Fitness to teach is all about motivating teachers to love their job-Part 2

Self-actualisation and flow

In my first post on performance-related pay, I spoke about the process of performance related pay and how motivation is connected strongly with a high performance for teachers. This is the last post on the topic and will concern the whole area of motivation and achieving goals through pure enjoyment.


You may have heard of the word “flow”. Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discovered that people find genuine satisfaction during a state of consciousness called Flow. In this state they are completely absorbed in an activity, especially an activity which involves their creative abilities.

In the footsteps of Maslow, Csikszentmihalyi insists that happiness does not simply happen. It must be prepared for and cultivated by each person, by setting challenges that are neither too demanding nor too simple for ones abilities.

So, a good performance management system needs to keep motivation of teachers high. To keep teachers motivated and performing well, each teacher needs to set goals for themselves. Good teachers do this every day but to push performance management even further, the goals need to be in full tandem with the school’s objectives. Often, the school plan and the mission statement of the school is not connected with what is going on in the school. This is where performance management comes in. The leader of the school, generally the principal sets targets for each staff member for a term based on the whole school plan and objectives. These targets are set in conjunction with the staff member. If a principal or outside person or agency pushes an objective on a staff member, the objective may be achieved but there will be no flow, happiness and continued self-motivation to continue improving classroom practice.

No matter how long you have been teaching, we all recognise that feeling when we get a new challenge, when we feel we can take on this challenge and achieve it. That is flow and that is what motivates and in turn improves classroom practice. That’s why it has to be individually led and led by the principal. The principal understand the staff member, their strengths and areas they need to develop. Professional development could be suggested and an objective from that could be set for the term. Perhaps a teacher could take on an after-school club or activity.

Research has shown that teachers report higher levels of satisfaction when they are more responsible within their role, when they have a specific and unique contribution to make, for example, a GAA team teacher. Teachers who do this sort of activity after school do not get rewarded financially but it makes them feel social responsible and they are actualising or “in flow”.

This sort of change may sound frightening to some teachers. Of course. If you have been maintaining sameness within your routine, any change is scary but all good research and evidence proves the opposite once the teacher takes on the challenge, on their own terms and is willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone, they will feel the benefits.

In some ways, management positions like B and A posts that are financially rewarded have caused many issues for schools. The principal has to manage staff that want to do more but are afraid they might be “showing up” the post-holders who are doing less. Or the teacher that wants to actualise and achieve but cannot as they do not have a post. In England, Wales and Scotland, teachers all have a post of responsibility which is not financially rewarded. I am aware that the education system in these countries are not where we want to go in terms of teacher culture but Ireland could take some of what has proven to work, in terms of research and try it.


I am going to conclude here but leave you with a final piece of interesting research! When Slyvia and Hutchinson carried out their research on teachers and motivation, they asked them when was best time for them to feel happy, involved and excited within their teaching day. The majority of teachers reported that when they were involved in class discussion as opposed to lecturing and/or paperwork, they were at their happiest. Smaller classes allow for this more, don’t they? So, is this an argument for small class sizes? That’s another blog post.

References-for article 1 and 2.

Teacher Motivation and Job Satisfaction, The Journal of Undergraduate Sciences, Sylvia and Hutchinson.

The Motivation to Work-Herzberg, Frederick.

Ask Us A Question

You will get a notification email when Knowledgebase answerd/updated!

+ = Verify Human or Spambot ?