Updated 2017-10-12

The role of Self-Determination Theory and CET in home education

This article explores Self-Determination Theory, Cognitive Evaluation Theory, and intrinsic motivation as they apply to home education.
Gina Riley author
Riley, G. (2016). The role of self-determination theory and cognitive evaluation theory in home education. Cogent Education, 3(1) 1-18.


According to Self-Determination Theory, intrinsic motivation is innate. However, the maintenance and enhancement of intrinsic motivation depends upon the social and environmental conditions surrounding the individual. Deci and Ryan’s Cognitive Evaluation Theory (CET) specifically addresses the social and environmental factors that facilitate versus undermine intrinsic motivation and points to three significant psychological needs that must be present in the individual in order to foster self-motivation. These needs are competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

A sense of competence comes from successful feelings, while a sense of autonomy arises when students feel as if they have choice and control over their lives and their learning. Relatedness is defined as students having a sense of attachment and affiliation with those who educate them.

Because of curriculum and time constraints, intrinsic motivation may be difficult to facilitate within the traditional classroom. This loss of intrinsic motivation for learning prompts some parents to homeschool their children. One of the most impressive strengths of home education lies in the fact that in many cases, the entire process revolves around a child’s intrinsic motivation to learn.

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