Encouraging intrinsic motivation in the clinical setting: teachers' perspectives from the self-determination theory

C Orsini, P Evans, V Binnie, P Ledezma, F Fuentes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)



Self‐determination theory postulates that the three basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness have to be satisfied for students to achieve intrinsic motivation and internalisation of autonomous self‐regulation towards academic activities. Consequently, the influence of the clinical teaching environment becomes crucial when satisfying these needs, particularly when promoting or diminishing students' intrinsic motivation. The aim of this study was to describe and understand how clinical teachers encourage intrinsic motivation in undergraduate dental students based on the three basic psychological needs described by the self‐determination theory.

A qualitative case study approach was adopted, and data were collected through semistructured interviews with nine experienced undergraduate clinical teachers of one dental school in Santiago, Chile. Interview transcripts were analysed by two independent reviewers using a general inductive approach.

Several themes emerged outlining teaching strategies and behaviours. These themes included the control of external motivators; gradual transference of responsibility; identification and encouragement of personal interests; timely and constructive feedback; delivery of a vicarious learning experience; teamwork, team discussion, and presence of a safe environment, amongst others. Overall, teachers stressed the relevance of empowering, supporting and building a horizontal relationship with students.

Our findings regarding dental education expand on the research outcomes from other health professions about how teachers may support students to internalise behaviours. An autonomy‐supportive environment may lead students to value and engage in academic activities and eventually foster the use of an autonomy‐supportive style to motivate their patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-111
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Dental Education
Issue number2
Early online date10 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

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