Volume 44, Number 2
Summer 2007

Maslow—Move Aside! A Heuristical Motivation Model for Leaders in Career and Technical Education

Michael Kroth
University of Idaho


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is often used as an example of motivational theory in both practitioner and scholarly journals, yet considerable motivational research is being conducted that is not widely known, nor applied in practical settings. This paper summarizes several of those lines of inquiry and suggests applications for career and technical educators.

Models seeking to integrate motivational theories have been proposed by scholars, but today there is no generally accepted model that integrates all workplace motivation. Educators in the field need useful rules of thumb for motivating on a day-to-day basis. The heuristic workplace motivation model proposed here, while not intended to be theoretically comprehensive, is based upon a literature review of existing theory, and is proposed to assist working professionals as they go about the quotidian charge of helping individuals learn and perform to their potential.


While the argument can be made that teaching might be either an art or a science ( Burns, 2005 ), it is certainly comprised of skills. One skill career and technical education (CTE) teachers and leaders must exhibit is the ability to motivate. Yet, though motivation has been considered for centuries, practitioners often still lack the knowledge and preparation to be effective. Professors may not be trained to motivate and have competing motivations of their own which detract from their motivational effectiveness ( Brewer & Burgess, 2005 ). Secondary level teachers have similar challenges and in discouraging numbers may have no training at all before entering the workforce ( Self, 2001 ), much less motivational training. Student organizations (e.g. SkillsUSA, DECA, HOSA, FBLA, FFA), a valuable source of student learning, also need to understand what motivates members during a time of significant personal and social growth (B. Croom & Flowers, 2001a ; D. B. Croom & Flowers, 2001b ), and yet many are led by volunteers or staff with limited instruction in how to energize and engage students.

The need to motivate is not limited to student learning, however. Administrators in all fields must find ways to hire, retain, and motivate employees. The loss of vocational teachers is of considerable concern ( Self, 2001 ) and job satisfaction is an important element in the decision to stay or to leave for both college level and secondary teachers ( Brewer & McMahan-Landers, 2003 ; Self, 2001 ). Finding no studies of job satisfaction for industrial and technical teacher educators, Brewer and McMahan-Landers (2003) conducted research and found industrial and technical teacher educators to be most satisfied with the nature of their work and the least satisfied with the rules and procedures within which they work. As revealing, members of the sample were significantly less satisfied with their supervision than the norm sample. The authors called for administrators to try to understand why this is so in order to improve satisfaction with supervision.

Discussions of motivation often summarize long existing theorists like Maslow (1954) , Herzberg (1974) , and McGregor (1985) . These theories have stood the test of time and are valuable lenses through which to review motivation. However, the field of motivation research is burgeoning. Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), organizational justice, perceived organizational support (POS), expectancy theory, self-efficacy, and goal theory are just a few of the more prominent theories that are being studied today, and yet many of these ideas and research have not been spread widely, nor applied by practitioners. Students in a recent graduate-level HRD class were quite familiar with self-actualization and motivation-hygiene factors, but had never heard of OCBs or POS.

CTE administrators, with the task of motivating employees ranging from staff assistants to IT professionals, and from junior instructors to full professors, should be aware of the various approaches to motivation that are now available. Teacher preparation programs are ideally suited to furnish the concepts and training CTE teachers will need to motivate their students and volunteers. The purpose of this paper is to review a number of those theories, and to suggest a model and practitioner applications to assist educators needing to motivate students, staff, or faculty.

Leaders, in this article, are considered to be administrators, faculty, teachers, and volunteers who have the opportunity and responsibility to motivate others in the field of career and technical education (CTE). Administrators must determine ways to keep faculty engaged and energized; teachers at all levels must do the same for students; and volunteer leaders have to attract, retain, and energize other volunteers and student members.


What is Motivation?

The Latin word movere , or motum , which means ‘to move’ was the original source for the word motivation ( Webster's Collegiate Dictionary , 1941). Motivation has been described as what energizes, directs, and sustains behavior ( Porter, Bigley & Steers., 2003 ). There are a variety of sources for motivation including goals, values, and the need for achievement, biological needs, and relatedness, among many others ( Reeve, 2005 ).

