The purpose of this study was to examine the degree to which relatedness support affects motivational profiles in rural vs. urban physical education (PE) students. Participants included rural (n=177) and urban (n=431) junior high/high school students (grades 5-12) from Alberta, a western province in Canada (n=508), and Utah, a state in the intermountain west of the USA (n=100). This cross-sectional study measured and assessed students’ basic psychological needs of student-to-student relatedness, student-to-teacher relatedness, competence, and autonomy using a revised version of the Basic Psychological Needs Scale (BPNS-R). Situational motivation was measured and assessed using the Situational Intrinsic Motivation Scale – Physical Education (SIMS-PE). For data analysis, MANOVA was used to examine significant differences among group variables (urban and rural, gender, and state) for selected variables (basic psychological needs indices and motivational indices). Significant rural vs. urban effects were noted for basic psychological needs and reveal urban students as having significantly more student-to-teacher relatedness (p = .032), competence (p = .001), and autonomy (p = .002) than rural students. Significant rural vs. urban effects were also noted for motivational indices and reveal urban students as having significantly more intrinsic motivation (p < .001), identified regulation (p = .001), and higher Self-Determination Index (SDI) scores (p < .001) than rural students. Significant state effects reveal Alberta students are significantly more intrinsically motivated (p < .001) than Utah students. Due to sheer population size of metropolitan areas, urban students inherently have more PE options and more funding, which possibly allows them to experience greater autonomy and competence. Limited choices in rural schools could be a contributing factor for lower autonomy and competence measures. Rural PE teachers oftentimes teach other core subjects, which possibly makes PE classes less engaging and rigid, thereby causing lower relatedness between teacher and student. The Covid-19 pandemic has predominately paused extracurricular physical activities in urban settings, potentially catalyzing greater meaning and importance in urban PE; possibly initiating greater self-determined motivation for urban students. Rural PE teachers are recommended to be intentional with their relatedness support. PE teachers should adopt a holistic approach to satisfying the basic psychological needs of relatedness, competence, and autonomy instead of focusing on one need at the expense of others.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Teacher Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





relatedness, self-determination, motivation, rural urban differences



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Education Commons