Head Teachers as Teacher Motivators

How professional learning communities of head teachers drive teacher intrinsic motivation in Rwanda

By: Jean Pierre Mugiraneza and Alex Mahe Mukizwa, VVOB Rwanda

Motivated and competent teachers are fundamental for learning to take place. Head teachers play a powerful part in this. By applying core leadership practices they create an enabling working environment, and they support and motivate teachers, who, in turn, improve teaching and learning outcomes (Leithwood et al.,2010).

But how do head teachers acquire these practices and become effective teacher motivators? In Rwanda, professional learning communities (PLCs) of head teachers are proving to be a successful tool. VVOB Rwanda has a new paper that provides insight.

How are Rwanda’s teachers motivated?

In 2007 the government of Rwanda agreed on a Teacher Development and Management Policy that articulates the need to “develop and install a framework for motivation that will enhance the socio-economic and professional status of teachers” (MINEDUC, 2007). Important reforms were implemented in the last decade, such as improved teacher management (recruitment, deployment, transfer), better working and living conditions, etc. But it has not been easy to address the fact that Rwandan teachers earn considerably less than other similarly qualified civil servants. The introduction of a teaching profession career structure has also met with some delays.

Research shows that Rwandan head teachers play a crucial role in bringing about improvements in teacher motivation and performance: 68% of the teachers surveyed by Muvunyi (2016) report that the quality of school leadership was an important work environment motivating factor.

Why a study?

VVOB Rwanda has been a strong supporter of school leadership development, which is why we wanted to know more about how head teachers make their influence felt. We were also curious to find out whether participation in the professional learning communities of head teachers that we had piloted and rolled out had a positive effect on teacher motivation. As Rwandan head teachers have little authority over typical “carrots and sticks” (salaries, promotion, etc.) our attention quickly turned to teacher intrinsic motivation. Our understanding of this concept is shaped by self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) – a theory that focuses primarily on people’s innate psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

What difference do professional learning communities of head teachers make?

Professional learning communities provide head teachers with an environment where they can share and create knowledge with trusted colleagues. In Rwanda, these PLCs are facilitated by sector education officers (SEO). The SEOs’ role is to stimulate professional inquiry and growth in an atmosphere of collaboration, keep the discussions focused around improving student learning outcomes, hold the PLC members accountable and distribute leadership.

Our study adopted a qualitative approach using focus group discussions in which a total of 39 head teachers and 64 teachers participated. Six sectors were purposively selected – the sampling criterion being that the last PLC session took place less than 100 days prior (“active PLC”). The research opted for open ended questions. This allowed the relevance of the self-determination theory to be tested without projecting the theory onto participants. 
Interestingly, head teachers’ own improved intrinsic motivation emanated as an important conduit for improving teacher motivation. Because they themselves received support from colleagues and engaged in more collaborative relations with their supervisors, head teachers felt encouraged to make positive changes in their behavior that, in turn, have a positive effect on teacher intrinsic motivation.

Head teachers as teacher motivators: What are the key drivers?

Six key drivers emerged from the analysis :

Relatedness

  • Encouraging head teachers to foster caring working environments.
  • Changing dynamics and focus of relationships between headteachers, schools, staff and communities to make these more professionally targeted, less hierarchical, more open to challenge and support.
  • Fostering collaborative environments for head teachers and teachers to work in and the opportunities for learning that this provided.

Autonomy

  • Head teachers giving teachers more responsibility and subject ownership through devolving more powers to departments, creating departments where there previously weren’t any, and allocating heads of departments.

Competence


  • Greater distribution of workload within and between schools, for example through shared responsibility of examinations. This allowed teachers to learn from other schools through working together.
  • Head teachers taking more responsibility for developing teachers, through increased observation and effective feedback.

About the Authors: 

Jean Pierre Mugiraneza Bio (Speaker)

Jean Pierre joined VVOB Rwanda this year as MEAL advisor. He worked in a similar capacity at Save the Children in Rwanda and participated in the design, data collection and implementation of programs funded by DFID, USAID, JIKA and the IKEA Foundation. Jean Pierre also worked as a lecturer at the University of Rwanda College of Education (URCE), specializing in quantitative and qualitative research methods. He co-published a book on “Concise statistics: An illustrative approach to problem solving”. He is completing a PhD on Economics of Education at Kenyatta University.

