34(1), 1–14. doi:10.1080/07294360.2014.934336

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2009). Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 21(1), 5–31. doi:10.1007/s11092-008-9068-5

Chen, Y., Wang, Y., Kinshuk, & Chen, N. S. (2014). Is FLIP enough? Or should we use the FLIPPED model instead? Computers and Education, 79, 16–27. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2014.07.004

Evans, C. (2013). Making sense of assessment feedback in higher education. Review of Educational Research, 83(1), 70–120. doi:10.3102/0034654312474350

Gabrielle, D. M. (n.d.). The effects of technology-mediated instructional strategies on motivation, performance, and self-directed learning. Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, Ph.D.

Goodwin, B., & Miller, K. (2013). Evidence on flipped classrooms is still coming in. Educational Leadership, March, 78–80.

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112. doi:10.3102/003465430298487

Kluger, A., & DeNisi, A. (1996). The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, 119(2), 254–284. Retrieved from

Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54–67. doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1020

Shute, V. J. (2008). Focus on Formative Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 153–189. doi:10.3102/0034654307313795


2 thoughts on “Self Determination Theory Meets Flipped

  1. So you raise an interesting point here:

    >However, interest and intrinsic motivation typically decline as learners
    >progress from elementary school to college.

    Along with this is the culture of learning students have ‘grown up in’ within higher education. Meaning their expectations of higher ed. It would be interesting to look at different types of students and locations of learning to see if that makes a difference in how they ‘like’ the flipped class model. Can implementing this model, as you propose, help shift students….?

  2. First of all, I was very excited that you were able to tie in the reading so well with your topic! Great job!

    Secondly, Rob kind of stole my comment. I’m new to the subject of motivation, so I was unaware that “interest and intrinsic motivation typically decline as learners progress from elementary school to college.” I was wondering why this is and what can be done about it. The comment seems to suggest that people just think that the decline is inevitable and that there isn’t really much that can be done about it. Are you suggesting that one way for instructors to prevent or decrease this decline would be to use the flipped classroom model in their classroom?

    Another interesting point that you bring up is the fact that feedback is important when it comes to student motivation. In the past, I have done a lot of investigating into the role that instructor feedback has on student learning when it comes to distance education, but I had never considered the fact that instructors would need to pay extra attention to making sure that they are providing their students feedback when they are using the Flipped Classroom Model as well. I think that I didn’t think about this before because I automatically assumed that the students would be being given an adequate amount of feedback because they were meeting with their professors on a regular basis, when in fact, this might not be the case. So, thank you!!


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