Motivation and intention
This topic focuses on the motivation and intention of teachers and students when their behavior is studied; for example, teachers’ engagement in professional development activities.
Deci and Ryan’s (2000) self-determination theory is used as a leading framework for motivation whereas Fishbein and Ajzen’s (2010) reasoned action approach is used as a leading framework for explaining and predicting behavior. This latter framework focuses on the formation of the behavioral intention to perform or not to perform a particular behavior such as innovative behavior. Though motivation theories and cognitive behavioral theories both aim to explain teachers’ behavior, they differ in explaining how motivation or intention is formed. In fact, both theoretical perspectives can be seen as complementary and not as each other competitors. The topic is addressing research that use both theories as etiological models.
dr. ir. Kreijns, Karel


Self-determination theory: Motivation is an important, yet underestimated aspect of learning. In Dutch education, motivation problems of students can be seen as one of the most important causes of drop out and under achievement. Indeed, the onderwijsinspectie as well as the OECD have recently pointed at this problem. Motivation comes also into play when considering professional organizations—more specifically schools and other educational institutes. Teachers are by far the most important actor when it comes to quality of education. And their motivation to innovate, to professionalize, to work together, to continuously monitor and improve their teaching, is strongly influenced by motivation. There are many motivation theories and perspectives (De Brabander & Martens, 2014; Martens, De Brabander, Rozendaal, Boekaerts & Van der Leeden, 2010; Van Nuland, Dusseldorp, Martens, & Boekaerts, 2010). The foremost theoretical approach to this subject is the self-determination theory (SDT: see Deci & Ryan, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2000), which is based on the premise that people are intrinsically motivated to learn by nature. This intrinsic motivation is predicted by how people perceive relatedness, autonomy and competence, which are considered to be the basic psychological needs (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Research has shown that teachers with more autonomous forms of motivation are more likely to both explore and implement education innovations (Klaeijsen, Vermeulen, & Martens, 2012; Lam, Cheng, & Choy, 2010; Schellenbach-Zell & Graesel, 2010). Self-determination theory will give insight into the many variables at play when educators make specific decisions related to their professionalization, for instance on the use of tools and activities for their lessons and their own professional development.

Reasoned Action approach: One of the most known cognitive behavioral theory is the reasoned-action approach (RAA) of Fishbein and Ajzen (2010), previously known as theory of planned behavior and integrated model of behavior prediction (Fishbein, 2000). In RAA, the formation of the behavior intention is determined by only three variables, namely attitude, perceived norm, and perceived behavior control. Attitude is the favorable or unfavorable disposition a person may have towards a particular behavior. Perceived norm is the social pressure a person may feel to perform the behavior. There are two sources of social pressure: the first is the injunctive norm – the pressure exerted by important others – and the descriptive norm – the pressure exerted by important reference groups. Perceived behavior control or self-efficacy is the belief a person may have that he or she is able to perform the behavior. These three determinants are, in turn, influenced by underlying beliefs. The underlying beliefs are influenced by background variables at the micro, meso, and macro level which respectively are predominantly the individual level, the school organization level and the level of the region/government (Kreijns, Vermeulen, Kirschner, van Buuren, & Van Acker, 2013). Not only the formation of the behavior intention is important but also how this intention is translated into actual behavior. This so called intention-behavior gap is another important aspect in cognitive behavioral theories.

Notwithstanding the orientation on practical impact, part of this topic is also specifically theoretically oriented, for instance on the exact relations between variables in SDT and how they are best measured (Jansen in de Wal, Van den Beemt, Martens, & Den Brok, 2014) and the combination of some of the theories in the complex field of motivational science in order to increase the predictive power (De Brabander & Martens, 2014; Kreijns, Vermeulen, Van Acker, & van Buuren, 2014).

The central research question is: what underlying conditions and factors determine the formation of motivation and intention of teachers’ behavior regarding their professional development activities and the consequent implementation of innovative practices in the school organization?

