Research Article: Motivational determinants of physical education grades and the intention to practice sport in the future

Date Published: May 23, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Luis Cid, Ana Pires, Carla Borrego, Pedro Duarte-Mendes, Diogo S. Teixeira, João M. Moutão, Diogo Monteiro, Heather Erwin.


Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is amongst motivational frameworks the most popular and contemporary approach to human motivation, being applied in the last decades in several domains, including sport, exercise and physical education (PE). Additionally, Achievement Goal Theory (AGT) has presented evidence of how contextual factors may influence student’s behavior in this particular context. The main purpose of this study was to analyze the motivational climate created by the teacher in the classroom, students’ satisfaction of Basic Psychological Needs (BPN), and how their behavioral regulation could explain PE grades and intention to practice sports in the future. Method: A total of 618 students (290 female; 328 male) from the 6th to the 9th school level, aged between 10 and 18 years (M = 13.3; SD = 1.7) participated in this study. The following surveys were used for the proposed variables: Learning and Performance Orientations in Physical Education Classes Questionnaire (LAPOPECQ); the Basic Psychological Needs in Exercise Scale (BPNESp); and the Perceived Locus of Causality (PLOCp). Intentions to practice sport/physical activity in the future were assessed through a single item. Students’ PE grade was obtained through his/her teacher final assessment. Structural Equation Analysis was performed via AMOS 23.0. Results: After analyzing modification indices and model adjustment, the final model emerged: learning climate > BPN > autonomous motivation > intentions/PE grade. Results interpretation seems to indicate that i) the satisfaction of BPN are influenced by motivational climate (i.e., learning climate), ii) the individuals’ motivation is influenced by the satisfaction of three basic psychological needs (i.e., particularly competence), and iii) the motivational regulations have direct and significant effects with intention to practice sports outside school in the future and PE grades. Discussion & Conclusion: The main results showed that a climate oriented for learning has a positive impact on basic psychological needs satisfaction of students. However, only competence satisfaction had a significant positive relationship with students’ autonomous motivation, which in turn had a significant positive relation with PE grade, as well as for intentions for leisure-time sport/physical activity practice.

Partial Text

According to several authors, Self-Determination Theory (SDT) [1] and Achievement Goal Theory (AGT) [2] are the most popular and contemporary theoretical approaches used to examine motivational processes, particularly in the physical education (PE) context [3,4,5]. Looking at physiological processes, it is through PE that most children experience a wide range of motor skills. Although its contribution is essential for the child’s development, it is not entirely clear how PE influence students’ academic performance, as well as in leisure-time physical activity. On one side of the coin, denying students’ choice for other activities due to rigid application of curricular programs may create some barriers that has some influence in the development of more self-determined or autonomous forms of motivation [6,7]. On the other side, understanding the links between social factors such as classrooms’ motivational climate encouraged by teachers, and students’ behavioural regulation, seems to be essential, since studies suggest that a targeted climate for learning (also known as mastery or task), forecasts students self-determined motivation and can have positive consequences on the practice of physical activity in general [8,9].

Considering AGT and SDT tenets, results seem to corroborate their theoretical frameworks. Some authors [10,11,12, 13] have already mentioned that individuals’ motivation is not directly predicted by social factors, but mediated by the satisfaction of three “innate psychological nutriments that are essential for ongoing psychological growth, integrity and well-being” ([14], p.229). These BPN will determine how someone regulates his own behaviour between a less or a more self-determined form (i.e., controlled vs. autonomous motivation). More self-determined behaviours influenced by BPNs’, are deemed to endorse and increase volitional participation in different domains of physical activity settings.