What moves people, and then keeps them moving, has been discussed at least since ancient Greece, but courses to teach motivation have been around less than 100 years, and the first textbook was not written until 1964. The first all encompassing motivational theories considered the ‘will,’ instincts, and drives. These attempted to explain all human motivation. It became apparent, however, that no theory could explain everything involving motivation, and so theories that explained pieces of it evolved ( Reeve, 2005 ). Self-actualization theory, Motivator-Hygiene theory, and Theory X & Y are still often cited in both scholarly and more practitioner-oriented publications. Expectancy Theory, though well known in work motivation literature, is not as familiar to scholars or practitioners outside that field.

Long-established Motivation Models

Self-Actualization Theory.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory ( Maslow, 1954 ) is one of if not the most referenced motivational theories in scholarly and management literature. Maslow did not originally provide research findings to support his theory of a hierarchy of needs and little exists today. Still, because it makes so much common sense, and because it is easy to understand, explain, and use, it has continued to be applied in organizational settings ( Mustafa, 1992 ).

Maslow claimed that people move up a needs hierarchy as they satisfy each of them. Unsatisfied needs motivate until they are fulfilled. He visualized the hierarchy as a pyramid. At the bottom of the needs hierarchy pyramid is survival, next is safety and security, then belongingness, after that esteem, and finally self-actualization. The model helped leaders to better understand how to create workplace conditions to satisfy employee needs ( Mustafa, 1992 ). CTE faculty might be considered to move up this pyramid as they develop teaching and research skills, pursue tenure, and then make meaningful contributions to the field.

Motivator-Hygiene Theory.

According to Herzberg (1974 , 2003 ), some factors cause dissatisfaction when they are not present, but do not motivate. Others, when they are present, build job satisfaction and motivation. Those two sets of factors, he said, are different from each other. Hygiene, or maintenance, factors include salary, supervision, and working conditions, among others. Motivational factors include such items as achievement, recognition, growth, and the nature of the work itself. Herzberg was an advocate for job enrichment and encouraged people to build motivational factors into jobs ( Bassett- Jones & Lloyd, 2005 ; Herzberg, 1974 , 2003 ). Volunteer CTE leaders are employing motivational factors when designing awards programs, and hygiene factors when assuring that volunteers have the needed tools and resources to conduct their work.

Theory X and Theory Y.

MIT professor Douglas McGregor’s influence upon organization development theory goes far beyond his well known Theory X and Y ( McGregor, 1985 ; Weisbord, 1987 ). McGregor was a colleague of Kurt Lewin, Edgar Schein, and Warren Bennis, among many others; was a pioneer consultant, developing deep relationships with clients; and was possibly the first psychologist to recognize that personnel policies have strategic organizational importance. He helped Lewin create the Research Center for Group Dynamics at MIT, and was one of the first to apply Lewin’s ideas.

Management, McGregor claimed, may assume that humans naturally want to grow and achieve, take responsibility, and care about their jobs. Or, management may assume that most humans are passive, dependent, and lazy. Managers believing the first assumption, which McGregor labeled Theory Y, will behave differently than those believing the second, Theory X. Those accepting Theory X will create externally controlled environments, with close supervision. Theory Y adherents are more likely to be coaches, create teams, and to build upon the internal needs of employees, and their own self-control. CTE teachers who subscribe to Theory X are less likely to trust students to be self-directed learners; those believing in Theory Y will create learning environments that are less proscribed.

Expectancy Theory.

Although less referred to in the popular organizational literature than the three theories described above, Expectancy Theory, as advanced by Vroom, is well known in scholarly literature ( Lawler, 1994 ; Vroom, 1964 ). Individuals, he said, expect that outcomes will accrue from their actions. He defined valence to mean the amount of value a person places upon the probable outcome of his or her actions. People are motivated, then, to the extent they believe they can do something that will result in a desired outcome. A CTE administrator, following Expectancy Theory, would then find what each faculty member values, believes he or she has the ability to accomplish, and then makes sure the reward is awarded. Different faculty members will find significance in different things, and have differing self-beliefs about what they can accomplish.

Vroom (1964) believed these variables were multiplicative, not additive. In other words, if an employee believes that good work will result in a successful project, but that the probability of being rewarded for success is zero, the employee will not be motivated. Alternatively, if one believes the probability of reward is assured, but successful task completion to be impossible, one will not be motivated. Finally, if the employee does not care about the prospective reward (valence = zero), the employee will not be motivated even if they believe one can accomplish the task and that one will receive a reward for doing it.

