Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 269–291 | Cite as

Autonomy support and achievement goals as predictors of perceived school performance and life satisfaction in the transition between lower and upper secondary school

  • Åge DisethEmail author
  • Oddrun Samdal


A self-determination theory perspective on motivation assumes that basic need support is a prerequisite for motivation, achievement, and well-being in several domains of life. In the present cross-sectional study, a representative sample of 2.594 Norwegian students in their final year of lower secondary education and their first year of upper secondary education responded to a survey measuring the students’ perceptions of their teachers’ autonomy support, the students’ personal achievement goals, perceived school performance, and life satisfaction. The purpose was to investigate the structural relation between these variables, as well as grade level and gender differences. The results showed that all achievement goals (mastery, performance approach and performance avoidance) were positively predicted by autonomy support. Perceived school performance and life satisfaction were predicted by autonomy support and achievement goals, but there were some grade and gender specific relations. Furthermore, students in their first year of upper secondary education had a higher mean level of all motivational variables. Finally, mastery goals were more important for girls than boys, whereas performance goals were more important for boys than girls. In conclusion, both academic achievement (perceived school performance) and life satisfaction may be considered as important indicators of adjustment to life, and they are related to the students’ perception of teachers’ autonomy support as well as the students’ own motivation for learning. However, the mean level of these variables is partly accounted for by grade level and gender.


Autonomy support Achievement goals Perceived school performance Life satisfaction Grade level differences Gender differences 


