The effects of different learning environments on students’ motivation for learning and their achievement


Marlies Baeten, Centre for Research on Professional Learning and Development, Corporate Training and Lifelong Learning (KU Leuven), Dekenstraat 2–Box 3772, 3000 Leuven, Belgium (e-mail: ).


Background. Research in higher education on the effects of student-centred versus lecture-based learning environments generally does not take into account the psychological need support provided in these learning environments. From a self-determination theory perspective, need support is important to study because it has been associated with benefits such as autonomous motivation and achievement.

Aim. The purpose of the study is to investigate the effects of different learning environments on students’ motivation for learning and achievement, while taking into account the perceived need support.

Sample. First-year student teachers (N= 1,098) studying a child development course completed questionnaires assessing motivation and perceived need support. In addition, a prior knowledge test and case-based assessment were administered.

Method. A quasi-experimental pre-test/post-test design was set up consisting of four learning environments: (1) lectures, (2) case-based learning (CBL), (3) alternation of lectures and CBL, and (4) gradual implementation with lectures making way for CBL.

Results. Autonomous motivation and achievement were higher in the gradually implemented CBL environment, compared to the CBL environment. Concerning achievement, two additional effects were found; students in the lecture-based learning environment scored higher than students in the CBL environment, and students in the gradually implemented CBL environment scored higher than students in the alternated learning environment. Additionally, perceived need support was positively related to autonomous motivation, and negatively to controlled motivation.

Conclusions. The study shows the importance of gradually introducing students to CBL, in terms of their autonomous motivation and achievement. Moreover, the study emphasizes the importance of perceived need support for students’ motivation.