These four theories are often referred to in the literature and serve as foundational thinking for current motivational investigation. Motivation research, however, is actively being performed in a wide range of arenas including organizational citizenship behavior, organizational justice, perceived organizational support, positive supervisor support, goal theory, self-regulation, self-efficacy, and organizational commitment. Practitioners, however, and scholars working outside the domain of motivational research are often unaware of these useful developments.

Motivational Research

The number of foci for motivational research may seem surprising, and the results consequential. Below are summaries of several of the numerous active lines of inquiry. Each has practical application for leaders of career and technical education. Table 1, Summary of Selected Motivational Theories , summarizes findings for each of these theories and suggests applications for leaders in the field.

Perceived Organizational Support.

Perceived Organizational Support (POS) is the belief employees have about how much the organization values them. POS results from employee beliefs about what the organization is doing voluntarily to support them. It does not result when employees perceive support to be something the organization has to provide because of competition, regulation, or other requirements. POS is increased when employees believe the organization considers their goals and values, demonstrates concern for them, helps when they have a problem, is concerned about their opinions, forgives honest mistakes, and will not take advantage of them ( Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002 ). The CTE administrator who disburses rewards – salary, teaching support, recognition - equitably is more likely to develop POS than one who is perceived to have favorite faculty members, or to use the efforts of staff or faculty to further his or her career at their expense.

The most effective way to develop employee POS is by being fair, the second through supervisor support, and the third through rewards and positive job conditions. Employees generally perceive “fairness” to be discretionary. Management can choose to be fair or not. When it is, the result is POS. When employees believe their supervisors support them (perceived supervisor support) the result is increased performance, commitment to the organization, and job satisfaction ( Eisenberger et al., 2002 ).

Organizational Justice.

Employees perceive fairness in organizations in three ways: procedural justice, distributive justice, and interactional justice ( Colquitt et al., 2001 ; Colquitt et al., 2005 ; Cropanzano & Rupp, 2003 ). Procedural justice is concerned with the perception of the process for decision-making. Employees will observe the factors that were or were not taken into account, who was involved and in what manner, and the types of influence that may have been applied. Distributive justice is concerned with whether the end result was fair. Employees will ask if rewards were given equitably and how they compared with others. Interactional justice is concerned with how employees felt they were treated during the decision-making process. Employees will walk away feeling honored and respected, or not.

CTE staff are usually hard working employees who often receive much less recognition than faculty members or students. Leaders who treat staff fairly by giving assignments and compensation equitably, including them appropriately in department decision making, and by treating them as valued employees are more likely to find those employees believing the organization is treating them fairly. They will more likely believe the organization was thoughtful and cared about their opinions. Higher job performance and going beyond the call of duty is more likely when employees believe the organization is fair.

Organizational Commitment.

Though organizational commitment has been studied for many years ( Cook & Wall, 1980 ; Mowday et al., 1982 ; Swailes, 2002 ), the theory of Meyer & Allen ( Meyer & Allen, 1997 ; Meyer & Herscovitch, 2001 ; Meyer et al., 2002 ) has received much of the research attention over the last 20 years. They argue that organizational commitment is not all the same, and that commitment has three components, which they label affective, continuance, and normative commitment. Employees who want to work for an organization have affective commitment, those who believe they ought to stay with an organization have normative commitment, and continuance commitment describes those who feel they have to stay with an organization.

Affective commitment is positively affected when employees perceive organizational support (POS), meaning they have a supportive supervisor and work environment, and are being treated fairly (organizational justice). Normative commitment may be considered to be a general disposition to be loyal to the organization or to organizations in general, which is reinforced or not by organizational socialization and the creation of obligations. Continuance commitment is developed as a result of accumulated investments in the organization that the person would lose if leaving. Of the three components, affective commitment is most positively associated with going beyond the call of duty behaviors, performance, and attendance; normative commitment less strongly; and continuance commitment is either not related or is negatively related. Normative commitment, however, may be a more important influence on organizational commitment in collectivist cultures ( Meyer et al., 2002 ; Yao & Wang, 2006 ). The CTE administrator wanting to promote commitment to the department or the university will not count completely upon rewards like tenure, promotion and salary, but will be concerned with developing a healthy culture with strong interpersonal relationships, an organization of which faculty can be proud and an important part of, and an emotional climate that is mutually supportive.

