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Motivating ESL Teachers

November 29, 2005

I have the distinct impression that many ESL teachers suffer from low morale.


They feel undervalued, they have time pressures and they often have classroom problems on a daily basis that sap their confidence. If this is your diagnosis of the teachers in your school then it is unlikely that they will feel motivated to perform at their best.

So is there anything a school’s managers and academic directors can to do to improve morale and motivate teachers? Theories of motivation have traditionally stressed the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation (Herzberg, 1964). Extrinsic rewards include salary, job security, benefits, whereas intrinsic rewards involve a sense of achievement, increased self-respect, personal development. Herzberg believed intrinsic rewards were more motivating.

More recent studies have also shown that teachers are motivated more by intrinsic than by extrinsic rewards. Teachers measure their job satisfaction by such factors as participation in decision-making, use of valued skills, freedom and independence, challenge, expression of creativity, and opportunity for learning.

In a survey conducted by Brodinsky and Neill (1983), school administrators and teachers named participatory management, in-service training, and supportive evaluation as the best means of motivating staff. Participatory management promotes trust between the teaching and administrative staff; in-service training helps advance professional awareness and growth and a well-designed system of evaluation gives teachers constructive feedback to assess their own development. However, the evaluation system must be well designed and managed if it is not to have a negative impact. Ideally, the evaluation system should be designed and implemented largely by the teachers themselves

As employers, then, we need to ensure of, course, that we offer a proper compensation package to teachers, but it might be that better results would be achieved by looking at the extent to which teachers are encouraged to participate in overall school management and to have a sense of continuing professional development.



Brodinsky, Ben, and Shirley Boes Neill, eds. Building Morale. Motivating Staff: Problems and Solutions. AASSA Critical Issues Report No. 12. Sacramento, Ca: Education News Service, 1983. Ed 227 549.
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.

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Motivation. It's that time of the semester again. Student evaluations of the teacher! You know, have another teacher come into the room for 15 minutes, handout #2 pencils and multiple choice grade sheets while you go do the same for another strange . . . [Read More]

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