Journal of Contemporary Research in Education


This conceptual discussion problematizes the present view of student engagement and motivation, as exemplified in the current culture of assessment and extrinsic orientation toward learning. Nietzsche’s metaphor of the Three Metamorphoses of the Spirit serves as a philosophical frame through which I trace the origins of the psychological concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Taking an historical approach within the field of cognitive psychology, I present the foundational research upon which self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) was built. Through this lens, I consider the implications of current educational practice, with emphasis upon high-stakes assessment and the potential for autonomy-supportive teaching and authentic student engagement. Throughout the discussion, I call attention to the disparity between current educational practice and the stated goal of creating life-long learners.

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