Organizational Citizenship Behavior.

Organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) are “above the call of duty” actions performed by employees. They are not required, but are voluntarily undertaken for the good of the organization. Such behaviors include staying late, doing what is supposed to be done even when no one is watching, helping others, cheerleading, being on time, sacrificing for the good of the group, speaking positively about the organization to outsiders, and being good stewards of organizational resources, among others ( LePine et al., 2002 ; Podsakoff et al., 2000 ).

OCBs are voluntary actions of employees. Their opposite occurs when employees “work to the contract,” completing the minimum to meet stated expectations or, worse, sabotaging the organization, initiating counterproductive work behaviors, such as gossiping, or calling in sick when healthy ( Dalal, 2005 ). Employees are more likely to perform OCBs when they (a) believe the organization is fair, (b) are satisfied with their jobs, (c) believe their supervisor supports them; and (d) they are committed to the organization. CTE teachers, if exhibiting OCBs, might volunteer to advise one more organization than what is expected, or to coach another teacher needing help. A faculty member might mentor a new professor even if the responsibility is not formally on the position description.

Goal Setting.

Goal research involving over 40,000 people in eight countries, over 100 tasks, with a time range of one minute to 25 years found goal setting to be effective in any task where performance is controlled by the people being studied ( Locke, 2004a ). Goals that are both difficult and specific lead to high performance, though the more difficult the goal the more important it is to develop self-efficacy ( Locke & Latham, 2002 ). It is more likely that an individual with high self-efficacy will set, diligently pursue, and contribute significant effort to difficult goals ( Bandura, 1997 ; Locke & Latham, 1990 ).

All goals are not the same. Promotion goals are related to growth, advancement, and accomplishment; prevention goals are related to security, responsibility, and safety ( Higgins, 1998 ). Intrinsic goals are associated with inner needs like relationships and contribution; extrinsic goals are associated with rewards like fame, physical appearance, and wealth ( Vansteenkiste et al., 2004 , Vansteenkiste et al., 2006 ). Learning goals develop ability; performance goals demonstrate ability. Sometimes high performance goals cause such apprehension that execution actually becomes lower. In those instances, challenging learning goals may be more effective ( Seijts & Latham, 2005 ). Process goals focus on improving form, technique and strategy; performance goals on increasing overall personal performance—faster times, higher quality service; and outcome goals upon accomplishing objective outcomes— winning, being top-ranked. Outcome goals, though often most prized and compensated for in society, are least under an individual’s control ( Burton & Raedeke , In press). Short term, or proximal, goals help individuals to stay on track and help to maintain motivation; long term, or distal, goals can be overwhelming and actually reduce performance ( Latham & Seijts, 1999 ).

Goal setting for CTE leaders may take many forms. One, for faculty, is the pursuit of tenure and promotion (T&P). Such terminal goals may be divided into proximal goals such as annual performance targets; be associated with both the enjoyment of teaching (intrinsic) and rewards such as pay increases (extrinsic); or be oriented toward learning how to research, write, and publish, and also outcomes such as published articles.


Volition, or willpower, is the process of pursuing goals once set ( Corno, 1993 ; Ghoshal & Bruch, 2003 ; Gollwitzer et al., 1990 ; Heckhausen & Kuhl, 1985 ). Volition comes into play once goals are determined and a commitment is made to them. The commitment process has been called crossing the Rubicon ( Corno, 1993 ; Gollwitzer et al., 1990 ; Heckhausen & Kuhl, 1985 ). Pre-decision processes are often defined by theorists as “motivational” and postdecision processes as “volitional,” and each have differing qualities. Once the decision is made goals must be protected from disruptions or distractions, and energy must be maintained. Self-regulation is considered to be the process of setting and pursuing goals, including the processes of goal establishment, planning, striving, and revision ( Kanfer, 2005 ; Vancouver & Day, 2005 ).

At least two strategies assist in strengthening or maintaining volition. One is motivational support and the other emotional support ( Corno, 1993 ; Kanfer, 2005 ; Kanfer & Ackerman, 1996 ). Emotional support is needed to cope with feelings such as anxiety, worry, or inadequacy that might sidetrack goal pursuit intentions. Motivational support is needed to keep attention on the task when interest flags or disillusionment sets in. Emotional support strategies are considered to be more important early when learners are pursuing a goal, and motivational support strategies more important later, when skills to achieve the task have been acquired.

