What you do is less important than how you do it: the effects of learning environment on student outcomes

  • Emily M. BonemEmail author
  • Heather N. Fedesco
  • Angelika N. Zissimopoulos
Original Paper


Higher education has seen a shift towards promoting student-centred learning. There has also been a push for identifying the ‘best’ teaching models and an insistence that instructors use these models, despite mixed results regarding their effectiveness. In the current paper, we compare the effects of an autonomy-supportive learning environment on student learning and achievement with those of the specific course features of contact hours and active learning. In a large-scale comprehensive survey with over 14,000 responses from students enrolled in courses constituting various disciplines, course levels and instructors, data across all student outcome variables suggested that those in highly autonomy-supportive learning environments experienced significant increases in satisfaction of students’ basic psychological needs, student motivation, course evaluations and academic performance. These results suggest that what is most important for students is not the specific techniques used by instructors but the quality of student–instructor interactions.


Active learning Contact hours Learning environment Self-determination theory Student motivation 


Supplementary material

10984_2019_9289_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 15 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.The University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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