Satisfaction of basic psychological needs predicts choosing mastery goals

In this article I described research which shows that choosing mastery goals predicts intrinsic motivation. Based on that research I concluded that it is wise for parents and teachers to encourage students to choose mastery goals (vs. performance goals). A new study by Duchesne et al. (2016) suggests an effective way to do this. That way is: create the conditions in which the  basic psychological needs (of autonomy, competence, and relatedness) of students are satisfied.

The study

Duchesne et al. examined the relation between the satisfaction of basis psychological needs (PNS; psychological needs satisfaction) and the choice for mastery goals in 626 during the transition to secondary school. They found that PNS predicted the choice of mastery goals. Also, they found that PNS predicted lower adoption of performance-avoidance goals (which means trying to prevent doing worse than others).


Creating a learning environment and teaching approach in which the basic psychological needs of students is satisfied is likely to stimulate students' choice for mastery goals (vs performance goals). Due to this, they are more likely to choose more challenging goals, persist longer, learn more deeply, and experience more intrinsic motivation.

Here are a few ways to satisfy students' basic psychological needs: 1) allow and invite opinions and expression of negative feelings of students and take these seriously, 2) provide choice in which tasks and goals are chosen, 3) provide clear reasons for requests and expectations, 4) give competence-supportive feedback (for example by giving positive feedback on progress), 5) stimulate cooperation and social contact.