To continue the example of the tenure and promotion process for CTE faculty, administrators play an important role when providing emotional support by encouraging and listening to faculty when needed; and motivational support by helping new faculty set reasonable deadlines, consider alternative means to reaching T&P goals; and providing useful feedback.

Self-determination—intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

Motivation ranges from amotion (none) to extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation ( Deci & Flaste, 1995 ; Deci & Ryan, 2000 , 2002 ; Vansteenkiste et al., 2006 ). Intrinsic motivation is derived from executing the activity itself, because it is pleasurable, interesting, or a learning experience. Extrinsic motivation comes not from engaging in the activity but from external consequences or rewards such as pay, recognition, or promotion. Extrinsic motivation can be further categorized by the amount of control external consequences have upon behavior.

Extrinsic motivation can be considered to be external, introjected, identified, or integrated regulation. External, or controlled, regulation is the least autonomous and is impelled by rewards and punishments. Actions are considered to be determined, or coerced, by external forces. Grades, given by CTE instructors, and pay, for CTE staff and faculty, would fall into this category. Introjected regulation occurs when people comply with internal pressure. This is considered moderately controlled motivation as people feel pressure to succumb to particular actions based upon feelings of shame, guilt, acceptance, or self-worth. For CTE professionals introjection might involve the avoidance of feeling that one has let the department down, or of performing in a mediocre fashion. For student teachers, introjected motivation may come about through pride in being able to teach mastery skills in trade classes. Administrators would motivate by cultivating strong departmental norms and standards. Identified regulation is considered moderately autonomous as the individual, in this instance, identifies with the value of an activity and thereby chooses to partake as a result. Studying or data collection has valued results, for example, even though the act may not be intrinsically motivating. Finally, integrated regulation is extrinsically motivating, but is considered to be autonomous. People freely choose to engage in the task. Though still not intrinsically (enjoyable, interesting) motivating, integrated regulation involves importance. The value of the task is considered meaningful because it aligns with the person’s own values. Thus, integrated regulation and intrinsic motivation are both freely chosen, but for differing reasons. CTE faculty might be motivated via integrated regulation when an otherwise unenjoyable task would help students succeed. Motivation from a self-determination perspective, then, ranges from determined (or controlled, coercive) external regulation to self-determined (or autonomous, volitional, choice) integrated regulation to intrinsic motivation.


Self-efficacy is the belief one has about his or her ability to complete a task successfully ( Bandura, 1997 ). Motivationally, self-efficacy is important because the level of self-efficacy affects the amount of effort one puts into accomplishing a task, his or her persistence, and the difficulty of goals he or she is willing to attempt. Self-efficacy is developed through mastery (personal) or vicarious (observed) experiences, verbal persuasion, and one’s emotional or physical states.

High or low self-efficacy builds upon itself. High self-efficacy results in higher performance, which results in higher self-efficacy, greater effort and more challenging goals. Lower self-efficacy results in setting lower goals and pursuing them with less effort and persistence. Lower performance is the consequence, with subsequently lower goals, effort, and persistence. CTE students entering school may have high self-efficacy in their technical fields but little as potential teachers. Faculty working with such students can increase their motivation to succeed, including their effort, persistence, and how high they set their goals, by providing direct learning experiences that give them strong skills or knowledge; being or finding a mentor and role model for them; encouraging them; and giving them a supportive physical and emotional environment.

Leader-Member Exchange (LM-X).

LM-X theory suggests that employees have differing types of relationships with supervisors ranging from out-group, or low quality relationships; to middle-group, or moderate quality relationships; to in-group, or high quality relationships. These relationships are predicated on the quality of exchange between the leader and the follower. Exchanges are transactional when a relationship begins, and may then move to social exchanges, which include sharing information and resources both personally and professionally, and then ultimately progress to exchange of mutual loyalty, trust respect, and emotional obligation. ( Burns & Otte, 1999 ; Gerstner & Day, 1997 ; Graen & Novak, 1982 ).

