A new report by PwC argues for ‘constructive, concrete reform’ of Australia’s education system to prepare students for changing workforce demands – particularly in STEM subject areas.1

The PwC report recognises that good ideas and innovation for driving change in education already exist across Australia. The report also highlights Pivot’s own teacher professional development tool as one of these great innovations!

In a series of suggested steps for reform, the PwC approach sets out the need to collect and use data and evidence to:

  • Identify what needs to change to maximise student learning;
  • Identify successful pilot ideas that have been used elsewhere;
  • Tailor these successful pilot programs to specific Australian regions/schools (i.e. not adopting a one-size-fits-all approach), and
  • Evaluate the success of the reform and refocus attention where further growth is required.

Student outcomes: relationship to teacher motivation

This rest of this quarterly research update looks at teacher motivation. A growing body of research has found there is a positive relationship between motivated teachers and student learning outcomes.2 More broadly, teachers’ motivations have critical implications for the teaching profession: including for teachers’ professional commitment, psychological wellbeing and instructional practices.3

Research is still emerging to pinpoint specific ways to promote teacher motivation. However Konig (2016) has also argued that teacher motivation may change over time, and has suggested that stronger links between teacher education and practice may help to align and orient teachers’ expectations and learning goals at the start of their career. These findings are echoed by Guerriero and Révai (2017), who have found that teacher motivation can indeed grow over time, and that “teacher learning that is designed to support teachers’ motivational characteristics is more successful in changing teacher behaviour for implementing new instructional strategies”.4

Guerriero and Révai’s research is published in a recent OECD compendium on pedagogical knowledge: while a range of factors, including general pedagogical knowledge,5 is relevant for high quality instruction, teachers’ beliefs about teaching and the role of teachers, is also important. The nature of a teacher’s motivation has been found to be related to:

  • their pedagogical knowledge and decision-making strategies (impacting on their use of high-quality instructional practices),
  • their willingness to take advantage of learning opportunities and to engage in professional development (as such, teacher motivation can be considered as both a precursor to professional knowledge, and something that helps teachers to improve their professional knowledge),
  • the motivation, performance and well-being of their students, and
  • their professional and psychological well-being and job satisfaction.

Teacher motivation, responsibility, pedagogical knowledge and professionalism: a new era for research (Lauermann, 2017)

F. Lauermann from the University of Bonn (2017) has summarised recent literature on teacher motivation, or the “the process whereby goal-directed activity is instigated and sustained”6. Lauermann’s study identifies four different ways that motivation in the classroom can be understood:

  1. Self-belief: Related to teachers’ sense of self-efficacy or their own belief in their ability to teach (socio-cognitive theory)
  2. Important: Viewing teaching as both achievable and subjectively valuable (expectancy-value theory)
  3. Deterministic: Viewing teaching as satisfying a teacher’s basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness and competence (self-determination theory)
  4. Achievement: Striving to learn, to outperform others, or to avoid being perceived as incompetent in the course of teaching (achievement goal theory)

The review cautions that many open theoretical and methodological questions remain to be addressed in future research in relation to teacher motivation. However, it finds that not only can teacher motivation (however so defined) have a positive effect on student learning, but that motivated teachers are also more likely to seek help in the face of professional challenges, and to be involved in professional development.7

Growing teachers’ passion for education

A related field of research, and one that is also growing, looks at the role of passion in education. In the literature, ‘passion’ is distinct from ‘motivation’: while they share similar drivers and outcomes, passionate teachers feel a deep love for their vocation beyond the factors that motivate them to succeed.

Passionate teachers experience lower levels of burnout and higher levels of work satisfaction, show positive attitudes toward the context, embrace collaboration and maintain strong and positive connections with the school community and parents, thus positively influencing students’ academic performance. 8 Ruiz-Alfonso and León (2016) find that a supportive context and positive relations appear to be the most influential features in the development of passion, and that families, peers and teachers play an essential role in enhancing passion.

Motivation and ATSI teachers

Within the Australian context, the final report on the More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative (MATSITI)9 published in February 2017 launched a five-year initiative (2011-2016) to recruit and retain more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) teachers. The report recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers are significantly under-represented in teaching positions in schools relative to the proportion of indigenous students10 and that this has an impact on ATSI student motivations and learning outcomes. The MATSITI report highlighted the importance of understand and promoting ATSI teacher motivation and recruitment through research, partnerships and co-investment agreements with education stakeholders, and national community engagement and marketing strategies.


Buckskin, P. (2017). More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative (MATSITI): Final Report. University of South Australia.

Guerriero, S. (ed.) (2017). Pedagogical Knowledge and the Changing Nature of the Teaching Profession. OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI:10.1787/9789264270695-en

Guerriero, S. and Révai, N. (2017). Knowledge-based teaching and the evolution of a profession. In Guerriero, S. (ed.) (2017). Pedagogical Knowledge and the Changing Nature of the Teaching Profession. OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI:10.1787/9789264270695-en

König, J. (2017). Motivations for teaching and relationship to general pedagogical knowledge. In Guerriero, S. (ed.) (2017). Pedagogical Knowledge and the Changing Nature of the Teaching Profession. OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI:10.1787/9789264270695-en

Lauermann, F. (2017). Teacher motivation, responsibility, pedagogical knowledge and professionalism: a new era for research. In Guerriero, S. (ed.) (2017). Pedagogical Knowledge and the Changing Nature of the Teaching Profession. OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI:10.1787/9789264270695-en

PwC. (2017). Education will be the engine room of Australia’s future prosperity. http://www.pwc.com.au/education/education-reform-mar17.pdf

Ruiz-Alfonso, Z. and León, J. (2016). The role of passion in education: A systematic review. Eduactional Research Review 19 (2016), pp. 173-188).


1 PwC modelling finds that “shifting just 1 per cent of the workforce into STEM roles would add $57.4 billion to Australia’s GDP (net present value over 20 years).” PwC 2017, pp. 3 & 5.

2 Kunter et al 2013, cited in Lauermann 2017

3 Lauermann 2017

4 Guerriero and Révai 2017, p. 259

5 Defined as ‘knowledge of teaching and learning’. Guerriero [ed.] 2017

6 Citing Schunk, Pintrich and Meece, 2008

7 Citing Richardson et al 2014

8 Ruiz-Alfonso and León 2016

9 Buckskin 2017

10 In 2012, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers represented 1.2% of all teachers in Australian schools, while indigenous students represents 4.9% of all students. Buckskin 2017

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