  1. Alsaker, F. D. (1989). School achievement, perceived academic competence and global self- esteem. School Psychology International, 10, 147–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bagøien, T. E., Halvari, H., & Nesheim, H. (2010). Self-determined motivation in physical education and its links to motivation for leisure-time physical activity, physical activity, and well-being in general. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 111, 407–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barber, B. K., & Olsen, J. A. (2004). Assessing the transitions to middle and high school. Journal of Adolescent Research, 19, 3–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barrett, M., & Boggiano, A. K. (1988). Fostering extrinsic orientations: Use of reward strategies to motivate children. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 6, 293–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Black, A. E., & Deci, E. L. (2000). The effects of instructors’ autonomy support and students’ autonomous motivation on learning organic chemistry: A self-determination theory perspective. Science Education, 84, 740–756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bong, M. (2001). Between- and within-domain relations of academic motivation among middle and high school students: Self-efficacy, task-value, and achievement goals. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 23–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bru, E., Stornes, T., Munthe, E., & Elin, Thuen. (2010). Students’ perceptions of teacher support across the transition from primary to secondary school. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 54, 519–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Byrne, B. M. (2011). Structural equation modelling with AMOS. Basic concepts, applications, and programming. London: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  9. Chirkov, V. I., & Ryan, R. M. (2001). Parent and teacher autonomy support in Russian and U.S. adolescents: Common effects on well-being and academic motivation. Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology, 32, 618–635.Google Scholar
  10. Ciani, K. D., Sheldon, K. M., Hilpert, J. C., & Easter, M. A. (2011). Antecedents and trajectories of achievement goals: A self-determination theory perspective. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 223–243.Google Scholar
  11. Covington, M. V. (1992). Making the grade: A self-worth perspective on motivation and school reform. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Danielsen, A. G., Wiium, N., Wilhelmsen, B. U., & Wold, B. (2010). Perceived support provided by teachers and classmates and students’ self-reported academic initiative. Journal of School Psychology, 48, 247–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Deci, E., Ryan, R. M., & Williams, G. C. (1996). Need satisfaction and the self-regulation of learning. Learning and Individual Differences, 8, 165–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Diener, E. (1994). Assessing subjective well-being: Progress and opportunities. Social Indicators Research, 31, 103–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Diseth, Å., & Kobbeltvedt, T. (2010). A mediator analysis of achievement motives, goal orientations, learning strategies and academic achievement. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 671–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Diseth, Å., Danielsen, A. G., & Samdal, O. (2012). A path analysis of basic needs support, self-efficacy, achievement goals, life satisfaction and academic achievement level among secondary school students. Educational Psychology, 32, 335–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Donner, A., & Klar, N. (2000). Design and analysis of cluster randomization trials in health research (pp. 81–82). London: Arnold Publishers.Google Scholar
  20. Elliott, E. S., & Dweck, C. S. (1988). Goals: An approach to motivation and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 5.Google Scholar
  21. Elliot, A., & Harackiewicz, J. (1996). Approach and avoidance achievement goals and intrinsic motivation: A mediational analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 461–475.Google Scholar
  22. Felder-Puig, R., Griebler, R., Samdal, O., King, M. A., Freeman, J., & Duer, W. (2012). Does the school performance variable used in the international health behavior in school aged children (HBSC) study reflect students’ school grades? Journal of School Health, 82, 404–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Galton, M., Morrison, I., & Pell, T. (2000). Transfer and transition in English schools. International Journal of Educational Research, 33, 341–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gillet, N., Vallerand, R. J., & Lafrenière, M.-A. K. (2012). Intrinsic and extrinsic school motivation as a function of age: The mediating role of autonomy support. Social Psychology of Education, 15, 77–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gilman, R., Easterbrooks, S. R., & Frey, M. (2004). A preliminary study of multidimensional life satisfaction among deaf/hard of hearing youth across environmental settings. Social Indicators Research, 66, 143–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gottfried, A. E., Fleming, J. S., & Gottfried, A. W. (2001). Continuity of academic intrinsic motivation from childhood through late adolescence: A longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 3–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Greene, B. A., Miller, R. B., Crowson, H. M., Duke, B. L., & Akey, K. L. (2004). Predicting high school students’ cognitive engagement and achievement: Contributions of classroom perceptions and motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 29, 462–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hedges, L. V., & Hedberg, E. C. (2007). Intraclass correlation values for planning group randomized trials in education. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 29, 60–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hox, J. (2002). Multilevel analysis techniques and applications. London: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  30. Huebner, E. S. (1991). Initial development of the student’s life satisfaction scale. School Psychology International, 12, 231–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Huebner, E. S., Suldo, S. M., Smith, L. C., & McKnight, C. G. (2004). Life satisfaction in children and youth: Empirical foundations and implications for school psychologists. Psychology in the Schools, 41, 81–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Huebner, E. S., Valois, R. F., Paxton, R. J., & Drane, J. W. (2005). Middle school students’ perceptions of quality of life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 15–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hulleman, C. S., Schrager, S. M., Bodmann, S. M., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2010). A meta- analytic review of achievement goal measures: Different labels for the same constructs or different constructs with similar labels? Psychological Bulletin, 136, 422–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. IBM SPSS (2011). IBM Corporation.Google Scholar
  35. IBM SPSS AMOS (2011). IBM Corporation.Google Scholar