Alex Mahe Mukizwa Bio (Speaker)

Alex is an Education Advisor for VVOB Rwanda. For the past 3 years, he has coordinated VVOB’s work on professional learning communities of head teachers, which has been realized with support from DFID and the Belgian government. Before joining VVOB, he taught nursery and primary classes and worked with the Rwanda National Youth Council as the Coordinator of Huye Youth Friendly Centre. Alex has a BA from the University of Rwanda College of Education (URCE) and is currently pursuing an MA in Educational Planning and Management at Mount Kenya University.

Read the full report here:

Impact of PLNs on Headteacher and Teacher intrinsic motivation, Rwanda (1)

 

Leading By Example

The power of a motivated and motivational school leader

By Sophia D’Angelo

Think back to one of your favorite jobs. How would you describe the environment in which you worked? How were the people you worked with or the supervisors you worked for? Leadership, just as in any profession, plays a critical role in teaching and teacher motivation. Head teachers or school principals have the power to instill motivation and commitment in their teachers and cultivate a culture of professionalism and development. In his book, Leading in a Culture of Change, Michael Fullan elaborates on the five aspects of an effective school leader.

First and foremost, leaders must feel that they have a moral purpose, a desire to contribute to something beyond themselves. They must feel internally motivated so that they can leverage this motivation externally and impact those they work with. Second, in order to fulfill this purpose and reach the goals that they have set out, leaders should also understand how the processes of change and development work. In order for teachers to change their approach to teaching, they must recognize their potential to improve outcomes in the classroom. People do not change by being told to do so. Only by acknowledging the positive impact that their personal growth may have,  will teachers willingly accept the need to change. Third is relationships, relationships, relationships. Mutual respect and emotional intelligence is of utmost importance when working to build motivation.

The fourth characteristic is what Fullan refers to as “knowledge building.” Effective school leaders cultivate a school ethos that promotes collaboration and the co-creation of knowledge. Knowledge building is just as important as knowledge sharing. Time should be allotted for teachers to meet, converse, plan together, and discuss issues that they may be encountering with their students. In these professional learning communities educators are able to join together to build motivation and commitment in community.

Finally, an effective leader forges a cohesive environment. School leaders must recognize the complex dynamics of change and progress. Fullan describes change as something that occurs on “the edge of chaos.” Change is often rooted in disorder or disagreement. Therefore, part of an effective leader’s job is to allow for these disturbances to occur and simultaneously guide people through them.

Teaching requires both professional skills and emotional investment. Feeling as though you are part of something bigger—an important link in the chain—naturally causes you to invest in your work. Fullan calls it a shared sense of commitment, which is often characteristic of professional learning communities. A head teacher, or school principal, is in charge of setting the tone for that community, fostering a culture of progress and development, and of course, leading by example.

 

 

References

Fullan, Michael. 2001. Leading in a Culture of Change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

For more on Professional Learning Communities see:

Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). “Professional learning communities: a review of the literature.” Journal of Educational Change, (7): 221–258.

 

 

Sophia has a Masters degree in Education and International Development from the University of Cambridge, where she is also currently pursuing a PhD focused on teacher effectiveness in Latin America and the Caribbean. Prior to studying she worked for 4 years in the Dominican Republic, both as a teacher and teacher trainer. She also has a variety of experiences in educational research and consulting with international development agencies such as Save the Children U.K. and the Research for Equitable Access and Learning Centre.

Webinar: The UTeach Approach to Recruiting and Preparing Teachers to Improve Student Learning in STEM Disciplines

Presenter:  Kimberly Hughes

Date & Time:  Wednesday, November 8th at 11 EST

Presentation Abstract:  UTeach is an innovative teacher preparation program that increases the number of qualified STEM teachers produced by universities. UTeach prepares teachers with deep content knowledge and inquiry-based pedagogical strategies. More than 7000 students are currently enrolled in UTeach programs at 46 U.S. universities and more than 3800 graduates have been produced. UTeach programs produce teachers at a lower cost than other leading programs, and their graduates stay in teaching longer, improve student performance in math and science, and influence students to enter STEM fields. During this webinar, Kim Hughes will discuss UTeach impact and describe the UTeach approach to recruiting, preparing, and supporting professional development of secondary STEM teachers.