LM-X has been studied in a variety of contexts. As examples, LM-X has been found: (a) to have more influence than safety communication in safety-predicted events ( Michael, Guo, Wiedenbeck & Ray, 2006 ); (b) to be one reason students are motivated to communicate with instructors ( Myers, 2006 ); and (c) to have a relationship to job performance, commitment, and satisfaction with supervision ( Gerstner & Day, 1997 ). For CTE, LM-X occurs in relationships throughout the organization, including between students and professors, professors and department chairs, and department chairs and deans. In one instance a professor will be the leader and in another the follower, and it will be the same for each position. A department chair, dean, or provost cannot develop ingroup relationships with all deans, chairs, and faculty within his or her purview, nor can a professor or teacher. However, when those relationships are developed they will result in higher communication, performance, commitment, and satisfaction.

Application to Career and Technical Education

Table 1 , Summary of Selected Motivational Theories , outlines findings for each of these theories and provides additional ideas for administrator or teacher application. Each leader will have to determine the ways the theory described might best be applied with his or her faculty, other employees, or students, given the particular situation or learning environment.

Heuristical Motivational Model

Models seeking to integrate the various motivational theories have been proposed by scholars (see Locke & Latham, 2004 ; Meyer et al., 2004 , for example), but today there is no generally accepted model that integrates all workplace motivation ( Latham & Pinder, 2005 ). The theoretical models that do exist are conceptual in nature and not directly intended for practitioner application. Administrators and teachers in the field need useful rules of thumb for motivating on a day-to-day basis. The heuristical workplace model proposed here was first presented in The Manager as Motivator ( Kroth, 2006 ) and is discussed here to assist CTE leaders by providing a motivational job aide as they go about the quotidian charge of helping individuals perform to their potential.

Setting the Environment

Leaders wishing to create a highly motivating environment need to (1) view organizations as ecosystems which they affect, but cannot control; (2) understand those who follow them, searching for their desires, personal and professional goals, and individual situation; (3) care, becoming skilled in behaviors that demonstrate genuine interest in followers’ successes; (4) design intrinsically and extrinsically motivating work; (5) set motivating goals, (6) provide support for goal pursuit; and (7) manage follower expectancies through the process.

Organizational Ecology . Organizations do not exist in vacuums. Like organisms, the environment impinges upon them constantly. Despite a leader’s best efforts to protect his or her territory, rules change, directions are modified, reconfigurations occur, people make differing demands, and compensation is meted out fairly or unfairly, substantially or trivially. Organizations are similar to ecological systems ( Amburgey & Rao, 1996 ; Carroll & Barnett, 2004 ; Singh & Lumsden, 1990 ).

Like ecological systems, environmental changes affect projects, programs, departments, and companies or institutions in toxic or generative ways. Like ecological systems, organizations are dependent upon the environment for resources, which are the equivalent of food, and are subject to the security and safety the environment provides or withholds. Like ecological systems, organizations have the ability to adapt to change. The extent of that capacity and willingness to employ it determines whether new technology, restructurings, or emerging competition cause organizational extinction or allow it to flourish.

