Education as Flourishing: Self-Determination Theory in Schools as They Are and as They Might Be

Richard M. Ryan, Johnmarshall Reeve, Haya Kaplan, Lennia Matos, Sung Hyeon Cheon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In the perspective of self-determination theory the central aim of education should be that of enhancing students’ flourishing. Flourishing involves not only the development of cognitive capacities but also capacities for agency, prosocial relationships, and psychological wellness. Strong evidence within self-determination theory, reviewed herein, shows how teaching styles that support students’ basic needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence foster these aspects of flourishing, enhancing the quality of students’ engagement, learning, and social relationships. Also highlighted are how students’ motivation and agency reciprocally influence teachers’ tendency to be need supportive, such that interventions on both sides of the teacher-student relationship can enhance learning climates. Nonetheless, this body of evidence concerns optimizing need supports within existing school environments, which too often remain mired in policies, practices, and omnipresent evaluations that are not designed for student flourishing, and which instead often harm both students’ and teachers’ well-being and motivation. The chapter’s conclusion includes a call to broaden the criteria by which schools are evaluated to include process as well as outcome targets. Creating the best schools we can imagine entails the assessment and cultivation of what really matters (i.e., process targets) to student flourishing in both their present and future lives.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Self-Determination Theory
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9780197600078
ISBN (Print)9780197600047
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • SDT-based interventions
  • agentic engagement
  • autonomy
  • autonomy support
  • psychological needs
  • students
  • teachers


Dive into the research topics of 'Education as Flourishing: Self-Determination Theory in Schools as They Are and as They Might Be'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this