Learning climate and feedback as predictors of dental students’ self-determined motivation: The mediating role of basic psychological needs satisfaction

César Orsini, Vivian Binnie, Sarah Wilson, María J. Villegas

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© 2017 John Wiley & Sons A/S.Aim: The aim of this study was to test the mediating role of the satisfaction of dental students' basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness on the association between learning climate, feedback and student motivation. The latter was based on the self-determination theory's concepts of differentiation of autonomous motivation, controlled motivation and amotivation. Methods: A cross-sectional correlational study was conducted where 924 students completed self-reported questionnaires measuring motivation, perception of the learning climate, feedback and basic psychological needs satisfaction. Descriptive statistics, Cronbach's alpha scores and bivariate correlations were computed. Mediation of basic needs on each predictor-outcome association was tested based on a series of regression analyses. Finally, all variables were integrated into one structural equation model, controlling for the effects of age, gender and year of study. Results: Cronbach's alpha scores were acceptable (.655 to .905). Correlation analyses showed positive and significant associations between both an autonomy-supportive learning climate and the quantity and quality of feedback received, and students' autonomous motivation, which decreased and became negative when correlated with controlled motivation and amotivation, respectively. Regression analyses revealed that these associations were indirect and mediated by how these predictors satisfied students' basic psychological needs. These results were corroborated by the structural equation analysis, in which data fit the model well and regression paths were in the expected direction. Conclusion: An autonomy-supportive learning climate and the quantity and quality of feedback were positive predictors of students' autonomous motivation and negative predictors of amotivation. However, this was an indirect association mediated by the satisfaction of students' basic psychological needs. Consequently, supporting students' needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness might lead to optimal types of motivation, which has an important influence on dental education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e228-e236
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Dental Education
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2018


  • Academic motivation
  • Basic psychological needs
  • Chile
  • Dental students
  • Feedback
  • Learning climate
  • Self-determination theory

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