Free «Understanding Motivation» Essay Sample

UK head teachers face a challenging and altering climate in schools these days. Teachers’ motivation remains one of the challenges, since motivation of any teacher will have a direct impact on his/her students (Alam & Farid, 2011: 298). In other words, effective students’ outcomes are, above all, a result of effective teaching practices and the quality work of motivated teachers. The goal of this paper is to examine the issue of employee motivation in the school context and explore ways to improve employee performance. To achieve this goal, the paper is meaningfully divided into several sections. The first one introduces the subject and the scope of the research.  The second is devoted to clarifying the term ‘motivation’. Next, the factors are described that affect motivation levels of school teachers. Further, it is examined how individual differences impact the motivation levels in the workplace. The subsequent meaningful section explores the potential impact of teachers’ low motivation, while the following one describes the theory of motivation by Herzberg. The next sections focus on ways in which awareness of the motivation theory may be used to boost teachers’ performance at school and ways to use employee engagement to stimulate motivation.  

School administrators generally agree that motivation plays a critical role in determining the performance in any organization (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2007: 93). At the same time, the definitions of the term differ, since motivation, as many other psychological terms, is hard to define (Kalat, 2010: 375). Derived from the Latin word ‘movere’ (‘to move’), motivation, simply speaking, is something that activates an individual’s behavior and directs it towards an outcome (Kalat, 2010: 375).

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Within the organizational context, motivation is defined as certain processes in a person that stimulate his or her behaviour and direct it into the ways that could be beneficial for the organization (Miner, 2006 cited in  Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2007: 93). It is also defined as “the forces acting on and coming from within a person that account, in part, for the willful directions of ones’ efforts toward the achievement of specific goals (Middlemist, 2000: 145). According to Johns, motivation basically is about three things: the individual works hard, the individual keeps on the work, and the individual directs his or her behaviour towards  relevant goals (Johns, 2000: 175). Hence, three common components of motivation may be singled out on the basis of the foregoing definitions. These are effort, as well as direction and persistence.  

Generally, factors affecting the employee motivation in the workplace have been studied by various theories. Applying these theories to the school administration context, one may find out the variety of factors that affect teachers’ motivation and performance. Within the content approach, Maslow’s need hierarchy theory and Herzberg’s motivation theory need to be considered. Within the Needs Hierarchy theory proposed by Maslow, people are motivated by factors that are defined by people’s needs. Human needs, according to Maslow, may well be located within the hierarchy of their importance (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2007: 96). From the lowest to the highest, the needs levels are classified as physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization needs. These depend on factors, which are divided into general and organizational. For example, at the level of self-actualization general factors that affect the performance are advancement, achievement, and growth, whereas organizational factors are a challenging job, achievement in the workplace, and advancement within an organization.

The motivation-hygiene theory by Herzberg based on Maslow’s theory distinguishes between the hygiene factors and motivation factors. The two-factor theory relates these to the level of job satisfaction in employees (Figure 1).

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Figure 1: Two-Factor Theory by Herzberg

The study by Sergiovanni found that factors contributing to teacher motivation are achievement, responsibility, and recognition. Sergiovanni observes that lack of motivation results from teachers’ dissatisfaction rooted in poor interpersonal communication with students, inflexible and rigid policies in schools, inappropriate style of supervision, irrelevant administrative practices, as well as poor interpersonal relations between teachers and parents or with colleagues (Sergiovanni, 1967: 66). In its turn, the study by Hoy & Miskel revealed that teachers’ motivation is also dependent on hygiene factors. Other factors, as found in another study by Hoy & Miskel, are the sense of security and low work pressure tolerance (Hoy & Miskel, 1987). Alam & Farid have found that teachers’ performance at work is affected by the following factors: personal or social factors, the environment in classroom, behaviour of students, socio-economic status, stress related to examinations, incentives or rewards, and teachers’ own personalities or self-confidence. Of these, the most important are the income status, the role in the society, self-confidence, and incentives on displaying good results  (Alam &Farid, 2011: 298).

