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Self-Determination Theory

By 15 februari 2022 No Comments

The self-determination theory is often used in education and training. At The Simulation Crew we aim to take the three basic needs into account, which initiate specific behaviours in learners. The three basic needs as described by the self-determination theory are autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

The Self-Determination Theory:

how & what

But first things first, what is the self-determination theory from Deci and Ryan about? The self-determination theory concerns itself with the motivation behind people’s choices that people make. It distinguishes between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. For example, intrinsic motivation shows in a student that completes our training on motivational interviewing because they believes they will become a better doctor by applying motivational interviewing techniques.

On the contrary, extrinsic motivation relates to a student that only completes the training because it is mandatory to pass their exams. Intrinsic motivation often results in better learning results. That is why it is important to take the three basic needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) of the self-determination theory into account which can enhance intrinsic motivation, when developing VR soft skills training.

Self Determination Theory elements


the importance of unrestricted speech

Autonomy is a feeling of liberty and freedom of internal will. If autonomy is given or stimulated, intrinsic motivation increases. In our training we therefore emphasize the importance of unrestricted speech. This allows players to have autonomy on what, when, and how to say something, instead of restriction by multiple-choice options.

It also allows players to opt for dark play. Dark play is in-training behaviour that would be problematic in a normal situation. For example, intentionally asking incorrect or insulting questions. However, by providing this option, it not only increases the player’s  autonomy, but also gives insight on the consequences to making incorrect decisions.


doing a good job

This brings us to the next basic need, competence, the feeling of having done a good job and being able to do that job. In order to reach competence, learners need to be able to practice their (soft) skills. In VR, players can practice their skills in a safe environment. It also allows players to practice multiple times, until they have mastered those skills, because practice makes perfect. Continuous practice is important to increase intrinsic motivation and thereby the learning results. Not only does VR provide a safe environment, in which we can monitor the player’s skills and progression. We provide players with feedback that encourages them to play again and increase their level of competence.


building a virtual relationship

The final basic need is relatedness. Although relatedness focuses most often on the interaction with other human beings, we have experienced that relatedness is also applicable to the avatars in our trainings. Our avatars respond both verbally and non-verbally to the player. The player is immersed in the environment and feels connected with the avatar. For example, players tend to smile, nod their head, ask questions, and even wave to the avatar. Another important aspect to achieve relatedness is an environment without judgement of others. As real-life situations involve “unpredictable human beings”, there is always a risk of being judged, or having the feeling of being judged. However, in VR players are immersed in an environment without the feeling that there is a risk of being judged by their interlocutor.

Interested in building a (virtual) relationship?

Did your level of competence on Self-Determination Theory and VR grow, do you feel related to our work, and do you feel autonomy on what, when and how you want to ask us something? We might just have enhanced your intrinsic motivation to learn more about our VR trainings.

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