  36. Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Well-being. The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  37. Kaplan, A., & Maehr, M. L. (1999). Achievement goals and student well-being. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 24, 330–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kasser, T. (2004). The good life or the goods life? Positive psychology and personal well being in the culture of consumption. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive psychology in practice (pp. 55–67). Holboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  39. Koch, G. G. (1982). Intraclass correlation coefficient. In S. Kotz & N. L. Johnson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of statistical sciences (pp. 213–217). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  40. Koivumaa-Honkanen, H., Honkanen, I. R., Viinamäki, H., Heikkilä, I. K., Kaprio, J., & Koskenvuo, M. (2000). Self-reported life satisfaction and 20-year mortality in healthy finnish adults. American Journal of Epidemiology, 152, 983–991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Levesque, C., Zuehlke, A. N., Stanek, L. R., & Ryan, R. M. (2004). Autonomy and competence in German and American university students: A comparative study based on self- determination theory. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 68–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Linnenbrink-Garcia, L., Tyson, D. F., & Patall, E. A. (2008). When are achievement goal orientations beneficial for academic achievement? A closer look at moderating factors. International Review of Social Psychology, 21, 19–70.Google Scholar
  43. MacKinnon, D. P., Krull, J. L., & Lockwood, C. M. (2000). Equivalence of the mediation, confounding and suppression effect. Prevention Science, 1, 173–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Maehr, M. L. (1989). Thoughts about motivation. In C. Ames & R. Ames (Eds.), Research on morivation in education: Goals and cognirions (pp. 299–315). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  45. Messick, S. (1995). Validity of psychological assessment: Validation of inferences from persons’ responses and performances as scientific inquiry into score meaning. American Psychologist, 50, 741–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Midgley, C., Maehr, M. L., Hruda, L. Z., Anderman, E., Anderman, L., Freeman, K. E., et al. (2000). Patterns of adaptive learning survey (PALS). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  47. Motl, R. W., & DiStefano, C. (2002). Longitudinal invariance of self-esteem and method effects associated with negatively worded items. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 9, 562–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Perceived Autonomy Support: The Climate Questionnaires (2012) Self-determination theory.
  49. Proctor, C. L., Linley, P. A., & Maltby, J. (2009). Youth life satisfaction: A review of the literature. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10, 583–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Reeve, J., Jang, H., Carrell, D., Jeon, S., & Barch, J. (2004). Enhancing students’ engagement by increasing teachers autonomy support. Motivation and Emotion, 28, 147–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Reeve, J. (2006). Teachers as facilitators: What autonomy-supportive teachers do and why their students benefit. Elementary School Journal, 106, 225–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Roberts, C., Freeman, J., Samdal, O., Schnohr, C. W., de Looze, M. E., Gabhainn, N., et al. (2009). The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study: Methodological developments and current tensions. International Journal of Public Health, 54, 140–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Samdal, O., Wold, B., & Bronis, M. (1999). Relationship between students’ perceptions of school environment, their satisfaction with school and perceived academic achievement: An international study. School Effectiveness and School Improvement: An International Journal of Research, Policy and Practice, 10, 296–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schumacker, R. E., & Lomax, R. G. (2004). A beginner’s guide to structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  55. Soenens, B., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2005). Antecedents and outcomes of self-determination in 3 life domains: The role of parents’ and teachers’ autonomy support. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34, 589–604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sousa, K. H., & Kwok, O. M. (2006). Putting Wilson and cleary to the test: Analysis of a HRQOL conceptual model using structural equation modeling. Quality of Life Research, 15, 725–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Snijders, T. A. B., & Bosker, R. J. (1999). Multilevel analysis: An introduction to basic and advanced multilevel modeling. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  58. Standage, M., Duda, J. L., & Ntoumanis, N. (2003). A model of contextual motivation in physical education: Using constructs from self-determination and achievement goal theories to predict physical activity intentions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 97–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Statistics Norway. (2012). Education statistics. Downloaded from
  60. Su, Y.-L., & Reeve, J. (2011). A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of intervention programs designed to support autonomy. Educational Psychology Review, 23(159), 188.Google Scholar
  61. Tammemagi, M., Frank, J., & Streiner, D. (1996). Negative values of the intraclass correlation coefficient are not theoretically possible: Response. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 49, 1206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Torsheim, T., Wold, B., & Samdal, O. (2000). The teacher and classmate support scale: Factor structure, test-retest reliability and validity in samples of 13- and 15 year old adolescents. School Psychology International, 21, 195–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tuominen-Soini, H., Salmela-Aro, K., & Niemivirta, M. (2008). Achievement goal orientations and subjective well-being: A person-centered analysis. Learning and Instruction, 18, 251–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Vallerand, R. J., Fortier, M. S., & Guay, F. (1997). Self-determination and persistence in a real-life setting: Toward a motivational model of high school dropout. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1161–1176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Waaler, R., Halvari, H., Skjesol, K., & Bagøien, T. E. (2012). Autonomy support and intrinsic goal progress expectancy and its links to longitudinal study effort and subjective wellbeing: The differential mediating effect of intrinsic and identified regulations and the moderator effects of effort and intrinsic goals. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 57, 1–17.Google Scholar
  66. Wheaton, B. (1987). Assessment of fit in overidentified models with latent variables. Sociological Methods and Research, 16, 303–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wolters, C. A. (2004). Advancing achievement goal theory: Using goal structures and goal orientations to predict students’ motivation, cognition, and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 236–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Yamauchi, H., & Tanaka, K. (1998). Relations of autonomy, self-referenced beliefs and self regulated learning among Japanese children. Psychological Reports, 82, 803–816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychosocial ScienceUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.Department of Health Promotion and DevelopmentUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

Personalised recommendations