Research Projects


1. The Physical Education teacher as motivating coach: The development of an evidence-based
online tool for Physical Education teachers.

Students who are more autonomously motivated, are also more physically active in their leisure time. Physical Education teachers who use a motivational style will stimulate students’ autonomous motivation. Previous research showed that Physical Education teachers optimize their motivation style as a result of a 1-day workshop. Effects were however limited in size. Therefore, we want to investigate with this current project whether we can train teachers in a more motivating style through an evidence-based online learning environment ( in which teachers:
- complete a validated questionnaire to determine their own motivation style,
- reflect on their motivation style based on video images of their own lessons and
- use concrete motivational strategies to improve their motivation style.
Contact: Arne Bouten and Nele Van Doren

2. Developing effective professional support for novice physical education teachers.

Novice physical education teachers are quickly exposed to various challenges such as classroom management, dealing with students' disruptive behavior, communicating with parents, cooperating with colleagues, stress and work pressure etc. These challenges lead to a high percentage of novice secondary school teachers quitting within the first five years of teaching.
More research is needed into this early drop-out, which is a contemporary social concern. Studies on the causes, the needs and effective guidance of novice physical education teachers are also lacking.
Moreover, the role of the teaching style (motivating vs. demotivating teaching) of novice teachers in this problem has not yet been sufficiently researched.
In this current project we have the general objective to map and optimize the (de)motivating teaching styles of novice PE teachers. We want to achieve this by:
- researching the specific needs of novice PE teachers;
- examining the differences between novice and more experienced PE teachers in the field of (de)motivating teaching styles and their antecedents;
- developing and appreciating a guidance trajectory for novice PE teachers;
- examining the effects of an evidence-based guidance trajectory for novice PE teachers.
Contact: Silke Hellebaut

3. Personal and social goals in primary school physical education in The Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, the main objective of physical education (PE) in primary school is to help children get acquainted with the movement culture so that they will remain intrinsically motivated to participate in sports now and later on in life (Kerndoelen Primair Onderwijs, 2006). To do so, the subject of PE is shaped by two categories of goals: - Children should learn the basic forms of movement (also referred to as fundamental movement skills) and games in order to participate in the movement culture in a safe and liable way.
- Children should learn how to cooperate in a respectful way, how to arrange their learning process and how to assess and consider their individual possibilities (referred to as personal and social goals). With regard to the second goal, 9 sub goals were formulated (see ‘het Basisdocument’; Mooij et al., 2011). However, neither research nor practice has provided the evidence-based knowledge necessary for guiding children effectively in their personal and social development.

The aims of this project is to
- provide an overview of the existing literature on school-aged children’s and youth’s (i.e. 6- to 18-year-olds) personal and social development within the context of physical education and sports
- to Investigate how expert PE teachers perceive, interpret and implement personal and social goals in their current practice
- to develop and evaluate a professional development initiative aimed at supporting novice and experienced PE teachers to include personal and social goals more efficiently in their lessons.
Contact: Katrijn Opstoel

Relevant publication
: Opstoel, K, Chapelle, L, Prins, F, De Meester, A, Haerens, L, van Tartwijk, J, De Martelaer K. (2019). Personal and social development in physical education: a review study. European Physical Education Review.

More information: Haerens, L., Permentier, V., Tallir, I., Verstraete, S., Vonderlynck, V. (2017). Inspireren en bewegen. Aan de slag met ondersteunende rollen in de les Lichamelijke Opvoeding. (publishing house: Acco).

4. ‘Help, my teacher and parents are pressuring me!’ Antecedents and consequences of children and adolescents’ coping responses to controlling behavior

The study of adaptive functioning of adolescents - both in general and at school - often focuses on the quality of the parenting style and the teacher’s teaching style. Research based on selfdetermination theory shows that a controlling style leads to frustration of the basic psychological needs, which in turn undermines adolescents’ well-being, motivation and engagement.
Current research, however, aims to get insight into the active role of adolescents in interacting with their parents and teachers. This project focuses on how adolescents deal with a controlling parenting or teaching style.
- First, we want to investigate why adolescents react differently when confronted with a controlling parent or teacher. Herein, we examine the role of temperament and the extent to which the adolescent is raised in an autonomy-supportive environment.
- Secondly, this project aims to investigate whether coping plays a moderating role in the relationship between a controlling style and adaptive functioning in adolescents. In particular, we aim to explore whether the effects of a controlling style on maladaptive functioning decrease when an adaptive coping strategy is used or, on the contrary, is magnified when adolescents rely on a maladaptive coping strategy.
Contact: Nele Flamant

Relevant publication
: Flamant, N., Haerens, L., Mabbe, E., Vansteenkiste, M., & Soenens, B. (2020). How do adolescents deal with intrusive parenting? The role of coping with psychologically controlling parenting in internalizing and externalizing problems. Journal of Adolescence, 200–212.

5. Teaching methodology: Stimulating (through cooperative learning) and measuring social skills within the secondary educational courses economics and physical education.

