Work motivation among teachers.

work motivation among teachers

Teacher motivation

Adaptive and maladaptive work motivation among teachers.

I am very interested in how and what keeps teachers motivated. It is an important issue concerning education. I have concerns regarding teacher attrition and how the education system may not be able to retain its best and most experienced teachers. This can occur for a number of reasons and I have a hunch that motivation, or more specifically, quality of motivation, is a key factor. Although this post is not directly aimed at music education, it is something that should resonate with all teachers and serve as a basis for further dialogue and reflection about our own motivation.

The key question is are we motivated by the opportunity or by fear of failure? Our own motivation can effect the quality of our work.

Research has demonstrated that motivated teachers are effective teachers (Richardson & Watt, 2010), however, understanding the underlying mechanisms as to how and why certain teachers can be more motivated than others, is less understood. Burgeoning research has uncovered motivational profiles of teachers for autonomous and controlled motivation (Gagné, et al., 2010).

Types of motivation

I have discussed previously, the differences between autonomous and controlled forms of motivation. Autonomous motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000) is a positive, intrinsic form of motivation. Controlled motivation (Deci & Ryan, 2000) is a poor quality or maladaptive form of motivation which can have detrimental psychological consequences in the most serious cases.

Motivation, however, is a multidimensional construct (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 2012; Richardson, Karabenick, & Watt, 2014). Several motivational constructs (self-efficacy, mastery orientation) can influence the entirety of one’s motivational profile. This is the area least understood in teacher motivation.

Collie and Martin (2017) have conducted research in a multidimensional model of teacher motivation by examining adaptive (self-efficacy, value, mastery) and maladaptive (anxiety, uncertain control, performance avoidance) factors. Analysis found five profiles of teacher motivation that differed in how these factors aligned. Furthermore, the research found significant differences for well-being outcomes across these profiles.

Healthy motivational profiles of teachers

Two motivational profiles were found to be have characteristics of healthy motivation. These were the success approach and the success seeking profiles. These profiles made up two-fifths of the of the sample (40%). The three remaining profiles were less healthy with an amotivated profile (22%). Failure fearing and failure accepting made up the remaining 38%.

It is interesting that some teachers go about their work in order to avoid failure. This could be avoiding failure in the classroom, such as classroom management of students, or failure as a department head to run a buoyant and successful faculty. How difficult must it be for a teacher to work in a way in which they fuel themselves on anxiety, worry and concern. This is why maladaptive motivational profiles can lead to serious negative effects on overall psychological health over the long-term.

Concerning research findings

Amotivated teachers, on the other hand, seemed to have neither an investment in success or failure. No success-approach or failure-avoidance. Concerning was that this group of amotivated and avoidant motivational profiles was a large group — 60% of the overall sample. Over half of the sample (N=519) of Australian teachers displayed a maladaptive motivational profile. Furthermore, maladaptive motivation is often associated with burnout (Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 1996; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007). Given the links of teacher motivation to student outcomes (Roth, et al., 2007), teacher motivation is a serious concern.



Collie, R. J., & Martin, A. J. (2017). Adaptive and maladaptive work-related motivation among teachers: A person-centered examination and links with well-being. Teaching and Teacher Education, 64, 199-210.

Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (2012). Extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation in education: reconsidered once again. Review of Educational Research, 71(1), 1-27.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behaviour. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227-268.

Gagné, M., Forest, J., Gilbert, M.-H., Aube, C., Morin, E., & Malorni, A. (2010). The motivation at work scale: Validation evidence in two languages. Educational and psychological measurement, 70(4), 628-646.

Maslach, C., Jackson, S. E., & Leiter, M. P. (1996). The Maslach Burnout Inventory (3rd ed). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychology Press.

Richardson, P. W., Karabenick, S. A., & Watt, H. M. G. (Eds.). (2014). Teacher Motivation: Theory and practice. New York: Routledge.

Richardson, P. W., & Watt, H. M. G. (2010). Current and future directions in teacher motivation research. 16, 139-173.

Roth, G., Assor, A., Kanat-Maymon, Y., & Kaplan, H. (2007). Autonomous motivation for teaching: How self-determined teaching may lead to self-determined learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(4), 761-774.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). When rewards compete with nature: The undermining of intrinsic motivation and self-regulation. In C. Sansone & J. M. Harackiewicz (Eds.), Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: The search for motivation and optimal performance (pp. 14-54). San Diego: Academic Press.

Skaalvik, E. M., & Skaalvik, S. (2007). Dimensions of teacher self-efficacy and relations with strain factors, perceived collective teacher efficacy, and teacher burnout. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(3), 611-625.


©iteachpiano 2017

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