The impact of individual differences on the levels of motivation in the workplace has been thoroughly studied within the five-factor model of personality (Goldberg, 1990; Costa & McCrae, 1985). The latter states that trait motivation variance relates to individual differences in people’s consciousness. The FFM offers a taxonomy of motivational traits and a structure of personality that is based on individual differences in tendencies of motivation. This hierarchical organization of traits has five major dimensions: extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. The traits have motivational properties, which means “talkative people want to talk, sympathetic people want to help (…)” (Oliver, n.d.). The findings of the recent research confirm the dependence of the levels of employee motivation on the personality traits within the FFM. Kumar & Bakhshi have found that openness to experience is negatively related to normative commitment and continuance, while conscientiousness is positively related to continuance commitment; agreeableness is positively related to normative commitment, while neuroticism is negatively related to affective commitment. Extraversion has been found to relate positively to each of the three forms of organizational commitment: normative, affective, and continuance (Kumar & Bakhshi, 2010: 25). Thus, personality is related to teachers’ commitment and motivation in the workplace across three major forms of commitment mentioned above.

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Low motivation in teachers may have adverse effects on students’ performance and thus on the overall performance of a school. This is attributed to the fact that “performance is determined primarily by ability and motivation” (Khan, 2008: 81). While teachers are the backbone of any school, their motivation remains a priority. The majority of teachers in the study by Alam & Farid (2011: 303) agree that low salaries contribute to lack of motivation, which affects the teaching practice in a negative way. Similarly, low motivation of teachers at school has been found to lead to absenteeism, ineffective utilization of class time, lack of use of innovative practices, professional misconduct, poor preparation, as well as additional activities to generate income that distract teachers from their duties (Bennel & Akyeampong, 2007). Besides, low-motivated teachers tend to spend less time to extra-curricular activities, marking, as well as preparation for classes (Mary, 2010: 16)

The recognized motivation theory that will be described is a Two-Factor Theory by Herzberg. According to it, there are basically two sets of factors that influence employee motivation by enhancing (or hindering) their job satisfaction. The first group is known as hygiene factors. These are factors that lead to dissatisfaction at work and include compensation, relationship between colleagues, subordinates, and managers, job security, conditions of work, etc (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2007: 98). These factors are extrinsic (not dependent on the work itself). While these factors do not directly motivate employees, their absence causes dissatisfaction. The second group of factors is related to employee motivation. They stem from the conditions of the job and thus are intrinsic. The factors that serve as motivators include job satisfaction, achievement, responsibility, recognition, advancement and chances for growth (See Figure 1).

The knowledge of this theory and its application to the educational institution setting may help to increase teachers’ motivation. To achieve this, improvements in both types of factors need to be considered. The right balance should be achieved, so that the management addresses both factors simultaneously. Specifically, elimination of the things that lead employee dissatisfaction (e.g. ineffective school policies, low wages, or lack of security) should be accompanied by creation of job enrichment opportunities which will create satisfaction. These are opportunities for growth, greater acknowledgement for teachers’ contribution, and opportunities to take on more challenges and responsibility and be rewarded for this, etc (Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory: Hygiene Factors and Motivation, n.d.).

Employee engagement is a way to increase employee motivation levels and hence an organization’s productivity. Employee engagement is generally understood as staff commitment and employee sense of belonging to a particular organization. Besides, employee engagement is about “the energy, effort and initiative employees bring to their work” (Nohria et al, 2008). Nohria et al observe that employee engagement is used to increase motivation at work when the employees are enabled to grow and to learn so that the job does not appear a dead end. Increasing employee engagement and thus motivation may be achieved by engaging employees in making important decisions, provide opportunities for ongoing training, developing good relationships between employees and management, and provide rewards for those employees who excel, etc (Elsdon, 2008).

In summary, teachers’ motivation plays a crucial part in the success of the learning outcomes for individual students and school performance. Teachers are a backbone of the studying process, thus the productivity of their performance should be increased. This may be achieved through applying modern theories of motivation to the school administration context and devising further strategies of teacher engagement.   

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