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Teacher Improvement and its Impact on Motivation

Striking a Balance

Teacher improvement and its impact on motivation 

Teacher quality, improvement, and its impact on the profession

In 2008, the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians identified teacher quality and improvement as “central to the nation’s social and economic prosperity” (Ministerial council on education & youth). With growing concerns about improving educational outcomes for students, the Government has since been working on a range of strategies to ensure the education system is meeting those of Australia’s international counterparts. The introduction of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers in 2010, was one such strategy to address the issue of teacher quality in Australian schools (AITSL 2010). There is a mass of research to suggest that the greatest impact on student learning and achievement is the quality of the teacher in front of them (Hattie 2012). Therefore, educational institutions place a great amount of importance on attracting and maintaining quality teachers, in order to maximise student achievement. In doing so, teachers are under constant pressure to ‘perform’, and are impacted by a range of stressors that impact on their job satisfaction and personal resources. Research continues to suggest that almost 50% of teachers plan or choose to leave the profession within their first five years of employment, citing workplace stress, lack of administrative support and feelings of isolation amongst reasons for leaving. On top of this “almost 70% of teachers do not feel engaged in their work – which affects their teaching, their ability to be responsive and successfully perform their role, and their relationships with students and parents” (Education, 2014; Flook et al., 2013; S Yoon, 2002; “Teacher Stress,” 2012; Turkson, 2004). These issues present educational organisations with a massive challenge when it comes to motivating staff.

Scotch College is one of the leading independent boys’ schools in Western Australia, employing over 180 teaching staff, and is home to more than 1500 students from K-12. In a competitive, high fee-paying market, Scotch prides itself on being “an employer of choice” ensuring “that only the highest quality candidates are chosen to work at the college” (Scotch College 2015).  As a school of the Uniting Church, Scotch’s educational philosophy is centred around its core values of integrity, service and stewardship, and it promotes an international standard of excellence in both teaching and learning. It is for these reasons that Scotch invests a large amount of resources in developing staff, and in turn delivering a quality, progressive curriculum. The Brinsden program, was adopted by the college in 2008 as an in-house professional development tool. The program centres around a peer-feedback approach, as a way of influencing teachers’ instructional repertoire and practice. In order to analyse the impact of this program on employee motivation, Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, and its derivative of self-efficacy theory, can be applied. There is evidence that “teachers’ sense of self-efficacy – their belief in their ability to teach, engage students and manage a classroom – has an impact on student achievement and motivation, as well as on teachers’ own practices, enthusiasm, commitment, job satisfaction and behaviour in the classroom.” (Schleicher 2015). Bandura proposed that one’s behaviour is determined by both a general outcome expectancy (belief that behaviour will lead to desirable outcomes) as well as a sense of self-efficacy (belief that one has the required skills to bring about the outcome).

This paper will explore the impact of teacher improvement on motivation, how effective professional development can heighten teacher efficacy, and how a culture of collaboration can keep teachers motivated as they move through their careers.

Teacher improvement and its impact on motivation

There is a body of research to suggest that those attracted to the teaching profession are motivated by altruistic, service orientated, and mostly intrinsically-driven goals. (Heinz 2015) It could also be argued that a desire to work with young people and, in a secondary school context; passion for sharing knowledge of subject matter are key attractors toward the profession. With this in mind, one could assume that teachers are motivated by seeing their students succeed, because the teachers’ core needs of being a successful ‘service’ to others are being met. When looking at self-efficacy, Bandura (1977) suggests that context plays an important role in high or low efficacy outcomes.  When it comes to teaching, additional research has distinguished between two distinct but related factors comprising teacher efficacy: personal efficacy and teaching efficacy (Gibson & Dembo 1984). This means that, whilst one could enter the teaching profession with a high level of personal efficacy (confidence in skill, content and delivery), contextual factors such as student behaviour, job demands and rapid change may very well cause a decline in teaching efficacy, and in turn demotivate teachers as they move through their early careers.

“Ambitious set of content standards, unrelenting accountability pressures, increased diversity of learners, and expanded societal demands all conspire to raise the ante on the performance of schools while exacerbating the difficulty of making the needed improvements.”  Pg vi

Through examination of Bandura’s four phases of efficacy development; enactive mastery, vicarious modelling, verbal persuasion and arousal, we can look at the degree to which a teacher improvement process such as the Brinsden program, can influence self-efficacy and teacher motivation.

teacher autonomy; if teachers are being observed, what does it say about their ability?

