The importance of psychological need satisfaction in educational re-engagement.

Laura Nicholson, Dave Putwain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
170 Downloads (Pure)


Students attending alternative provision (AP) schools have typically disengaged with their education. They present with multiple problems and complex support needs which makes their re-engagement back into education challenging. This study examined educational re-engagement using the self-system model of motivational processes. Teacher (or other school staff) practices that facilitated and inhibited the students’ psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness and competence were identified. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 35 students (aged 14–16 years) attending an AP school in England and data were triangulated using staff interviews and lesson observations. Interpretive phenomenological analysis was used to code the data. More staff practices were categorised as facilitating one of the three needs, and more students mentioned these positive behaviours, than the need-inhibiting practices. This fostered trusting, caring and respectful student-staff relationships, which ultimately led to educational re-engagement. It would be beneficial if such findings were incorporated into government statutory guidelines for AP establishments in order to increase awareness amongst those on the frontline. Moreover, findings support the current UK government policy to increase the number of AP schools, as they have the scope to focus on the supportive staff practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-186
Number of pages18
JournalResearch Papers in Education
Issue number2
Early online date23 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2018


  • Student re-engagement
  • alternative education
  • psychological needs
  • self-system model
  • student–teacher relationships


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