Understanding and Promoting Autonomous Self-Regulation: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective
The term SELF REGULATION has taken on many meanings in psychology (Baumeister & Vohs, 2004) and education (McCaslin et al., 2006), although there is general agreement that self-regulation is a process in which people organize and manage their capacities-that is, their thoughts (e.g., competency beliefs), emotions (e.g., interest), behaviors (e.g., engagement with learning activities), and socialcontextual surroundings (e.g., select a quiet, comfortable place to study)—in the service of attaining some desired future state (Pintrich & De Groot, 1990; Zimmerman, 2000). Despite this common ground, theories of self-regulation vary considerably in their speciﬁc foci, with some focusing on the “why” of self-regulation, some on the “what,” and some on the “how.” Brieﬂy, the why, what, and how theories of self-regulation ask the following questions:
The why theories investigate the causes people perceive as underlying their actions. It has been clear for some time that the why underlying behavior has consequences for the quality and consequences of that behavior (e.g., deCharms, 1976). Thus, why theories differentiate between types of motivation or regulation, such as autonomous versus controlled forms (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000a). For example, one reason why people engage in behaviors is to actualize their interests and self-endorsed values. The regulation of behavior when people’s interests and values are the reason for acting is said to be AUTONOMOUS. From the perspective of self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 1985), this constitutes self-regulation. Other reasons why people engage in behaviors are introjected under interpersonal pressures or directly controlled by forces outside the self. When such forces regulate a person’s behavior, their behavior is considered CONTROLLEDrather than autonomous. As such, this does not constitute true self-regulation because the person is regulated by the coercive or seductive forces rather than self-initiated, volitional, or self-endorsed regulation.