  • Enactive Mastery

The notion of enactive mastery comes to the fore during the foundational aspects of the Brinsden program, at which point teachers are asked to re-examine their skills and instructional strategies through a series of experiential workshops. These workshops focus on broadening the range of strategies utilised in practice, which presents a potentially daunting scenario for those who prefer to stick to simpler task complexity in their daily routine. One would expect that experienced teachers would be comfortable sharing and developing their practice in this forum, and the fact that many find it daunting only highlights the isolation that many experience in their classrooms. Bandura and Schunk (1981) explain that past experience with a given task is critical for the formation of valid and predictive measures of self-efficacy. This could explain the hesitation of staff in trying new strategies, because their perception of skill has perhaps been marred by a negative response from students.


Following the technical workshops, staff work towards several lesson observations. They are encouraged to focus on one new area of skill, in which they feel confident, to showcase in a triad feedback scenario; employee, colleague and consultant. Whilst Bandura (1977) would argue that this enacting, or performance, of skill should lead to greater mastery, there is also evidence to suggest that this alone does not change levels of self-efficacy. Stajkovic and Luthans (1998) discuss the notion that change in personal efficacy will not occur simply as the result of an individual’s performance, rather, it will depend on how positively the individual perceives the feedback generated following their performance. As part of the Brinsden program, teachers are given both written and verbal feedback immediately after a lesson observation. Depending on the teacher’s level of personal efficacy, this process could have mixed results.


  • Vicarious Modelling

In their appraisal of the links between Social Cognitive Theory and self-efficacy, Stajkovic and Luthans (1998) discuss the notion that appraisals of personal efficacy are influenced by observing peers of a similar skill perform a like task, and that they must receive recognition for this. In his earlier work, Bandura (1977) also emphasises the need for the peer to be of perceived similar capability, because if we observe someone of similar ability succeed, we are more likely to believe in our own ability to do the same. The Brinsden program ensured participants were paired according to task complexity, however most partnerships varied in subject discipline. Whilst the potential for sharing of instructional strategies was positive, there was some trepidation in regard to the level of ‘expertise’ when being observed by a staff member from a different discipline. For example, one who teaches in predominantly ‘chalk and talk’ environment, may find subjects with lots of student noise and activity quite foreign, and hence not take the feedback on board.

  • Verbal Persuasion

The notion of verbal persuasion is the third stage that Social Cognitive Theory identifies as fostering self-efficacy. In a study of teachers that took part in a similar peer-to-peer feedback process, one participant stated that “The process in which you and I interacted was interesting, but the main effect for me was simply that it confirmed that, even being judged by professional standards, I am a good teacher.” (Grainger et al. 2015) It could be asserted that verbal persuasion assists with both general and context-specific efficacy, because it heightens perceptions of self and ability.

To go one step further with verbal persuasion, it could be argued that highly efficacious teachers would then go on to replicate this trait when teaching their students. An example of this comes from the reference; “teachers who believe student learning can be influenced by effective teaching, and who also have confidence in their own teaching abilities, should persist longer, provide a greater academic focus in the classroom, and exhibit different types of feedback than teachers who have lower expectations concerning their ability to influence student learning.” (Gibson & Dembo 1984) I would agree that teachers who have confidence in the teaching process, also have confidence in the learning process, and the associated outcomes. Participation in effective professional development programs, such as Brinsden, reminds teachers of their own capacity, and willingness to learn. Therefore, this aspect of self-efficacy is full circle in nature; not only does it increase the confidence of the staff member, but they then embody this in their teaching, which feeds into student outcomes, and these outcomes motivate the teacher toward improving practice.


