A Classification System for Teachers’ Motivational Behaviors Recommended in Self-Determination Theory Interventions

Publication Name

Journal of Educational Psychology


Teachers’ behavior is a key factor that influences students’ motivation. Many theoretical models have tried to explain this influence, with one of the most thoroughly researched being self-determination theory (SDT). We used a Delphi method to create a classification of teacher behaviors consistent with SDT. This is useful because SDT-based interventions have been widely used to improve educational outcomes. However, these interventions contain many components. Reliably classifying and labeling those components is essential for implementation, reproducibility, and evidence synthesis.We used an international expert panel (N = 34) to develop this classification system. We started by identifying behaviors from existing literature, then refined labels, descriptions, and examples using the Delphi panel’s input. Next, the panel of experts iteratively rated the relevance of each behavior to SDT, the psychological need that each behavior influenced, and its likely effect on motivation. To create a mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive list of behaviors, experts nominated overlapping behaviors that were redundant, and suggested new ones missing from the classification. After three rounds, the expert panel agreed upon 57 teacher motivational behaviors (TMBs) that were consistent with SDT. For most behaviors (77%), experts reached consensus on both the most relevant psychological need and influence on motivation. Our classification system provides a comprehensive list of TMBs and consistent terminology in how those behaviors are labeled. Researchers and practitioners designing interventions could use these behaviors to design interventions, to reproduce interventions, to assess whether these behaviors moderate intervention effects, and could focus new research on areas where experts disagreed.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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