A Study of Teacher Motivation and Job Satisfaction

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A  Study of Teacher Motivation and Job Satisfaction
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Teacher Motivation and Job Satisfaction: A Study Employing the Experience Sampling Method. Levels of job satisfaction and motivation were measured by survey in a sample of 50 teachers.

J. Undergrad. Sci. 3: 147-154 (Fall 1996)


Teacher Motivation and Job Satisfaction: A Study Employing the Experience Sampling Method
ANDRE BISHAY academic achievement. Stevens & White (1987) studied the records of students in 15 school districts, with 191 teachers as subjects. The standardized test scores from the California Achievement Test were used as the best estimate of the learned behavior in each teacher’s classroom. There was no direct relationship between teacher morale and student achievement. However, Stevens & White surmised that further research on this topic requires an examination of the achievement levels of students prior to their involvement with the teachers participating in the study. "If pretest-posttest scores could be obtained for the time students spent in a teacher’s classroom, the achievement of those students while in that teacher’s classroom might be more adequately measured." The results of another study involving teachers in small independent school districts demonstrated that high levels of interaction within the faculty group, as determined by responses to questions on the Halpin & Croft Observation Climate Description Questionnaire, correlated significantly with higher pupil reading scores on the California Achievement Test (Jordan, 1986). It is likely that high levels of teacher social interaction on the job are linked to high motivation levels; thus, the possibility that enhanced levels of teacher motivation will lead to superior student achievement cannot be dismissed. While the relationship between teacher motivation and student achievement has not yet been established, the correlation between teacher motivation and student self-esteem has been shown by Peck, Fox, and Morston (1977). "Teachers with strong positive attitudes about teaching had students whose self-esteem was high. Students seem to recognize the effectiveness of teachers who are satisfied with their teaching performance." Rothman (1981) suggests that this association exists because teachers serve as more than just educators; they are role models. The benefits of teacher satisfaction for both teachers and pupils points to the importance of studying how teachers feel about work. This study undertakes an examination of how teachers feel while doing their daily tasks. The Experience Sampling Method is used to determine which daily work related activities lead to the highest levels of motivation and job satisfaction. The Experience Sampling Method (ESM) makes use of an electronic device to page the subject several times a day. When beeped, the subject completes a short survey about what they are doing, who they are with, and how they are feeling. ESM thus provides a more richly detailed picture of the day-to-day lives and emotions of participants than conventional surveys. ESM has been used to study how people feel doing different activities and to determine which daily activities are most psychologically rewarding (Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 1981). Csikszentmihalyi (1990) has proposed that individuals reach a state of happiness and satisfaction when they are involved in an activity and are functioning at the peak of their abilities. In this situation the individual experiences "high levels of concentration, immersion, strength, and control." He terms this experience "flow." In the present study, the concept of flow will be used to help determine which activities are the most "psychologically

Levels of job satisfaction and motivation were measured by survey in a sample of 50 teachers. A sample of 12 teachers was then studied using the Experience Sampling Method (ESM). Teachers were randomly beeped by special pagers 5 times a day for 5 days and completed surveys on mood and activity for each beep, resulting in 190 reports of teachers’ daily experiences. Conventional survey data corresponded with ESM data. Job satisfaction and motivation correlated significantly with responsibility levels, gender, subject, age, years of teaching experience, and activity. For this group of teachers who work in a school with a selective student body, overall motivation and job satisfaction levels were high. Based upon the findings, it appears that gratification of higher-order needs is most important for job satisfaction.

Introduction Teachers are arguably the most important group of professionals for our nation’s future. Therefore, it is disturbing to find that many of today’s teachers are dissatisfied with their jobs. "The mean CES-D (depression scale) score of a sample of 75 Los Angeles teachers was 15.6, a value about twice the mean score obtained in community surveys" (Beer & Beer, 1992). A CES-D score of 16 or greater is considered significant because it is associated with increased risk of depression (Schonfeld, 1989). It is crucial that we determine what increases teacher motivation. Many factors have been examined in an attempt to find which ones promote teacher motivation. Pay incentives have been found to be unsuccessful in increasing motivation. In their study of 167 teachers, Sylvia & Hutchinson (1985) concluded: "Teacher motivation is based in the freedom to try new ideas, achievement of appropriate responsibility levels, and intrinsic work elements…. Based upon our findings, schemes such as merit pay were predicted to be counterproductive." They explain that true job satisfaction is derived from the gratification of higher-order needs, "social relations, esteem, and actualization" rather than lower-order needs. Indeed, Rothman (1981) contrasts the security and financial motives for entering teaching during the depression years with present-day idealistic and intellectual convictions, especially because other professions pay equally well or better. The conclusion of Greenwood & Soars (1973) that less lecturing by teachers and more classroom discussions relates positively to teacher morale further supports the importance of higher-order needs. Studies show that improvement in teacher motivation has benefits for students as well as teachers; however, there is no consensus about the precise benefits. For example, researchers have had varying results when examining whether teacher motivation leads to increased levels of

ANDRE BISHAY is a first-year student attending Dartmouth College. He completed the research described in this article under the supervision of faculty advisor Dr. Carol Nash at the The Bronx High School of Science in New York City. Mr. Bishay was honored as a Westinghouse Science Talent Search finalist for this work, and he was a finalist in the St. John’s Junior Science Symposium. He aspires to a career in education.

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