En kvalitativ undersøkelse om trivsel og motivasjon i høyere utdanning: Et selvbestemmelsesteoretisk perspektiv

Daniel Kristensen has conducted a qualitative study and interviewed Biology students about their experiences in everyday life at the University, and how their experiences affect their psychological well-being and motivation. He presented his thesis entitled “En kvalitativ undersøkelse om trivsel og motivasjon i høyere utdanning: Et selvbestemmelsesteoretisk perspektiv” on June 27th, 2017 and thus obtained his Master’s degree.



In a self-determination theory perspective (Deci & Ryan, 1985), the quality of the interaction between students and the context can be a crucial factor for the student’s well-being and motivation. Central to the theory are the three basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness. Self-determination theory argues that the satisfaction or thwarting of these needs may have a significant impact on well-being and autonomous motivation. To investigate factors in the learning environment that may interact with the satisfaction of the basic psychological needs in students may therefore be important. In this study, I aim to examine how students perceive their everyday life at the university, by shedding light on the students own account of their well-being and motivation.

To solve the research question, I conducted a series of qualitative semi-structured interviews. This interview method is often used in qualitative research because it provides the participants and researcher the opportunity to have a relatively open discussion, with an already established theme. The interview participants were all students who (1) were freshmen at the university, and (2) were participating in a bachelor program in biology. The interviews were recorded on an audio device, and later transcribed. The transcribed data was deductively analysed, and later broken down to smaller segments and put into categories. The categories were subsequently linked to central assumptions in the theoretical framework. The categorization of the comments provided a base for further discussion and reflection. In the discussion, basic psychological needs theory was used in interpreting the participants comments according to the degree they felt their need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness was being satisfied or thwarted. In many ways, the discussion reflects my own interpretation and understanding of the link between the theory and the data material. By interpreting the data material in light of self-determination theory, it was possible to observe different processes and factors that may be paramount in student well-being and motivation. According to my own interpretation, all the participants in the study expressed that they enjoyed, and felt connected, to their academic environment. Some of the participants also conveyed that they felt competent and felt a steady progress in their studies. Furthermore, the participants indicated that the learning context felt autonomy-supportive. Satisfaction of the need for autonomy is, according to self-determination theory, crucial for intrinsic motivation.

Link to the thesis

About the author

Daniel Kristensen : Former MSc student

Daniel Kristensen

Former MSc student


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“Veier til frafall”. En kvantitativ studie av psykisk helse og frafallsintensjoner i høyere utdanning: Et selvbestemmelsesteoretisk perspektiv

Sara Madeleine Kristensen has conducted a cross-sectional study of first year Bachelor students in Biology and assessed their motivation, psychological health, and intentions of dropout. She presented her thesis entitled “Veier til frafall. En kvantitativ studie av psykisk helse og frafallsintensjoner i høyere utdanning: Et selvbestemmelsesteoretisk perspektiv” on June 22nd, 2017 and thus obtained her Master’s degree.



en-kvantitativ-studie-av-psykisk-helse-og-frafallsintensjoner-i-h-yere-utdanning-pdfThe lack of, or low, motivation and perceived competence have previously been shown to be paramount in students’ decision to drop out of their education. However, recent studies have shown that psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression, is the leading cause of dropout amongst high school students. This study aims to shed light on ill-being and the dropout phenomenon in higher education. 174 biology students from a university in Norway participated in this quantitative survey. A theorized model in accordance to Self-determination Theory, based on previous research and motivational models, was proposed. First, it was assumed that a controlling teaching style would predict a lack of motivation in the students and frustration of their basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Second, it was expected that need frustration would positively predict amotivation and ill-being, and negatively predict perceived competence. Finally, it was assumed that amotivation and psychological ill-being would have a positive prediction on dropout intentions, and that perceived competence would negatively predict the students’ intentions to drop out. Two path analyses were conducted to test the hypothesized model and an alternative model. It was further assumed that there was a significant correlation between the variables in the study. A bivariate correlation analysis was performed to investigate the relationship between the variables. Lastly, it was presumed that teacher control and need frustration had significant, indirect effects on dropout intentions. The results show that the hypotheses in the study are supported. The assumptions in the theorized model are supported by the results; teacher control, need frustration, amotivation, and perceived competence had a significant prediction on students’ ill-being and their dropout intentions. Further, there were significant correlations between the studies variables. Lastly, teacher control and need frustration had significant, indirect effects on dropout intentions through the full mediation of amotivation and perceived competence.

Link to BORA and  to the thesis


About the author

Sara Madeleine Kristensen : Former MSc student

Sara Madeleine Kristensen

Former MSc student

I have studied the phenomenon of dropping out of higher education in light of amotivation, teacher control, perceived competence, basic psychological need frustration and ill-being.

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