‘Look for the positives’: Strategies teachers use to maintain their motivation

Year: 2021

Author: Beltman, Susan

Type of paper: Individual Paper

The concerns arising relating to teaching in schools during a pandemic add to the well-documented issues facing today’s teachers. Accountability and surveillance, a crowded curriculum, diverse student needs and demanding community expectations contribute to teacher burnout and attrition. Nevertheless, many teachers thrive. Resilience is the process by which teachers harness resources from within themselves and their environment in order to maintain or enhance positive outcomes. One such key resource or factor in the literature related to teacher resilience is motivation. The research reported in this paper examines the strategies that practicing (in-service) teachers report using to maintain their motivation for teaching. Participants were 209 practicing teachers from a variety of countries and teaching contexts who completed online modules designed to enhance capacity for resilience. During the modules, they responded online to the question: “What are your top 3 ways for maintaining your motivation for teaching? How will you implement these?” The teachers nominated a total 606 strategies that were inductively coded into first- and second-order categories. The largest higher-order category, Intrapersonal (n=363), included the most frequent first-order category of Be Positive (n=151) with ideas such as focus on the positive and remember why you originally became a teacher. The other higher-order categories were Interpersonal (n=118; e.g. focus on the students or develop positive relationships with colleagues), Professional (n=66; e.g. create exciting lessons and focus on self-improvement), and Personal Life (n=59; e.g. take holidays and maintain health and wellbeing). The strategies are consistent with a social-ecological understanding of resilience where both personal and contextual resources are harnessed. The prevalence of personal factors may indicate a highly autonomous workforce, or reflect a view by participants that teacher resilience is primarily an individual responsibility. Nominated strategies also align with the literature and could provide a basis for confirming and supporting the motivational strengths of existing teachers. In addition, the findings could be used in preparing pre-service teachers for their future and supporting teachers who may be struggling in these challenging times.