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Motivating teachers

November 21, 2008

Hello again,

It is generally accepted that English language teachers are not in it for the money. The motives for choosing this field of teaching are varied of course. Young people fresh...

... from university see it as an opportunity to work their way to interesting places. Most EL teachers enjoy meeting people from different cultures and find that experiencing travelling and meeting different nationalities very enriching. But it strikes me that these motives are not very helpful to school and academic managers wishing to improve the standards at their schools. So what other motives can they appeal to?

One model to consider is McClelland’s three types of need. This suggests that people are broadly motivated by the need for achievement, affiliation or power.
Achievers in schools are likely to perform better if they can be given projects that bring them personal satisfaction. According to. McClelland, achievement-motivated people have certain characteristics in common, including:
• setting high personal but obtainable goals,
• concern for personal achievement rather than the rewards of success,
• desire for job-relevant feedback (how well am I doing?)

These are the people to put in charge of new developments: virtual teaching, a new resources section, the self-access materials. They take pride in their work and get on with the task to see it through to conclusion.

Those with affiliative needs are less likely to be effective in the tasks that achievers like. They prefer the people side of work so would be excellent at organising the social programme, the end of term party and being involved in the counselling side of work with students.

The power seekers are the ones to give leadership roles. They enjoy status, so let them have a nice office. Give them an impressive –sounding title and ensure that they have a genuine leadership role. They want other people to recognise their position in the hierarchy and don’t want to melt into the background. You may have room for only one Director of Studies but there are other posts of responsibility you can create: exams manager, for example. Or you could put them in charge of teams dealing with specific skills: reading, writing, pronunciation.

Low morale in a school is not inevitable simply because the school can’t pay high salaries. Appealing to people’s deeper needs makes teachers feel fulfilled and keeps morale and standards high.

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