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Academic self-regulation as a function of age: the mediating role of autonomy support and differentiation in school

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Abstract Numerous studies in the tradition of the self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan in Can Psychol 49(1):14–23, 2008) point out the significance of self-determined academic motivation and its relevance for learning processes and well-being. Whereas these results sketch a rather heterogeneous picture of the development of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, only a limited amount of research results are dedicated to the development of academic self-regulation. This cross-sectional research is based on the data of 432 pupils aged 6–20 from primary to secondary school. With the aid of questionnaires, participants provided information concerning their academic self-regulation and how much autonomy support and differentiation they perceive in school. The results of cluster analysis and structural equation modelling indicated that age is negatively related to academic self-regulation, while intrinsic and (rather) controlled regulation decreased the older the pupils are. The values for rather self-determined regulation remained comparatively stable. In addition, the longer pupils attended school, the less they reported perceived autonomy support and differentiation. Perceived autonomy support had an impact on intrinsic and rather self-determined regulation but not on controlled regulation, whereas perceived differentiation was not related to academic self-regulation. These findings offer novel explanations why settings in schools—especially in secondary schools—can become less suitable for learners (Eccles and Roeser in Handbook of adolescent psychology, Wiley, Hoboken, pp 404–434, 2009) and how they can assist educators in designing autonomous learning environments that contribute to maintaining and developing intrinsic and self-determined academic regulation strategies.AbstractNumerous studies in the tradition of the self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan in Can Psychol 49(1):14–23, 2008) point out the significance of self-determined academic motivation and its relevance for learning processes and well-being. Whereas these results sketch a rather heterogeneous picture of the development of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, only a limited amount of research results are dedicated to the development of academic self-regulation. This cross-sectional research is based on the data of 432 pupils aged 6–20 from primary to secondary school. With the aid of questionnaires, participants provided information concerning their academic self-regulation and how much autonomy support and differentiation they perceive in school. The results of cluster analysis and structural equation modelling indicated that age is negatively related to academic self-regulation, while intrinsic and (rather) controlled regulation decreased the older the pupils are. The values for rather self-determined regulation remained comparatively stable. In addition, the longer pupils attended school, the less they reported perceived autonomy support and differentiation. Perceived autonomy support had an impact on intrinsic and rather self-determined regulation but not on controlled regulation, whereas perceived differentiation was not related to academic self-regulation. These findings offer novel explanations why settings in schools—especially in secondary schools—can become less suitable for learners (Eccles and Roeser in Handbook of adolescent psychology, Wiley, Hoboken, pp 404–434, 2009) and how they can assist educators in designing autonomous learning environments that contribute to maintaining and developing intrinsic and self-determined academic regulation strategies.2008Handbook of adolescent psychology2009