The impact of nonlinear pedagogy on physical education teacher education students’ intrinsic motivation

Moy, Brendan, Renshaw, Ian, & Davids, Keith (2016) The impact of nonlinear pedagogy on physical education teacher education students’ intrinsic motivation. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 21(5), pp. 517-538.

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  • Providing motivationally supportive physical education experiences for learners is crucial since empirical evidence in sport and physical education research has associated intrinsic motivation with positive educational outcomes. Self-determination theory (SDT) provides a valuable framework for examining motivationally supportive physical education experiences through satisfaction of three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness. However, the capacity of the prescriptive teaching philosophy of the dominant traditional physical education teaching approach to effectively satisfy the psychological needs of students to engage in physical education has been questioned. The constraints-led approach (CLA) has been proposed as a viable alternative teaching approach that can effectively support students’ self-motivated engagement in physical education.


  • We sought to investigate whether adopting the learning design and delivery of the CLA, guided by key pedagogical principles of nonlinear pedagogy (NLP), would address basic psychological needs of learners, resulting in higher self-reported levels of intrinsic motivation. The claim was investigated using action research. The teacher/researcher delivered two lessons aimed at developing hurdling skills: one taught using the CLA and the other using the traditional approach.

Participants and Setting

  • The main participant for this study was the primary researcher and lead author who is a PETE educator, with extensive physical education teaching experience. A sample of 54 pre-service PETE students undertaking a compulsory second year practical unit at an Australian university was recruited for the study, consisting of an equal number of volunteers from each of two practical classes. A repeated measures experimental design was adopted, with both practical class groups experiencing both teaching approaches in a counterbalanced order.

Data collection and analysis

  • Immediately after participation in each lesson, participants completed a questionnaire consisting of 22 items chosen from validated motivation measures of basic psychological needs and indices of intrinsic motivation, enjoyment and effort. All questionnaire responses were indicated on a 7-point Likert scale. A two-tailed, paired-samples t-test was used to compare the groups’ motivation subscale mean scores for each teaching approach. The size of the effect for each group was calculated using Cohen’s d. To determine whether any significant differences between the subscale mean scores of the two groups was due to an order effect, a two-tailed, independent samples t test was used.


  • Participants’ reported substantially higher levels of self-determination and intrinsic motivation during the CLA hurdles lesson compared to during the traditional hurdles lesson. Both groups reported significantly higher motivation subscale mean scores for competence, relatedness, autonomy, enjoyment and effort after experiencing the CLA than mean scores reported after experiencing the traditional approach. This significant difference was evident regardless of the order that each teaching approach was experienced.


  • The theoretically based pedagogical principles of NLP that inform learning design and delivery of the CLA may provide teachers and coaches with tools to develop more functional pedagogical climates, which result in students exhibiting more intrinsically motivated behaviours during learning.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 86584
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: self-determination theory, intrinsic motivation, physical education, nonlinear pedagogy, constraints-led approach, physical education teacher education
DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2015.1072506
ISSN: 1742-5786
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Physical Education and Development Curriculum and Pedagogy (130210)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Association for Physical Education
Copyright Statement: The Version of Record of this manuscript has been published and is available in Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 11 August 2015,
Deposited On: 18 Aug 2015 00:07
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2016 23:28

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