Study of faculty motivation for teaching says intrinsic motivation and believing that teaching is important are linked to best teaching practices

Inside Higher Ed

What Motivates Good Teaching?

New study of faculty motivation for teaching says certain kinds of motivation — intrinsic and believing that teaching is important — are linked to use of best teaching practices, across institution types. Rewards and guilt appear to have no bearing on best practices.

March 22, 2018

Whether it’s talking to colleagues, reading the latest research or visiting a teaching and learning center, professors have places to turn to learn about best pedagogical practices. Yet faculty members in general still aren’t known for their instructional acumen. Subject matter expertise? Yes. Teaching? Not so much.

Of course, many professors do teach well, and a new study explores what motivates them to do so. More precisely, the study’s authors wanted to test a model of faculty motivation for teaching as a predictor of using best teaching practices. They also wanted to know what motivates professors at different institution types — bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. granting — to teach.

As it turns out, certain factors predict professors’ intrinsic and “identified” motivation for teaching (the latter form meaning doing something because it’s seen as important), in support of the authors’ conceptual model. And those kinds of “autonomous” motivations in turn predict greater use of proven, effective teaching methods — namely instructional clarity and higher-order, reflective and integrative, and collaborative learning.

“Simply put, faculty who teach because they enjoy and value it tend to teach in the most effective ways,” said Robert H. Stupnisky, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of education and human development at the University of North Dakota.