ERIC Identifier: ED259449
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Ellis, Thomas I.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management Eugene OR.

Motivating Teachers for Excellence. ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management: ERIC Digest, Number Six.

Teachers are primarily motivated by intrinsic rewards such as self-respect, responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment. Thus, administrators can boost morale and motivate teachers to excel by means of participatory governance, inservice education, and systematic, supportive evaluation.


Because motivation is psychologically complex, no general and comprehensive theory exists. The beginnings of such a theory, however, have taken shape from the writings of influential theorists such as Abraham Maslow (1970), Douglas McGregor (1967), Frederick Herzberg (1964), and, more recently, Edward L. Deci (1975).

Maslow (1970) argues that everyone seeks to satisfy two basic levels of needs: lower level needs (physiological, security, the need for love and belonging) and higher level needs (esteem of both self and others and self-actualization or achieving one's full potential). Once any of these needs is met, it becomes less important as a motivator.


According to several authorities, the proper approach to work motivation lies in a careful distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. Herzberg (1964) distinguishes between extrinsic rewards surrounding a job (such as salaries, fringe benefits, and job security) and intrinsic rewards of the job itself (such as self-respect, sense of accomplishment, and personal growth). Intrinsic rewards, according to Herzberg, are more satisfying and motivating.

McGregor (1967) is best known for his two managerial theories, Theory X and Theory Y, which emphasize, respectively, extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. Deci (1975), in his book INTRINSIC MOTIVATION, shows how injudicious use of extrinsic rewards can undermine intrinsic motivation.


Recent studies have shown fairly conclusively that teachers are motivated more by intrinsic than by extrinsic rewards. Pastor and Erlandson (1982) conducted a survey which found that teachers perceive their needs and measure their job satisfaction by factors such as participation in decision-making, use of valued skills, freedom and independence, challenge, expression of creativity, and opportunity for learning. They concluded that high internal motivation, work satisfaction, and high-quality performance depend on three "critical psychological states": experienced meaningfulness, responsibility for outcomes, and knowledge of results.

Sergiovanni likewise found that teachers obtain their greatest satisfaction through a sense of achievement in reaching and affecting students, experiencing recognition, and feeling responsible.


In a survey conducted by Brodinsky and Neill (1983), a majority of school administrators (and teachers) cited three policies that effectively improved morale and motivated their staffs: shared governance, inservice education, and systematic, supportive evaluation.

Shared governance, or participatory management, enhances teachers' professional status and their "ownership" in the planning and operation of the school. Thus, shared governance gives teachers a vested interest in school performance and also promotes harmony and trust among teachers and administrators. The results of such cooperation can be dramatic: in Salt Lake City, a shared governance policy enacted eight years ago enabled teachers and administrators jointly to develop a districtwide accountability plan, an evaluation/remediation process, a salary progression program, and a curriculum reform which emphasized basic skills.

Formal or informal inservice education promotes sharing of ideas and interdependence among teachers. Informal education can include resource sharing or conversations among teachers about professional concerns; formal education can include workshops and seminars. Either kind of inservice tends to improve instructional techniques and enhance professional self-awareness.


An evaluation system, if well designed, provides teachers with the necessary feedback to assess their own professional growth. A poorly designed evaluation system can be disastrous, pitting teachers against administrators and engendering anxiety, mistrust, and resentment.

Administrators should encourage teachers to take part in the design and implementation of a practical, research-based evaluation system customized to individual district needs. The main purpose of evaluation should be to provide information to help teachers improve their teaching performance.

Accordingly, a good evaluation system should reflect respect for individual worth and dignity by encouraging teachers to set personal and organizational objectives. An evaluation system should also foster imagination and creativity, recognize work well done, and involve both self-appraisal and appraisal of others.


Blase, Joseph J., and William D. Greenfield. "An Interactive/Cyclical Theory of Teacher Performance." ADMINISTRATOR'S NOTEBOOK 29 (May 1980): 1-4.

Brodinsky, Ben, and Shirley Boes Neill, eds. BUILDING MORALE. MOTIVATING STAFF: PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS. AASA Critical Issues Report No. 12. Sacramento, CA: Education News Service, 1983. ED 227 549.

Deci, Edward L. INSTRINSIC MOTIVATION. New York: Plenum Press, 1975.

Herzberg, Frederick. "The Motivation-Hygiene Concept and Problems of Manpower." PERSONNEL ADMINISTRATION 27 (January-February 1964): 3-7.

Maslow, Abraham H. MOTIVATION AND PERSONALITY. 2d ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

McGregor, Douglas. THE PROFESSIONAL MANAGER. Edited by Caroline McGregor and Warren G. Bennis. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.

Medved, James A. "The Applicability of Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory." EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 39 (April 1982): 555.

Pastor, Margaret C. "A Study of Higher Order Need Strength and Job Satisfaction in Secondary Public School Teachers." JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION 20 (Summer 1982): 172-183.

Reyes, Donald J. "Supervision and Motivational Theory: Some Implications." CATALYST FOR CHANGE 11 (WINTER 1982): 21-24.

Thompson, Sydney. MOTIVATION OF TEACHERS. ACSA School Management Digest Series, Number 18. ERIC/CEM Research Analysis Series, Number 46. Burlingame, CA and Eugene, OR: Association of California School Administrators and ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, 1979. ED l78 998.

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