Despite evidence for the utility of self-determination theory in physical education, few studies used objective indicators of physical activity and mapped out between-class, relative to between-student, differences in physical activity. This study investigated whether moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and rated collective engagement in physical education were associated with autonomous motivation, controlled motivation, and amotivation at the between-class and between-student levels. Participants were 739 pupils (46.3% boys, Mage = 14.36 ± 1.94) from 46 secondary school classes in Flanders (Belgium). Multilevel analyses indicated that 37% and 63% of the variance in MVPA was explained by between-student and between-class differences, respectively. Students’ personal autonomous motivation related positively to MVPA. Average autonomous class motivation was positively related to between-class variation in MVPA and collective engagement. Average controlled class motivation and average class amotivation were negatively associated with collective engagement. The findings are discussed in light of self-determination theory’s emphasis on quality of motivation.
Nathalie Aelterman is with the Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, and with the Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Maarten Vansteenkiste is with the Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Hilde Van Keer is with the Department of Educational Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Lynn Van den Berghe, Jotie De Meyer, and Leen Haerens are with the Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.