Table 1
Summary of Selected Motivational Theories
Theory Key Findings Practitioner Application - Examples
Perceived Organizational Support (POS)
The belief people have about how much the organization cares for and values them.
The most effective ways to increase POS: (a) treat people fairly, (b) be a supportive supervisor.
  • Forgive honest mistakes
  • Help when needed
  • Treat faculty/student/staff opinions, values, and goals as if they matter
  • Do not exploit followers for personal gain
Organizational Justice
Procedural justice is th process for giving rewards and other recognition.
Distributive justice is what the rewards actually were, and if the results were perceived as fair.
Interactional justice occurs when followers feel they were treated with respect, the organization listened to them, and was thoughtful.
  • Double check job descriptions and assignments for fairness
  • Clarify expectations
  • Make business-like decisions
  • Treat faculty/student/staff with respect
  • Listen deeply
  • Assure processes and procedures are fair
Organizational Commitment (OC)
Affective - People want to work or learn there.
Normative - People feel they ought to work or learn there.
Continuance - People feel they have to work or learn there.
  • Develop pride in the organization of the class
  • Give work or assignments that are important
  • Create powerful organizational or classroom values
  • Consider students, staff and faculty to be whole people, not “just” pupils, employees, and teachers
  • Develop a strong, supportive, challenging culture
  • Provide equitable rewards - salary, benefits, grades - make people feel their contributions are valued
Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB)
OCBs are those “above the call of duty” behaviors performed by followers in the organization.
They are voluntary. Examples include staying late to help a coworker, speaking highly of the organization to someone outside, or cleaning up a mess in someone else’s area.
  • Treat students, faculty, and staff fairly
  • Provide supportive supervision
  • Develop affective commitment
  • Make the work interesting, meaningful, and enjoyable
Goal Setting
Goal setting has proven to be highly motivating in numerous studies involving tens of thousands of people.
  • Set specific, challenging goals that people can do something about (don’t make success dependent upon anything out of their control)
  • Set difficult learning goals when performance goals seem too ambitious
  • Set short term goals to help accomplish longer-term goals
  • Limit the number of goals to something manageable
Goal accomplished depends upon volition (will power).
Volition can be maintained and strengthened via motivational and emotional strategies.
  • Provide emotional support - listen, encourage, visualize success, help to relax
  • Provide motivational support - provide regular, meaningful rewards, set challenging but attainable deadlines, help find creative, imaginative ways to accomplish goals
Humans have needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
Motivation can be intrinsic, derived from the interest and enjoyment of the work itself; or extrinsic, derived from external rewards and punishment.
Extrinsic motivation can be controlled and coercive, moderately autonomous, or autonomous.
Intrinsic motivation is freely chosen.
  • Use purely extrinsic motivation sparingly, incorporate ways to make tasks or assignments enjoyable, interesting, and meaningful. Provide opportunities to develop networks, or connection, within faculty or students
  • Build competence and with competence will come pride and desire
  • Continually move people away from dependence and toward independence, help them develop their decision-making capacity and confidence
Self-efficacy is the belief a person has in his or her capability to successfully perform a given task.
The higher the self-efficacy, the more persistence, high effort, and difficulty of goal commitment.
  • Provide opportunities to learn directly how to accomplish a task
  • Give the professor, student, or staff member a mentor, role model of other chances to observe successful behavior
  • Encourage them, and ask others they respect to encourage
  • Reduce unhealthy anxiety or general exhaustion
Leader-member Exchange
The of leader to follower is based upon exchanges.
Early exchanges are transactional - effort in return for pay, e.g.; later they may develop into close personal relationships based upon exchange of trust, respect, and mutual obligation.
  • Work to develop appropriate, but close relationships with faculty, students, and staff when possible
  • Utilize a variety of forms of exchange, such as affection, status, pay/grades, resources, or information

CTE departments today face encroachment upon or opportunity for their operations, as factors such as the No Child Left Behind Act and Perkins IV legislation, technologically-driven competition for students, tightening university budgets, and shifting hiring needs from public and private sector employers change the landscape for education institutions and those who lead them. Scarce resources invite both competition—healthy or lethal—where losers may slowly strangle or abruptly expire; and collaboration, as individuals, programs and institutions conspire to build mutual strength and capacity.

Leaders situate the environment, in many ways, for the ecological systems within their purview ( Wielkiewicz & Stelzner, 2005 ). Some days, leaders may feel little control over the array of complex internal and external interrelationships, processes, dependencies, and interactions that occur within their organization. Other days, leaders may feel a good deal of efficacy, as they wield decision-making power and influence in significant ways. While not in total control of the variables that impact the health of the organization, leaders arrange many of the conditions that influence it.

Creating Motivating Educational Environments

Research and theory development lead to greater depth of understanding, but CTE administrators, faculty, and teachers confront practical motivational tasks every day. The following actions attempt to translate what has been learned by scholars, as described above, into practical motivational actions that practitioners may employ with those whom they supervise or instruct. Those actions are: care, understand, design intrinsically motivating assignments, craft extrinsically motivating work, set motivating goals, support goal pursuit, and manage expectancies. Not a linear process, these actions may be drawn upon situationally as needs present themselves.

Care . Caring is not only a feeling, it is behavior. As discussed above, organizational and supervisor caring results in Perceived Organizational Support (POS) and Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCBs). Behaviors leading to POS include helping employees when they have problems, treating their ideas and opinions as if they matter, and forgiving honest mistakes. Teachers are more likely to believe the organization cares when they perceive fairness, or organizational justice, behaviors by school administrators and believe that their supervisor or superintendent supports them. In-group relationships develop between administrators and teachers, and between teachers and students, as trust, respect, and mutual obligation are exchanged over time.

