How teachers’ controlling behaviour can ruin students’ intrinsic motivation in a physical education lesson: Test of a conditional process model

Henri Tilga1, Hanna Kalajas-Tilga1, Vello Hein1, Lennart Raudsepp1 and Andre Koka2

1 Institute of Sport Sciences and Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tartu.

Students’ intrinsic motivation in physical education may depend on the extent to which their teacher is perceived as autonomy supportive. In this study, we tested a conditional process model in which students’ perception of their teachers’ controlling behaviour moderated the relationship between perceived autonomy-supportive behaviour and intrinsic motivation via need satisfaction. School students (N = 592) completed self-report measures of perceived teachers’ autonomy-supportive behaviour, perceived teachers’ controlling behaviour, need satisfaction and intrinsic motivation. As expected, the effect of perceived teachers’ autonomy-supportive behaviour on students’ intrinsic motivation was partially mediated by need satisfaction. Perceived controlling behaviour did moderate this indirect effect. Specifically, higher levels of controlling behaviour did attenuate the indirect effect of perceived autonomy-supportive behaviour on intrinsic motivation through need satisfaction. The current findings highlight the importance of minimizing the controlling behaviours, as well as, enhancing the autonomy-supportive behaviours, to promote students’ intrinsic motivation towards physical education.

KEYWORDS: autonomy-supportive behaviour, controlling behaviour, need satisfaction, intrinsic motivation, self-determination theory.