Self-Determination for Primary School Children: Theory and Practice


  • Philip O'Brien


Self-Determination, Pupil Autonomy, Motivation, Development


Research suggests that students who are self-determined are more likely to succeed as adults. This article contains a brief overview of the literature in the field of self-determination since its emergence as a topic of interest in the 1980s. Definitions of self-determination are presented, as described by authors in the field and Self-Determination Theory, as proposed by Deci and Ryan (2000) is deconstructed. The Component Elements of Self-Determined Behaviour (Wehmeyer, 1992) are outlined and teacher-based strategies for applying these nine elements are proposed, with reference to the Primary School Curriculum. These strategies are suggested for implementation in light of the Continuum of Support and the new Guidelines for Primary Schools Supporting Pupils with Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools (DES, 2017). Research outlines that strengthening pupils in these elements leads to higher levels of self-determination, both for typically developing children and those with special educational needs.


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How to Cite

O’Brien, P. (2021). Self-Determination for Primary School Children: Theory and Practice. REACH: Journal of Inclusive Education in Ireland, 31(2), 155–168. Retrieved from