What Principals Think Motivates Teachers

By Diamantes, Thomas | Journal of Instructional Psychology, March 2004 | Go to article overview

What Principals Think Motivates Teachers


Diamantes, Thomas, Journal of Instructional Psychology


How did a graduate class of teachers and principal s come to explore what was really important to teachers? They had an idea that they all shared the same values (both teachers and principals) and would agree on what rewards teachers prize. Would administrators rate the motivation rewards the same way the teachers would? To find out, five schools were selected to participate in the study. That is, administrators and teachers from their building would rank order the perceived rewards of teaching, but with the administrators predicting teacher responses. The data suggest that of the five school administrators participating, one response matched teacher preferences exactly, one response did not match any of the teachers preferences and the other three responses were somewhere in between. Additionally the data indicate that viewed totally, the administrators predicted that the teachers would choose, "full appreciation of work done" followed by" "job security." while teachers generally chose "good pay" and" "good working conditions." Comments indicated that some of the principals felt they had gotten out of touch with their teachers. Some of the teachers indicated surprise that their administrators could predict the teacher responses with such accuracy.

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How did a graduate class of teachers and principals come to explore what was really important to teachers? They had an idea that they all shared the same values (both teachers and principals) and would agree on what rewards teachers prize. After further class discussion though, it became apparent that there was less agreement than originally thought.

First, it might be helpful to review some background on the subject of motivation. It has been researched quite extensively. When we speak of teacher motivation, we are talking about teachers as group members, not individuals. All groups have rules and etiquette, no matter how informal or small in size. The power of group norms in motivating workers was studied over sixty years ago in the Western Electric Studies. Most educators have heard of it by another name, the Hawthorne Studies. One part of the sizable research project was to determine how much illumination was needed to get maximum output from factory workers. The experimenters were perplexed when the subjects didn't respond in the predicted manner. It seemed that no matter how much or little illumination was provided, the more the worker produced. What the researches did not know, at that time, was that the workers were responding to their perceptions of the expectations of the experimenters and not to changes in the environment. The term, Hawthorne effect came from this series of studies and is widely misunderstood in educational circles. The misunderstanding occurs when people think that the studies established that merely paying attention to people and manipulating the environment increased worker motivation. It is much more than that. The workers in the Hawthorne Studies were responding to various psychological factors that motivated their behavior. For example, reacting to the expectation of others or being the focus of attention.

Owens (2001) states that the educational leader is an important part of the educational environment of the school. It is with this educational environment that the organization's members interact and therefore the principal can determine the nature and quality of the teachers' motivation. Little research has been done to examine teacher motivation in regards to what rewards they prize. Public perception of teaching usually includes the belief that all teachers are completely free to do whatever they want immediately after school dismisses at 3PM and have all summer off (never mind grading papers, lesson-planning and night courses in graduate school and most summers back at the university). What rewards do teachers find in teaching? To examine the values of teachers as group members, the Kovach study, from the field of business administration, was chosen as a model.

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