Many related questions can be derived from this central research question including:

  1. What is the role of perceived autonomy on teacher motivation?
  2. What teachers’ motivational profiles can be distinguished and what are the effects of these profiles on professional behaviour?
  3. How are the basic needs related and can these relations be modelled and theoretically understood?
  4. What are the underlying outcome beliefs that determine the teachers’ attitude towards a particular professional behaviour?
  5. How do reference groups influence teachers’ professional behaviour?
  6. What is the role of planning in alleviating the intention-behaviour gap?
  7. How can attitude be changed?


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.

Fishbein M. (2000) The role of theory in HIV prevention.AIDS Care 12, 273–278.

Fishbein M. & Ajzen I. (2010) Predicting and changing behavior: The reasoned action approach. Psychology Press (Taylor & Francis), New York.

Lam, S. F., Cheng, R. W. Y., & Choy, H. C. (2010). School support and teacher motivation to implement project-based learning. Learning And Instruction, 20(6), 487-497.

Ryan R.M. & Deci E.L. (2000) Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist 55, 68–78.

Schellenbach-Zell, J., & Graesel, C. (2010). Teacher motivation for participating in school innovations – supporting factors. Journal for Educational Research Online, 2, 34–54.


This topic is involved in almost all projects that are carried out within the faculty Teacher and Teacher Development.


Key publications:

  • De Brabander, K., & Martens, R. (2014). Towards a unified theory of task-specific motivation. Educational Research Review, 11, 27-44. doi: 10.1016/j.edurev.2013.11.001
  • Gorissen, C. J. J., Kester, L., Brand-Gruwel, S. & Martens, R. (2015). Autonomy supportive, learner-controlled or system-controlled learning in hypermedia environments and the influence of academic self-regulation style. Interactive Learning Environments, 23, 655 – 669.
  • Klaeijsen, A., Vermeulen, M., & Martens, R. (2012). Psychologische basisbehoeften en innovatief gedrag van leraren. Paperpresentatie op de Onderwijs Research Dagen (ORD), Wageningen, Nederland.
  • Kreijns, K., Vermeulen, M., Van Acker, F., & van Buuren, H. (2014). Predicting teachers’ use of digital learning materials: Combining self-determination theory and the integrative model of behavior prediction. European Journal of Teacher Education, 37(4), 465-478.
  • Kreijns, K., Vermeulen, M., Kirschner, P. A., van Buuren, H., & Van Acker, F. (2013). Adopting the integrative model of behavior prediction to explain teachers’ willingness to integrate ICT in their pedagogical practices: A perspective for research on teachers’ ICT usage in pedagogical practices. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 22(1), 55–71.
  • Martens, R ., de Brabander, C., Rozendaal, J., Boekaerts, M.,  & van der Leeden, R. (2010). Inducing mind sets in self-regulated learning with motivational information. Educational Studies, 36,  311-329.
  • Smit, K., de Brabander, C., & Martens, R. (2013). Student-centered and teacher-centered learning environment in pre-vocational secondary education: Needs and motivation. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 58, 695-712. DOI: 10.1080/00313831.2013.821090.
  • Van Nuland, H, Taris, T., Boekaerts, M., & Martens, R. (2012). Testing the hierarchical SDT model: the case of performance-oriented classrooms. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 27, 467-482 DOI 10.1007/s10212-011-0089-y.
  • Nuland, H. J. C., van, Dusseldorp, E., Martens, R. L., & Boekaerts, M. (2010). Exploring the motivation jungle: Predicting performance on a novel task by investigating constructs from different motivation perspectives in tandem. International Journal of Psychology, 45, 250-259.
  • Van Loon, A.-M., Ros, A., & Martens, R. (2012). Motivated learning with digital learning tasks: what about autonomy and structure? Educational Technology Research and Development, 60(6), 1015-1032.
  • Van Loon, A.-M., Ros, A., & Martens, R. (2013). Designing Digital Problem Based Learning Tasks that Motivate Students. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 21 (4), 409-432.
  • Jansen in de Wal, J., van den Beemt, A.,  Martens, R., & den Brok, P. (2014). Teachers' Engagement in Professional Learning: Exploring Motivational Profiles. Learning and Individual Differences, 36, 27-36.