La Guardia, J. G. (2009). Developing who I am: A self-determination theory approach to the establishment of healthy identities. Educational Psychologist, 44(2), 90–104.
La Guardia presents her perspective of Self-determination Theory (SDT) by drawing on a wide variety and volume of literature on the subject. The basis of SDT, according to La Guardia, is that identity pathways are created by each individual’s set of skills, interests and personalities. These pathways are influenced intrinsically as well as by the people around them extrinsically. She examined both identity and motivation separately and then explained how SDT related to each. In regards to identity, she explained SDT is rooted in three basic psychological needs – autonomy, competence and relatedness. In regards to motivation, she examined the role of parents and teachers and how the environment created by them can affect a child’s intrinsic motivation level and their engagement in school. She ends the article by examining the implications and effect of standardized testing for students in the United States, and the effect on a student’s ego in that the more pressure is exerted on a child to do well, the more poorly they actually perform. In fact, she states, by supporting a child’s psychological needs, the child is more likely to develop intrinsic motivation, internalize social values and have a positive impact on personal well-being.
The article by La Guardia was one of five articles in a motivation and identity series in Educational Psychologist. In the same article, Brophy (2009) examined the strengths and limitations of each of the articles. In regards to this particular article, he stated that three areas of weakness in regards to SDT is that it focuses too much on intrinsic motivation, the need for broadening a student’s horizons by exposing them to things that they may not discover on their own, and what teachers and parents should do to influence children. When comparing the two articles, I disagree with these statements. La Guardia does address extrinsic motivation with the goal of the child developing intrinsic motivation. As she states in the beginning of the article, the focus is on children and early adolescences. A time period when intrinsic motivation is being developed because as an adult, extrinsic factors – by parents and teachers – will not have as much of an effect. As for the second point, La Guardia does not state that the child should not be introduced to new ideas and concepts. In fact, an area that she has suggested in need of more research is in regards to supporting students’ ability to “try on different interests within their school curricula” (p. 100). Lastly, La Guardia does give an example of a program called First Things First. In this explanation, although the focus is on the program, readers can infer best practices for parents and teachers when working with students. She may not state explicitly that teachers and parents should do this, but she does give some suggestions for what has worked in this program. La Guardia does pull from many sources to construct a well-written explanation of SDT; one that Brophy had a difficult job finding very many substantial faults to discuss in his article.
I found myself agreeing with many of the points that were pulled out of the La Guardia article by Brophy to use in his article. Even during my first reading of the Brophy article, I scribbled in the margins, “READ!” This was for two reasons. First, when it comes to teaching ESL students, I teach in this way when I can. I attempt to scaffold learning and challenge the learners in my class so that they can improve their skills in English. Secondly, even though I know grades are an extrinsic motivator for some, I attempt to help students work towards being more reliant on themselves and to work because of intrinsic motivation. I incorporate things such as goal setting and the importance of being resilient. Even in this article, I found myself writing in the margins. This time, it was the word, “Yikes!” I wrote this because of the statement:
mothers in the high-pressure condition showed more verbal control with their children, more verbal interventions, and less structure and were more susceptible to the manipulation than mothers in the low-pressure condition…When working on their own, children performed objectively worse on structure tasks and were less creative in less structured tasks if their mothers were more controlling” (p. 99). Thinking about the amount of standardized testing in K-12 settings as well as the trend to tie teacher pay to student performance, we are putting students into a high-pressure situation. The results may not be positive for neither the teachers nor the students.
Brophy, J. (2009). Connecting With the Big Picture. Educational Psychologist, 44(2), 147–157.