Simplify! using self-determination theory to prioritise the redesign of an ethics and history of technology course

Gunter Bombaerts (Corresponding author), Andreas Spahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


A course on ethics and history of technology, taught to 1886 first-year engineering students of 14 engineering departments was redesigned using Self-Determination Theory (SDT) by adapting many course elements at the same time. We applied the situational level of Vallerand’s hierarchical model, analysing how the elements of this ethics and history course influenced basic needs and motivation in a mediating role, which influenced in turn course outcomes. Regression analysis demonstrated the central role of competence in the assignment for intrinsic motivation. A complementary qualitative analysis showed strong polarisation between different types of students and indicated many remaining challenges. We conclude that the Vallerand model was a useful tool for prioritising redesign in this course. We suggest further research in the use of this model, on the role and meaning of competence and on the role of frustration, in ethics and history courses in particular and engineering courses in general.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-226
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number2
Early online date25 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Dutch 4TU Centre for Engineering Education 4TU-CEE under innovation fund 2016, no grant number given. We thank Anouck Kluytmans for the support for the statistical analysis for the basic needs scales. We also thank Anthonie Meijers, Karolina Doulougeri, Eric van der Geer-Rutten-Rijswijk, Monika Roeling, Gerard van de Watering, and all involved teachers for their stimulating discussion and thought-provoking feedback.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Self-determination theory
  • competence
  • engineering ethics
  • frustration
  • hierarchical model


Dive into the research topics of 'Simplify! using self-determination theory to prioritise the redesign of an ethics and history of technology course'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this