Presenter Bio:  Kimberly Hughes oversees national expansion of the UTeach secondary STEM teacher preparation program as Director of the UTeach Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. Forty-four U.S. universities enroll nearly 7000 students in UTeach programs. Kim has strategically expanded the work of the UTeach Institute to address national STEM education challenges. She founded the UTeach STEM Educators Association (USEA), a professional association dedicated to developing STEM literacy for all students through innovation and excellence in university-based teacher education. In 2015, she launched a national UTeach computer science education initiative to expand access to high quality computer science coursework to teachers and students in Texas and nationally.

Where Should Teacher Motivation Begin?

By Sierra Janjua

As children, we all learned to mimic the behaviors we saw in the world around us.  Many of us would copy the actions of people closest to us, whether that be a mother or father, a sister or a brother.  In engaging with those closest to us, we created an identity that was integral to our development as people. Teachers form their identities as educators in much the same way, as they look to others for ideas about the types of behaviors and practices that might be effective in the classroom.  When teachers are surrounded by a supportive and engaged community, these relationships will undoubtedly influence not only their teaching practice but also their motivation.

A teacher’s identity formation may begin in a variety of ways.  Many teachers go through pre-service programs in colleges or universities or seek a career as an educator through alternative certification programs.  Regardless of the point of entry, these formative experiences can inform how educators approach the teaching profession by shaping their early beliefs about teaching and learning and helping them connect those beliefs to their developing instructional practices.  Relationships with peers, mentors, and students all play a role in how pre-service teachers see themselves in the classroom.  Intentional cultivation of these relationships can be especially important in the teaching profession given the sometimes isolating nature of the work—teachers regularly spend their time at school isolated in their individual classrooms with little opportunity to interact with their professional peers.  

In a recent study related to this idea, Yuan and Zhang (2017) focused on the shift in motivations that Chinese student teachers experienced during a four year, pre-service language teacher training program in China.  The study examined teachers’ experiences through four key factors: self-efficacy (the sense that one is able to accomplish the goals set forth), outcome expectations (the belief that engagement will lead to positive results), professional autonomy (the ability to be self-directed in one’s work), and social support (positive interactions with mentors, peers, and students).

The study found that social support “contributed to some student teachers’ teaching competence… hence boost[ing] their self-efficacy with positive influences on their motivational development” (Yuan & Zhang, 2017, p. 150).  Through feeling connected to a community, these student teachers were able to shape their identities as teachers and develop improved motivation in the classroom.

This study’s findings likely ring true for many teachers.  When teachers feel supported by other teachers and the community within which they teach, they feel part of something much larger than themselves. This sense of connectedness helps motivate them to be the best and most effective teachers they can be!

Teachers, let’s build some social support in our online community by sharing our experiences!  Do you feel supported by your administration, colleagues, and larger community?  If so, what helps you build that sense of community?  Do you have any strategies to share that might be useful for those of us who are still seeking social supports?

 

Guest Blogger Bio

Sierra Janjua has an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education – English from Oklahoma State University and is currently working on her master’s degree in International Education at George Washington University. Sierra has spent the past 3 years teaching in many different settings; public schools in Oklahoma and Texas, rural village schools in Ecuador, and an international school in Costa Rica. She is focusing her graduate research on using education to fight extremism and refugee education.

Teacher Self-Efficacy: Confidence is Key in the Classroom

By Rachael Debnam-O’Dea

Educators know that enthusiasm spreads like wildfire in the classroom.  What teacher hasn’t had the exhilarating experience of watching one student’s spark of excitement set a whole class crackling with interest in an activity?  We know intuitively that student motivation matters.  In pursuit of building that for our students, we often overlook ourselves when thinking about how to ignite that magic in the classroom, but teacher motivation is key to classroom success.

Supportive work environments, manageable workloads, and community engagement all play a role in teachers’ desire to come to work and bring their A-game every day.  In addition to those factors, teachers’ sense of self-efficacy, which is the feeling of being capable of accomplishing the goals in front of you, is absolutely key to motivation, and teacher motivation is leads to benefits for students and educators.  A recent article in the Review of Educational Research confirms this.  