Technology is changing the nature of work and, subsequently, is changing what employers require from recent accounting and economics graduates. The focus in the workplace is no longer merely placed on hard (i.e., cognitive, job-specific, economic and financial) skills, but also increasingly on soft social skills. This shift has created a skills gap between what employers consider important, and what competences graduates truly possess when entering the job market, with employers pointing out the importance of teamwork, communication, leadership, and critical thinking skills.
Education plays an important role in developing these social skills graduates need to possess. Given that the current literature on social skills in accounting and economics education has predominantly focused on higher education, we will answer to the call of scholars and, since the recent flood of educational reforms, to the call of policymakers to foster these skills incrementally from secondary to higher education, by stimulating social already in secondary education.
The aims of this doctoral research are quadruple:
- to develop an evidence-based curriculum for the (Business) economics course, based on the teaching method of collaborative learning, that allows teachers to stimulate both students’ hard, cognitive, economic skills, and their soft, social skills;
- to develop course-specific ((Business) Economics and Physical Education) evaluation methods for evaluating students’ social skills in secondary education;
- to develop a valid and reliable measuring instrument to measure social skills across disciplines
- to investigate, both within (Business) Economics and Physical Education, the effects of collaborative learning on the stimulation of course-specific and social skills.
Contact: Amelie Vanhove

6. Essays on choice-based assessment in economics education

Assessment in theory courses such as economics can result in negative feelings among students including test anxiety and demotivation. This doctoral research aims to address these negative feelings by introducing an alternative assessment method namely choice-based assessment and more specifically question choice. Students can answer a fixed number of test questions from a predetermined test question list. This research examines whether offering choice between (test)
questions can lower students' test anxiety and what the explanatory mechanisms are of the (possible) influence of choice provision on test anxiety.
Contact: Stefanie De Jonge


1. Everybody is a winner: overestimation of one’s competence as a predictor of dropout from sports?

Physical inactivity is one of the major health risks associated with the global epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The increasing number of young people and children who are not active is discouraging. It is therefore essential to gain a better understanding of the underlying factors that cause dropout from sports. Research shows that children's perceptions of their motor skills play an important role in function of their physical activity. The current project therefore investigates
- the role of overestimation of one’s personal motor competence in the prediction of persistence in, versus dropout from sports
- the psychological and contextual precursors of this overestimation.
Contact: Julie Galle

2. When youth sport coaches’ self-esteem depends upon the achievements of their athletes: an examination of the relation with a controlling coaching style.

A controlling or pressuring coaching style can best be avoided, as it comes with a number of costs, including athlete ill-being, reduced sport enjoyment and higher drop-out rates. To reduce youth coaches’ reliance on a controlling style, it is important to understand its underlying sources. In this project, it will be investigated whether the extent to which coaches adopt a controlling coaching style depends on their tendency to let their self-esteem depend on the successes and failures of their athletes, in other words, on their athlete-invested contingent self-esteem. In a cumulative series experimental and longitudinal studies, the role of (a) a pressure-exerting sports climate and (b) poor athlete performances in the prediction of such fragile self-esteem and a controlling coaching style is examined.
Contact: Sofie Morbeée

Relevant publications:
Morbée S., Vansteenkiste M., Aelterman N., & Haerens L. (2020). Why Do Sport Coaches Adopt a Controlling Coaching Style? The Role of an Evaluative Context and Psychological Need Frustration. The Sport Psychologist.
- Morbée J., Haerens L., Waterschoot J., & Vansteenkiste M. (2021) Which Cyclists Manage to Cope with the Corona Crisis in a Resilient Way? The Role of Motivational Profiles. International Journal of Sports and Exercise Psychology
- De Muynck G., Morbée S., Soenens B., Haerens L., Vermeulen O., Vande Broek G., & Vansteenkiste M. (2020). Do both coaches and parents contribute to youth soccer players’ motivation and engagement? An examination of their unique (de)motivating roles. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology

3. Bidirectional influences in coach-athlete relationships and team dynamics

In sports context, a bidirectional exchange between coaches and athletes is at play. However, in sports psychology research the bidirectional nature of the relationship between coaches and athletes or coaches and teams is not always considered when investigating relational concepts. In this project we will explore, apply and adapt different statistical models in order to obtain a more complete understanding of the coach-athlete relationship and team dynamics. While doing so, we will focus on the well-being of athletes and coaches, their need satisfaction and frustration, their experiences of passion for sport or coaching and some other sport relevant concepts.
Contact: Marieke Fonteyn

4. Organizational effectiveness in sports clubs: identifying and strengthening quintessential management processes and motivating styles board members rely on

Many sports clubs are confronted with a decrease in the number of coaches, volunteers, members and in finances, which may threaten the existence of the organization. These evolutions are partly due to environmental changes such as decreasing governmental subsidies, demographic change and increasing competition of commercial sport providers (Wicker & Breuer, 2013). Yet, there are also processes within the context of the sport organization that board members, who are responsible for managing the organization's activities, can rely on to enhance the sports club's management. This project focuses specifically on management processes and the motivating style board members adopt while implementing these management processes, hereby relying on the Competing Values Framework (Quin & Rohrbaugh, 1981) and Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000) respectively.

