Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Job Satisfaction and Student Happiness

Self-determination Theory (SDT), is a theory of human motivation. I ran across it in a study of how law schools damage or do less damage (you evidently can't say "no damage!) to their students ("Understanding the Negative Effects of Legal Education on Law Students: A Longitudinal Test of Self-Determination Theory," by Kennon M. Sheldon and Lawrence S. Krieger, in Society for Personality and Social Psychology (at http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/33/6/883 ) )

The authors state: "According to SDT, the development of positive motivation is importantly forwarded or impeded by the characteristics of the social environment. Specifically, when authorities provide autonomy support and acknowledge their subordinates' initiative and self-directedness, those subordinates discover, retain and enhance their intrinsic motivations and at least internalize non-enjoyable but important extrinsic motivations. In contrast, when authorities are controlling or deny the self-agency of subordinates, intrinsic motivations are undermined and internalization is forestalled. …

According to SDT, all human beings require regular experiences of autonomy, competence, and relatedness to thrive and maximize their positive motivation. In other words, people need to feel that they are good at what they do or at least become good at it (competence); that they are doing what they choose and want to be doing, that is what they enjoy or at least believed in (autonomy); and that they are relating meaningfully to others in the process, that is, connecting with the selves of other people (relatedness). These needs are considered so fundamental that [one researcher] has likened them to a plant's need for sunlight, soil, and water. Indeed, autonomy, competence, and relatedness have each been shown empirically to be uniquely important in that they have additive effects on a host of positive outcomes. …

According to SDT, autonomy, competence, and relatedness are precisely the kinds of experiences that people implicitly take into account in making well-being judgments."

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