Life Skills Development in Physical Education: A Self-Determination Theory-Based Investigation Across the School Term

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Objectives: Grounded in self-determination theory (SDT), the main aim of this study was to examine the longitudinal associations between teacher autonomy support, students’ basic psychological need satisfaction and life skills development in physical education (PE).
Design: This study employed a two-wave longitudinal research design.
Method: Students (N = 266, Mage = 12.94 years, SD = 0.70) completed measures assessing perceived autonomy-supportive teaching, need satisfaction (autonomy, competence, and relatedness), and life skills development in PE (teamwork, goal setting, social skills, problem solving and decision making, emotional skills, leadership, time management, and interpersonal communication). Data collections took place during week 6 (timepoint 1; T1) and week 15 (timepoint 2; T2) of the autumn school term.
Results: Cross-lagged panel analyses showed that T1 teacher autonomy support did not significantly predict students’ three basic psychological needs, total need satisfaction or life skills development at T2. Students’ T1 total need satisfaction positively predicted their development of all eight life skills at T2. Additionally, students’ T1 autonomy satisfaction positively predicted their teamwork, social skills, emotional skills, leadership, and interpersonal communication skills at T2, T1 competence satisfaction positively predicted students’ teamwork skills at T2, and students’ T1 relatedness satisfaction positively predicted their social skills at T2.
Conclusions: Providing partial support for SDT, the findings highlighted that satisfaction of students’ three basic psychological needs had some positive effects on students’ life skills development in PE. As such, a climate that satisfies students’ basic psychological needs should help to develop their life skills in PE.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101711
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Early online date5 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • PE teaching
  • positive youth development
  • psychosocial skills
  • cross-lagged panel analysis
  • Psychosocial skills
  • Cross-lagged panel model
  • Positive youth development

Research Groups

  • Sport, Work & Health Research Group


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