Autonomy-supportive teaching works (also in Chinese schools)

Does autonomy-supportive teaching also work in other cultures than Western cultures? Researchers Yu et al. (2016) conducted a longitudinal study of the effects of autonomy support among Chinese students transitioning from primary to secondary education (N = 236). The study lasted 18 months. The researchers administered questionnaires at 4 times: in the autumn of the 1st class (T1), in the spring of the 1st class (T2), in the autumn of the 2nd class (T3) and in the spring of the 2nd class ( T4). 

Content of the questionnaires 

These questionnaires related to 

  1. Teacher Autonomy Support (TAS), experienced autonomy support by teachers. Scale consisting of 5 items. 
  2. Basic psychological needs satisfaction (BPNS), fulfillment of basic psychological needs. Scale consisting of 18 items. 
  3. School engagement. Scale consisting of 15 items. 
  4. Anxiety and depression. Scale consisting of 8 items. 


Based on the self-determination theory, the researchers expected that autonomy support by the teacher would lead to more fulfillment of basic needs and that this would lead to more involvement and that this would lead to less anxiety and depression (see figure).


The figure below summarizes the results of this study.

This picture can be explained as follows: The results confirm the expectations based on the self-determination theory. Autonomy support from the teacher in the fall of 1st grade increased the fulfillment of basic needs in the spring of the 1st grade, which in turn led to an increased involvement with school in the fall of the 2nd grade, leading to lower feelings of anxiety and depression in the spring of 2nd grade. 

Implications: positive effects of autonomy-supportive teaching

Consistent with premises of the self-determination theory, this study shows that even in a culture that is seen as more hierarchical and collectivist, autonomy-supporting teaching has beneficial effects as described above.