  • Arousal

The final stage of the self-efficacy model, arousal, is significant in the context of teacher performance. The concept of arousal summarises why self-efficacy is vital in not only motivating teachers to constantly improve, but preparing them to cope, lower stress and stay in the profession long after the statistics predict they will.  “Self-efficacy is concerned with judgments about how well one can organize and execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations containing many ambiguous, unpredictable, and often stressful elements”. (Bandura & Schunk 1981) For self-efficacy to be a reliable predictor of teacher performance outcomes, we would have to assume that teachers believed the environment was consistent, or could be controlled. Anyone who has worked with teenagers could attest to the fact that this is rarely the case, as factors both internal (learning orientation, social traits, mental health) and external (home life, school environment) cause variations in their responses to teacher instruction each day. From the perspective of social learning theory, “reducing physiological arousal improves performance by raising efficacy expectations rather than by eliminating a drive that instigates the defensive behaviour.” (Bandura & Adams 1977) One could argue that the stressors that influence teacher performance are never going to be ‘removed’, that is, they can’t predict the varied reactions of students, management or parents on their performance; but they can equip themselves to most effectively cope in their teaching environment.

Further Action – towards cultural change

Challenge for leaders to create a collaborative culture without teachers losing sense of autonomy.

The Brinsden program is no doubt one of many examples of programs introduced to tier 1 schools in the hope to stay competitive in regard to the quality teacher market. Whilst peer observation is a proven model of effective staff development, school’s need to be mindful about the impact this may have on feelings of autonomy amongst the teaching profession. Anecdotally, teachers are often very fearful of ‘performing’ in front of other teachers, which is why a culture of feedback is helpful in breaking down this negative expectancy, and making the process a supportive norm. In order for a program such as this to work more effectively, it is important for schools to work on creating a culture of collaboration, not just a one-off program. Not every school has the financial resources available to a Tier 1 school, so if teacher quality is to be raised, without the burden of ‘another thing to do’ on teachers, it must be designed and engrained into the school culture.

“All too often, high-impact teaching is almost invisible to the colleagues of those teachers and to the students’ parents. The doors literally close on those classrooms and the teachers just get on with their teaching at a high level, but largely in isolation.”

(Hattie 2015, p. 18)

He wants teachers to explore different methods, collaborate with their peers and get “obsessed” with results. He wants school systems to put more resources into improving teaching and encouraging teachers and schools to collaborate. “We have schools that are doing wonderful things on a shoestring, but we can’t build a system on a shoestring budget.








Teacher motivation is a complex

By looking at the theory of self-efficacy, and its impact on motivation, it is clear that building confidence and continual development of those in the teaching profession if schools are to remain successful in producing the next generation.

As teachers progress through their careers, it is important that they are encouraged to increase their expertise and impact, and are acknowledged for doing so.

“Perceived self-efficacy affects people’s choice of activities and behavioural settings, how much effort they expend, and how long they will persist in the face of obstacles and aversive experiences.” (Bandura & Adams 1977)

There is now both theory and research to postulate that individuals who perceive themselves as highly efficacious will activate sufficient effort which, if well executed, will produce successful outcomes. (Stajkovic & Luthans 1998)



Teacher efficacy has been identified as a variable accounting for individual differences in teaching effectiveness. (Gibson & Dembo 1984)


Bandura, A & Adams, N 1977, ‘Analysis of self-efficacy theory of behavioral change’, Cognitive Therapy and Research, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 287-310.

Bandura, A & Schunk, DH 1981, ‘Cultivating competence, self-efficacy, and intrinsic interest through proximal self-motivation’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 586-598.

Gibson, S & Dembo, MH 1984, ‘Teacher Efficacy: A Construct Validation’, Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 76, no. 4, pp. 569-82.

Grainger, P, Bridgstock, M, Houston, T & Drew, S 2015, ‘Working in Triads: A Case Study of a Peer Review Process’, Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, vol. 12, no. 1.

Hattie, J 2012, Visible Learning for Teachers Maximizing Impact on Learning, Taylor and Francis, Florence.

Hattie, J 2015, ‘Results that matter’, Australian Educator, no. 85, pp. 18-19.

Heinz, M 2015, ‘Why choose teaching? An international review of empirical studies exploring student teachers’ career motivations and levels of commitment to teaching’, Educational Research and Evaluation, pp. 1-40.

Ministerial council on education, et & youth, a, ‘Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians’.

Rowe, K 2004, ‘In Good Hands? The Importance of Teacher Quality’, Educare News: The National Newspaper for All Non-government Schools, no. 149, pp. 4-14.

Schleicher, A 2015, Schools for 21st-century learners : strong leaders, confident teachers, innovative approaches, OECD, Paris, [France].

Stajkovic, AD & Luthans, F 1998, ‘Social cognitive theory and self-efficacy: Goin beyond traditional motivational and behavioral approaches’, Organizational Dynamics, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 62-74.


Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership Limited, Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, Available from: [5 February 2018].

Scotch College 2013, Scotch College Home Page 2013, Scotch College Perth. Available from [5 February 2018].


Draft refs

DATA report:

This material must be attributed as the National Teaching Workforce Dataset Data Analysis Report 2014 authored by Mike Willett, Daniel Segal and Will Walford (Ernst and Young) under contract with the Commonwealth of Australia as represented by the Department of Education who is the copyright owner of the material.


“There is no shortage of research to suggest that ‘what matters most’ in ‘making school better’ is quality teaching: by competent teachers, beginning with initial teacher education and training supported by strategic, on-going capacity building via teacher professional development.” (Rowe 2004)

Self-efficacy info

It is a state rather than a trait variable.

This means that research suggests self-efficacy is situation dependent, but it can also be shown that it is transferable across contexts. I.e. if I learn to feel confident standing up in front of a group of students I should in theory be confident presenting in public etc. (general) ‘cognitive modelling’ – helping you to face fears as an example. Coping behaviours.

Generalised Self-Efficacy Scale (GSE Scale) was developed to measure a relatively enduring set of beliefs that one can cope effectively in a broad range of situationms. (Tipton and Worthington 1984 p 547). Reported that this is a reliable predictor of individuals extent to preservere. Was correlated with a goal attainment scale measuring changing problem behaviour eg quit smoking. So as a teacher I can perservere with a problem student and set goals for their achievement.

Bandura argues that efficacy expectation contains a motivational component that determines when and for how long one will engage in overt behaviours to produce desired outcomes.

An important, cognitively based source of self-motivation relies on the intervening processes of goal setting and self-evaluative reactions to one’s own bevaviour. This form of self-motivation, which operates largely through internal comparison processes, requires personal standards against which to evaluate ongoing performance. By making self-satisfaction conditional on a certain level of performance, individuals create self-inducements to persist in their efforts until their performances match internal standards.(Bandura & Schunk 1981)

I don’t think you can be motivated without a goal. Impossible. Social learning theories looks at proximal sub goals (immediate incentive) that relate to larger ones – but these may cause slacking. Life long learner. The sub goals allow for efficacy development as they can be achieved. Tick.

Changing task demands. You might have genera efficacy in teaching ability, but nek minnit do it better. Need to be flexible with skills – develop competence in THIS.

Feedback – if you cant measure yourself against someone else, how do you know how well you are going?? Here lies the problem.

Mediating role

concept of self-efficacy, which addresses the importance of a teacher’s belief in his orher own ability to bring about student learning (Smylie, 1990)

Differences in degree of personal efficacy have been shown to mediate teachers’ (a) expectations of themselves andof their students and (b) interactions with students (Ashton & Webb, 1986). High personal efficacy teacherscommunicate high expectations for performance to students, emphasize instruction and learning more to students, areaware of student accomplishments, and are less likely to give up on low achievement students and more likely toextend extra effort on their behalf (i.e., Ashton & Webb, 1986; Ashton, Webb, & Doda, 1983; Gibson & Dembo, 1984).In addition, teachers with high personal efficacy are more receptive to implementing new instructional practices(Guskey, 1988). In contrast, teachers with a low sense of teaching efficacy are more likely to doubt that any teacher or amount of schooling will affect achievement of low-achieving students and are less likely to persist in their efforts toteach students or to exert extra effort (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Gibson & Dembo, 1984).

Bandura (1977) argued that although locus of control is primarily concerned with causal beliefs about action-outcome contingencies or a person’s estimate that a given bevaviour will lead to certain outcomes, personal efficacy is concerned with the conviction that one can successfully execute the bevaviour required to produce the outcomes.



Personal efficacy – a student got a good mark, this was a result of my varied instruction

Teacher efficacy – he does rowing, theres no way he’ll be able to complete the homework anyway

When applied to the construct of teacher efficacy, outcome expectancy would essentially reflect the degree to which students can be taught given their family background, socioeconomic status (SES), and school conditions. This dimension is clearly represented by the second factor, Teaching Efficacy. Bandura’s self-efficacy dimension would indicate a teacher’s rating of his or her own abilities to perform the necessary tasks to bring about positive student change and is clearly represented by the first factor, Personal Teaching Efficacy


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