The Predictor and Outcome
of Social Support Giving –
A Self-Determination Theory Perspective

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Project Investigator
Dr. Lam Bick Har
Research Fellow of APCLC,
The Education University of Hong Kong
Dr Cheng, Wing Yi Rebecca
Dr Yang Lan
Dr Cheng Chi Keung Eric
The Education University of Hong Kong
Funding Source
General Research Fund
Project Duration


“Social support” encompasses teachers’ patience and help regarding content learning as well as their personal interest in their students (Aldrup, Klusmann, Lüdtke, Göllner, & Trautwein, 2018). It is a feature of instructional behaviour that is positively associated with student learning and an engaged behaviour of enthusiastic teachers, and is conceived as altruistic and associated positively with support givers’ well-being (Weinstein & Ryan, 2010).

This study examines the predictor and outcome of teachers’ provision of social support. It investigates whether ‘basic psychological need satisfaction at work’ is associated with ‘well-being’, and whether such a predicted relationship can be mediated by ‘social support giving’. This mediation model is constructed upon the self-determination theory, highlighting the meaningful integration of the individual self into the social environment as a necessary condition of growth (Ryan, Ryan, Di Domenico, & Deci, 2019). It also refers to the beneficial effect of social support provision as addressed in health psychology.

A battery of questionnaires will be administered to 300 schoolteachers who teach junior secondary levels, in Hong Kong schools of varying backgrounds. The measurements include Social Support, Basic Satisfaction Need at Work, Engagement, Psychological Meaningfulness and Health. Structural equation modelling will explore the extent to which teachers’ basic psychological need predicts teacher well-being, with the provision of social support giving as a mediating factor. This sophisticated multivariate analysis allows investigation of how different variables are interconnected as the results.

The study contributes to scholarship by extending the application of self-determination theory to study teachers’ well-being, with a connection to social support giving. It has the potential to generate suggestions for supporting teacher development, school policies and practice.

  1. To identify whether ‘social support giving’ predicts teacher ‘well-being’;
  2. To examine whether ‘basic psychological need at work’ predicts ‘social support giving’;
  3. To test a mediation model to see if social support giving mediates the relationship between
    ‘basic psychological need at work’ and ‘well-being’; and
  4. To recommend potential school policies regarding teaching and teacher development
    based on the results of objectives 1 to 3.

Expected outcome / Impact

The project should contribute to theory and practice, across disciplines, in the following ways :

  • The study extends the application of SDT to study teachers’ well-being, with a connection to social support giving, and an interdisciplinary approach of study; it enlarges the impact of teacher satisfaction studies.
  • Compared with other global concepts applied across different occupations, this project recommends a methodological direction of looking at employees’ profession-specific traits. It will generate a more nuanced understanding on employee engagement in different professions.
  • The study based on teachers in Hong Kong will incorporate a further cultural dimension to suggest whether basic psychological need and social support have cross-cultural differences and similarities, with particular relevance to SDT that is established as a universal theory.
  • The study has the potential of making recommendations to school policies and practice, offering a cogent philosophy that can better justify the government’s claim on whole person education in the school curriculum.