Latest article: Sense of competence, autonomy and relatedness during primary-secondary transition: children express their own experience (Special issue: Primary-Secondary School Transitions)


Hargreaves, E., Saville, K., Buchanan, D., Gray, S. L., Perryman, J., & Quick, L. (2022). Sense of Competence, Autonomy and Relatedness during Primary-Secondary Transition: Children Express Their Own Experiences. International Journal of Educational and Life Transitions, 1(1): 6, pp. 1–16. DOI:


You can listen to Professor Eleanore Hargreaves’s podcast for an introduction to the article.


Transcript of the podcast

In in this article we address how the perspectives of transitioning children can further build on and illuminate Ryan and Deci’s self-determination theory. This claims that satisfaction of a person’s needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness Allows them to achieve what they call a positive experience: positive experience and Wellness outcomes. So a person needs competence, autonomy and relatedness. Competence means having attained something that they feel is valuable, and it includes confidence in doing things like playing football as well as schoolwork.That’s the first requirement to feel confident. The second is to feel autonomous, that is, to feel that you have some self direction over your own behaviours and you have a capacity also to critique your behaviours and those of the system. That’s the second essential.  And the third essential need that needs to be met is relatedness. So that’s feeling affectively bonded to others. So we’re exploring self determination theory and how these three needs interrelate with each other and how they’re played out during the transition between primary and secondary school.

So we draw on data from 2 research projects, one which is a survey study of 288 transitioning children. And one’s a life history study of 23 young children. The first is quantitative data and the 2nd is qualitative data.

So our findings illustrated the potential benefits of policymakers giving priority to a wider range of conceptions of competence beyond just attainment in maths and English i.e. The tests that children do. So this very limited focus on competence in maths and English does not help to support transitioning children’s self-confidence. Our findings also highlighted the need to nurture children’s capacity to recognize and direct their own schooling trajectories more autonomously and therefore, to direct their energies into engagement with learning and relationships, rather than into riling against controls or seeking to avoid humiliation and punishment. We showed how many of the children in the life history studies spent their time riling against controls or seeking to avoid humiliation and punishment. But most positively, our data manifested children’s high levels of relatedness both to peers and to teachers as they transitioned to new secondary schools and above all, it emphasized, and it exemplified the need for relatedness to accompany children’s strong sense of competence and autonomy during transition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *