Self‐determination theory posits that individuals who have basic psychological needs satisfied while engaging in an activity will be more likely to value and persist in that activity. Scholars in this area have also posited that autonomy‐supportive social contexts are top‐down determinants of individual need satisfaction. To understand better the progression from social to motivational to outcome variables, we tested a four‐step path model within a classroom setting. Data were collected from 220 students in an introductory journalism course, which was subdivided into 14 lab sections. Students were surveyed regarding their feelings about the course, the autonomy support of the instructor, the motivation they felt to engage in the course, and the levels of need satisfaction they experienced. Theoretically‐guided structural equation modeling produced a best‐fitting model in which teacher autonomy support predicted more self‐determined student motivation, which along with teacher autonomy support predicted greater student psychological need satisfaction, which led finally to higher predicted course grades and higher teacher‐course evaluations. Overall, the results replicate and significantly extend previous findings regarding need satisfaction and teacher‐course evaluations. Implications for pedagogy and educational interventions are discussed.