The authors of the article, Zee and Koomen, examined over 40 years of research into teacher self-efficacy.  Analyzing 165 research studies, they found that high teacher self-efficacy (TSE) is linked to a greater sense of job satisfaction and personal accomplishment.  Unsurprisingly, their results also showed that these effects of high TSE lead to lower teacher burnout.  But high TSE isn’t only good for the adults in the classroom—students also benefit from teachers who feel capable in their work.  Teachers who have high rates of self-efficacy tend to engage in student-centered teaching practices and have better relationships with students.  Moreover, high TSE is linked to greater student motivation and greater student academic success.  

With all these benefits of teacher self-efficacy in mind, what skills would you like to develop as an educator to improve your sense of self-efficacy?  Is there any area of your work you find particularly challenging?  What kind of support would be most helpful to you in those situations?  Are there any resources you’ve found helpful?  Take advantage of the comments section—hopefully we can help each other problem-solve and build a greater sense of self-efficacy in the classroom!

How to measure teacher motivation

By Xuedan Hu

Jan 18, 2017

If we know teacher motivation is important, how can we further understand the challenges and factors that influence it? How do we know whether salary or working environment matter most to teachers? How can we compare the motivation levels between teachers in Uganda and teachers in Indonesia? If you are interested in exploring the answers to these questions, you may find the following studies helpful.

The Work Tasks Motivation Scale for Teachers (WTMST)

The WTMST is designed to assess five motivational constructs(intrinsic motivation, identified, introjected, external regulations, amotivation) toward six work tasks (e.g. class preparation, teaching, evaluation of students, class management, administrative tasks, and complementary tasks). Complementary tasks include tutoring, involvement in extracurricular activities, and other activities outside the classroom. This study tests the validation of WTMST by conducting a pilot and full research study with 600 elementary and high school teachers.

Teacher Motivation Assessment Scale (TMAS)

This study develops and validates an instrument entitled the “Teacher Motivation Assessment Scale”. Similar to WTMST, the TMAS also assesses five motivational constructs: attitude, reward,commitment, punishment and interest. This study shows that TMAS is a stable instrument and does not discriminate across school location and job experience.

Teacher Motivation Theoretical Framework

This report summarizes the results of teacher motivation research through a literature review, survey, and interviews with education experts and practitioners. It presents a framework of analysis that can be used to diagnose threats to teacher motivation. This framework includes eight interconnected categories that influence teacher motivation: 1) workload and challenges, 2) remuneration and incentives, 3) accountability, 4) career development, 5) institutional environment, 6) voice, and 7) learning materials and facilities.

Teacher Motivation Diagnostic Tool (TMDT)

The Teacher Motivation Diagnostic Tool has been developed by the Teacher Motivation Working Group with support from Save the Children and World Vision. The tool is designed to capture a variety of factors hypothesized to influence and interact with teacher motivation and performance. It attempts to measure internal and external supports and challenges faced by teachers through five components: Self-Defined Motivation and Challenges, Self-Efficacy, Beliefs, Support, and Professional Development Needs. The TMDT has already been piloted in five countries and will soon be publicly available on our website.

These are only a limited number of studies that attempt to measure teacher motivation. Please share any other tools or measurement systems you might use in your work. The TMWG has been building a bibliographic database of key teacher motivation studies, and we are continually looking for more research about how to effectively measure teacher motivation. This database will also be available to the public soon on our website.

Participate in the Online Discussion on Teacher Motivation

The 9th Policy Dialogue Forum of the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 is scheduled from 5 to 7 December 2016 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. In preparing for the forum, there will be an online discussion around this year’s theme « Motivating Teachers: What do we know and what do we need to achieve the Education 2030 Agenda? ».

Four sub-themes will be addressed during the forum:

  • Sub-theme 1: Motivation and teacher education
  • Sub-theme 2: Teachers’ motivation and their working conditions
  • Sub-theme 3: School governance and teacher motivation
  • Sub-theme 4: Profiles of teachers and learners and teacher motivation

Teacher Motivation Working Group will also be presenting at the forum. We invite you to participate in the online discussion by subscribing to the following website: http://www.teachersforefa.unesco.org/wtd/. You will find further information about the forum, the theme, and sub-themes on the website.

We hope that this online discussion will be both stimulating and enriching!