The project has three aims:
- The first aim is to identify effective management processes and motivating styles board members of sports clubs can rely on.
- The second aim is to develop and evaluate an intervention to strengthen effective management processes and board members' motivating styles.
- The third aim is to investigate the effect of this intervention on the sport club's management, the behaviour and attitudes of important internal stakeholders such as coaches, volunteers and members, and the sports club's human and financial resources.
Contact: Tom De Clerck

Relevant publications:
- De Clerck T., Willem A., Aelterman N., & Haerens L. (2019). Volunteers Managing Volunteers: The Role of Volunteer Board Members’ Motivating and Demotivating Style in Relation to Volunteers’ Motives to Stay Volunteer. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations.
- De Clerck T., Aelterman N., Haerens L., & Willem A. (2020). Enhancing volunteers capacity in all‐volunteer nonprofit organizations: The role of volunteer leaders' reliance on effective management processes and (de)motivating leadership. Nonprofit Management and Leadership.

5. Moral Identity of Athletes and Staff

Corruption and fraud represent major threats to sport itself and to those involved. To counteract this issue, the PrOFS research project aims to investigate the problem on different levels and domains. On the individual level, Moral Identity is studied as a protective buffer against the enactment of a multitude of illegal and immoral intentions and behaviors. Through the combination of surveys and field experiments, the relation of Moral Identity to immoral actions in the sport sector shall be clarified.
A final objective is to develop and evaluate a prototype of a Moral Education Workshop for players, coaches, managers, and board members to inform about the effective implementation of standards and to train how to recognize and react on fraudulent behaviour.
Contact: Tassilo Tissot

6. Improving motivating styles: Toward a complex dynamical systems approach (MotiStyleSport)

Motivational interaction style among physical education teachers, as well as professionals involved in physical activity (PA) counseling and coaching influences outcomes in their target groups, e.g. increase PA and decrease dropout intentions from sports. An empowering and dialogical interaction style has been shown to result in more beneficial outcomes than a controlling interaction style.
Although it is possible to change one’s style, current research literature falls short of explaining how this can be done efficiently and sustainably. This project investigates how to enhance professionals’ training to improve their interaction styles. We will examine comprehensively what pathways professionals take to change their interaction style, and how feasible and acceptable interaction style trainings are face-to-face and online.
Contact: Melina Puolamäki, Elina Renko, and Matti Heino (University of Helsinki - Faculty of Social Sciences, Social Psychology)

Relevant publication: Hankonen N., Heino M., Araujo-Soares V., Sniehotta F.F., Sund R., Vasankari T., Absetz, P., Borodulin, K., Uutela, A., Lintunen, T., & Haukkala, A. (2016). “Let’s Move It” – a school-based multilevel intervention to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour among older adolescents in vocational secondary schools: Study protocol for a cluster-randomized trial. BMC Public Health


1. Can optimizing competence development lead to more effective and continuous workplace learning in healthcare education?

To deliver qualitative patient care, the education of qualitative healthcare professionals is essential.  Within these educational programs, students spend a large amount of their time at the workplace to develop their competencies. Also, after graduation, maintaining and optimizing these competencies is crucial. To optimally develop competencies, continuity within the educational program but also after graduation is needed. On top of the currently missing continuity, there is a poor agreement between different educational programs hindering interprofessional collaboration. To overcome these problems, the involvement of all important stakeholders is indispensable but often lacking in the development of healthcare educational programs. This project focuses on competence development within undergraduate healthcare education, during the program but also after graduation, investigating some tools for the optimalization of competence development e.g., ePortfolio, competence frameworks, feedback-supporting tool.
Contact: Oona Janssens

Realized projects
Motivating assessment in physical education: The effects of goal clarification and process feedback on students’ motivation

Performance grading in Physical Education (PE) often negatively affects students’ feelings of competence and interest and love of learning (i.e., autonomous motivation; Ryan & Weinstein, 2009).
Therefore, these types of assessments might not contribute to autonomous motivation in PE. This project examines whether two other aspects of assessment, that is goal clarification and process feedback, may positively impact students’ autonomous motivation in PE. Goal clarification and process feedback are known as two key teaching strategies of ‘Assessment for Learning’(AfL; provides students with insight into their learning process so they can build towards higher standards; Wiliam, 2011). As such, two bodies of literature will be linked throughout this project: AfL and Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000).

The overarching objective of the PhD was to investigate the effects of different forms and quality aspects of assessment on students’ motivational functioning in PE. A first more specific goal of the PhD was to gain more insight in students’ perceived need satisfaction and frustration, quality of motivation and fear during different types of assessment. A second more specific goal of the PhD was to (experimentally) test, based on the gained insights, the impact of goal clarification and process feedback on students’ need-based experiences.
More information: Christa Krijgsman