In recent years, the commitment of students in the classroom has become relevant due to its relationships with variables such as academic performance, school dropout and discipline. The commitment refers to the active participation of the student in a learning activity. There are four types: behavioral, emotional, cognitive and agency. Behavioral commitment refers to the student's attention and effort when participating in an activity. The emotional refers to the presence of positive emotions (interest) and the absence of negative emotions (anxiety) during a task. The cognitive refers to the use of elaboration strategies instead of memorization strategies when the student tries to learn. Finally, the agent refers to the extent to which students participate in their learning process, in terms of asking questions or expressing preferences.
The theory of self-determination is a macro-theory of human motivation and personality that analyzes these relationships and explains the positive functioning of students in the classroom. This theory highlights the effect of the teacher's teaching style on the satisfaction of the student's need for autonomy. Autonomy is considered a fundamental human need whose satisfaction is essential for people to grow and prosper. The student must feel autonomous and responsible for their behaviors, feel that there is no external pressure when performing a behavior. If the teacher uses a didactic style in the classroom that supports this need, then it will promote a higher quality commitment in class activities.
An element that the teacher can use as a didactic style to improve the commitment of their students is the support for their autonomy. Support for autonomy promotes choice, minimizes the pressure to perform tasks and encourages initiative. It refers to an atmosphere where students are not pressured to behave in a specific way, but are encouraged to be themselves. Several conditions are necessary for students to feel supported autonomy: the teacher must nurture the internal motivational resources (reinforcing the enjoyment and curiosity), reason their explanations meaningfully (the proposed activities must be useful), recognize the negative feelings of the student (put in the student's place), use a language that does not imply control (do not pressure the student), offer options when performing tasks and show patience to allow time for each student to learn at their own pace.
Recently, Professors Juan Luis Núñez and Jaime León of the Recognized Research Group Motivation, Education and Health of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, we have analyzed over a semester, the effect of the perception that university students have of the support provided by their teachers on the need for autonomy and on each of the four types of commitment. The results suggest that emotional commitment is the most favored when the teacher supports the autonomy of their students. Therefore, emotions are shown as a key element to maintain motivation during learning activities and obtain positive academic results. Support for autonomy produces emotional benefits in the classroom. If students satisfy their need for autonomy, then they will feel more positive emotions in the classroom, they will be more interested and they will have more energy when performing tasks. Students need to get excited when they learn and the teacher can contribute in a meaningful way.
Juan Luis Núñez. University Professor (ULPGC). Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work. Coordinator of the Motivation, Education and Health Research Group.