Motivation helps educational staff to develop both personally and professionally, and should be a focus for all CPD leaders. But what does it mean to foster school-wide motivation?

Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation and a pinch of creativity.
Bo Bennett

Becoming a motivated school
Many motivational theories have been developed over time, a large proportion of which are generic. There has also been a huge amount of writing and discussion about the motivation of pupils, and how we can best raise achievement and attainment. But how might schools motivate staff to engage fully in personal and professional development?

CPD leaders are in a great position to influence the degree of motivation felt by staff. However, the key word there is influence. You cannot be responsible for motivation – that has to come from within each member of staff – but you can help to prepare the ground so that staff may find it easier to become motivated.

The motivated school (thinking about motivation as an institutional, rather than individual thing in the first instance) has certain key features. How many are shared by your school? These useful tips will help to set you on the right track, or progress your journey if you’re already on the way.

  • Contextual factors are really crucial when it comes to motivation. Major motivating factors in a person’s job tend to be salary, conditions of service and opportunities in the work place (also environmental factors such as the quality of the work space and the extent to which personal needs are met at school, such as having a safe place to store possessions and the space and time in which to eat meals). Some of these factors will be fixed, but most can be improved.
  • Explore the giving of financial rewards in the form of clear career pathways and recognition of excellence. It is always possible for schools to find ways of doing this that work in their context.
  • Some schools develop internal knowledge development gateways. In other words, there is a requirement for staff to attain a certain amount or type of knowledge before passing through to subsequent levels. The professional standards can be a useful tool for this. The beauty of this approach is the extent to which it is developed for your school as opposed to a generic model which may or may not meet your needs.
  • Give CPD the highest possible profile in your school. Professionals are expected to show development over time and there is an absolute responsibility on the part of the employer, whoever that may be, to facilitate that development. CPD can be viewed as the mode of transport for travelling from one location to another within a career. How are your staff travelling? In first class? Or are they making their own way there by any means at any pace? It’s an interesting question to consider.
  • How do staff generally perceive motivation in your school? What’s the balance between extrinsic motivation (emerging from outside a person) and intrinsic motivation (emerging from within)?
  • What are the conditions in which motivation can truly flourish in a school, and in particular, in your school? What is the over-riding atmosphere in your school’s staffroom?
  • Revisit performance management arrangements in your school. Has anyone in your school sought staff views on the effectiveness of performance management processes? What improvements could be made? There will always be some!
  • How motivated is your governing body? Does it engage in critical thinking and commitment to training, or has its motivation to improve seen better days?
  • For the bigger picture view of motivation you may want to explore becoming an ‘Investors in People’ school.

I was recently asked by a journalist whether I thought that teacher well-being was compatible with the job of being a teacher. My reply was that we have no option; it has to be compatible. The same could be said of teacher motivation. We have no option; teachers have to be motivated to engage fully in their continuing professional and personal development in the context in which they work. We cannot allow the doing of the job to take over from the development required in order to progress. That’s why motivation will always remain one of the key tasks of professional learning leaders, and will help to distinguish between those who perform the role well, and those who perform the role with excellence.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in November 2008

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.