Using a Motivational Typology to Understand and Respond to Disruptive Behaviour


Birch, H.J.S. (2022). Using a motivational typology to understand and respond to disruptive behaviour. Journal of Online Learning Research, 8(3), 369-391.


This case study is about understanding disruptive students who are motivated by a psychological need to invoke change in a learning space. Marczewski’s User Types Test, a typol- ogy for classifying both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational tendencies, and based on Self-Determination Theory, was ad- ministered to 14 participants, aged 9 through 15, to determine their User Type profile; one participant emerged as a Disrup- tor. The semiotic signs created by the Disruptor in an online learning platform were collected and analyzed to determine the unique behaviour patterns of a Disruptor, in contrast with Marczewski’s other User Types, including Philanthropist, Achiever, Socializer, Free Spirit, and Explorer. Implications for online instructors include understanding why Disruptors interrupt, interrogate, and intimidate, and possible strategies for responding, including nudging toward positive disruption, designing for Disruptors, and acknowledging and celebrating disruption in cases where it may facilitate (and not hinder) learning.

Reference Type



  • Motivation