Autonomy-supportive language in the syllabus: supporting students from the first day

Author / Creator
Young-Jones, Adena; Levesque, Chantal; Fursa, Sophie; McCain, Jason
Part of
Teaching in higher education, 2021-05, Vol.26 (4), p.541-556
  • An autonomy supportive classroom enhances the learning climate and improves academic motivation. Alternatively, a controlling classroom environment constricts the learning climate and hinders academic motivation. The current study evaluated whether autonomy supportive or controlling language presented in a class syllabus influenced students' perceptions of a college course. Students were randomly assigned to read a syllabus written with either autonomy supportive or controlling language. After reading, participants rated their perceptions of the learning climate, intrinsic motivation, satisfaction of their basic psychological needs, and intentions to take the class. Analyses revealed that students who viewed the autonomy-supportive syllabus had a more overall positive perception of the course compared to students who read the controlling syllabus. The findings suggest language within a course syllabus can influence student's early perceptions of and intentions toward taking a course, but not their reported level of intrinsic motivation. Implications for instructors and future directions are discussed.



  • Academic motivation
  • Autonomy
  • Basic needs
  • business & management
  • economics and business
  • education
  • Learning
  • Learning climate
  • Learning environment
  • Motivation
  • Pedagogy
  • Perceptions
  • Psychology
  • social sciences
  • Students
  • Syllabus

Additional Information