ICT Integration in Teacher Professional Development

By Xuedan Hu

Nov 2, 2016

Teacher professional development (TPD) is a necessary element to achieve educational change, especially when striving for the more effective application of technology to enhance student learning. A study developed from the discussions of the working group on TPD (TWG3) at EDUsummIT 2015 uses four case studies to address the challenges of providing TPD for ICT Integration in Education.

Among the numerous challenges of TPD for ICT in education, the working group emphasizes five major ones:

  1. Contextualization with sociocultural awareness: There are many variations and levels of access to technology, which can be influenced by specific school cultures.
  2. Sustainability and scalability of professional development: Barriers include social and cultural factors, lack of teachers’ knowledge, inadequate infrastructure, linguistic differences, and geographical separation.
  3. Empowering pedagogy through ICT: Effective application of ICT in TPD is expected to bring changes to the education system as a whole.
  4. Technology discernment: Educational decision-makers have to make wise choices about the deployment of ICT and about the content of TPD to support applications of ICT in the classroom.
  5. Systemic and systematic TPD: It normally takes a long period of time with constant reiterations to see substantial change in technology integration.

The case study showing how social networking is used for self-generating TPD in Australian schools, for example, mainly responds to the challenge of sustainability and scalability. This example addresses the issues of geographical equity for teachers who are separated by long distances across Australia. This TPD program enables teachers from any location in Australia to have an opportunity to form and contribute to a networked learning community. Teachers are involved in an “Action Learning Project” to develop a plan for implementing a new technology into their classrooms with the help of a mentor and the community of teachers. Although no face-to-face contact occurred, teachers were able to work collaboratively regardless of time and space.

Interested in learning more about how to integrate ICT into TPD programs? Check out the paper to read three case studies about technology integration in Kenyan schools, TPD through teacher initiatives in Israeli schools, and Sri Lankan pre-service internships. These cases provide a better understanding of how professional development programs can facilitate teachers’ use of ICT in education. While reading, think about other examples of integrating ICT through teacher professional development that you have experienced. Do teachers prefer online communication over face-to-face interactions? In what situations is it effective, and in what situations less effective? Can you identify additional challenges to integrate ICT in TPD, especially in low-income countries with limited access to technology and Internet?

Webinar: Exploring New Pathways to Teacher Professional Learning in India

Presenters: Anju Saigal & Uma Kogekar

Date: October 7, 2016

Organization: Centre for Equity and Quality in Universal Education

Exploring New Pathways to Teacher Professional Learning in India

View webinar recording HERE

Abstract: 

Professional learning support for in-service teachers in India has been ineffective in building teacher skills for three important reasons:

  1. It is irrelevant to teacher needs. Offered as one-size-fits-all modules, professional learning is not responsive to teachers’ needs.
  2. It fails to reach the last teacher. Delivered in a hierarchical cascade mode, the content is highly diluted by the time it reaches the last teacher.
  3. It is unavailable on demand. Offered at most once a year, there are scarce avenues for professional support for teachers as and when they need it.

In an effort to make professional learning more relevant, demand-driven and personalized to teacher needs, our initiative, Teacher Pages, leverages on the best teachers to build a peer-learning professional learning resource and community. We work with great teachers who have developed innovative lesson ideas, coach them to refine and make these ideas effective and professionally film their lesson ideas real-time in their classrooms. The videos are edited to create high-quality films of 5-10 minutes’ duration, which are added to our repository and disseminated through our Youtube channel and Facebook.

This presentation features the Teacher Pages initiative, our learning through the three-year journey and how we envision its future pathway for teacher professional learning.

Webinar: A Study of Teacher Motivation in West Sumba, Indonesia

Presenters: ChangHa Lee

Date: September 22, 2016

Organization: Save the Children

A Study of Teacher Motivation in West Sumba, Indonesia

View webinar recording HERE

Abstract: This research sheds light on the issue of teacher quality and bases on the belief that higher motivation in teaching brings about better performance of teachers, which would further determine students’ positive learning outcomes. It examines the results of the fifth pilot testing of a Teacher Motivation Diagnostic Tool (TMDT) 2.1, designed to capture a variety of factors hypothesized to influence and interact with teacher motivation and performance in West Sumba, Indonesia. The information gathered from the study is meant to inform the contextualization of the Literacy Boost (LB) program to local school and classroom dynamics, especially the teacher training component of the program.