Understand . Every person is the same, and every person is different, and effective leaders study both human nature and the human situation ( Kroth, 2006 ). Each person is the same, having the needs Maslow and others describe. Each has inborn traits, each responds to rewards and punishments, and each has hopes and fears. Each person is also different. Each walks into work each day with different upbringing, history, personality, interests, scars, hopes, and fears than others. While it is tempting to apply general motivational theory in the same way to every individual, in fact, theory application must involve customization to meet what is salient for each individual. The only way to know how to do that effectively is to determine what is important to each employee or student.

To develop depth of understanding, educators may observe behavior, ask teachers or students what they find important, be available, and endeavor to learn by doing their own research – trying a variety of strategies to see what works, or any number of ways to understand the specific needs and wants of followers. The assignment is to deeply understand the kind of tasks that bring intrinsic enjoyment, the challenges that are meaningful, the work environment that is most conducive for motivating work, and the fears or other internal factors that might inhibit or catalyze effort; and the extrinsic values, external rewards, recognition, and other forms of exchange that specifically motivate particular individuals. Absent these understandings, trying to motivate others is shooting in the dark. With these understandings, it is possible to effectively design both intrinsically and extrinsically rewarding work.

Design Intrinsically Motivating Assignments. Enjoyable work generates its own motivation. It is, as Deci & Flaste (1995) note, intrinsically motivating. What is enjoyable, however, varies from person to person. Some like to work outside, some inside. Some like quiet, some noise. Some like working with numbers. Some do not.

Administrators work under legal and organizational constraints when designing work. Position descriptions may be provided by a central office. A priority activity of the Provost, Dean, or Program chair may not be enjoyable or meaningful work for the assistant professor seeking T&P or the full professor with a significant and challenging research agenda to whom the activity is assigned. Bureaucratic requirements, even when necessary, may seem inflexible and inefficient. Nevertheless, more elasticity may exist than leaders believe. Job sculpting ( Butler & Waldroop, 1999 ) occurs when leaders find what people enjoy doing and then structure the work to meet those interests. Though no job is perfectly enjoyable, followers will be motivated intrinsically to the extent work can be modified to meet their interests. Such customization may take time, and may ultimately be marginal or not successful. Administrators may have more flexibility when designing faculty assignments than they imagine, nevertheless, and teachers have considerable flexibility when designing learning assignments for students.

Craft Extrinsically Motivating Work. Unlike intrinsically motivating work, wherein the motivation comes from the work itself, motivation from extrinsically motivating work comes from outside the work, as effort or results are exchanged for something of value. Exchanges may be in the form of providing work, such as effective teaching or completed learning assignments, for love, status, information, money, goods, or services ( Foa, 1993; Teichman & Foa, 1975 ). There have been overall observations and study about compensation ( Bård, 2006 ; Hayashi, 2007 ; Herpen et al., 2005 ; Locke, 2004b ; Pfeffer & Sutton, 2006 ; Rynes et al., 2005 ; Williams et al., 2006 ), which are helpful foundations, but it is guesswork, absent an understanding of what exchanges are most important to an individual, to design rewards he or she will find most motivating.

Set Motivating Goals. Goal setting and pursuing can occur absent a supportive environment. Organizations can coerce followers through rewards and punishments and receive remarkable results, but the longer term consequences may be dire. “When people say that money motivates,” according to Deci & Flaste (1995) , “what they really mean is that money controls. And when it does, people become alienated—they give up some of their authority—and they push themselves to do what they must do” (p. 29).

Too, as discussed above, goals can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. They may not rely upon a leader-given reward. Regardless, set goals that are highly motivating.

Support Goal Pursuit . Once goals are set, the challenge is to maintain motivation. Creating and sustaining willpower keeps followers on track when distractions occur or interest flags. Provide emotional and motivational support, feedback (Renn, 2003), and prepare teachers or students for obstacles ( Ghoshal & Bruch, 2003 ).

Manage Expectancies . Leaders are a lens through which followers evaluate their own performance and then peg their self-efficacy. The CTE student trying to create an andragogical learning environment for his or her high school construction, nursing, or office technology students will look to the professor to see how well the task was accomplished, and the result of his or her observations will affect efficacy self-perceptions. Administrators, in the same manner, have the opportunity to build staff self-efficacy by providing mastery and vicarious learning experiences, supportive verbal persuasion, and conducive physiological and psychological situations. In these ways, leaders can manage, though not control, follower self-efficacy. The level of self-efficacy is important to goal setting and pursuit because individuals with high self-efficacy set more difficult goals, persist in pursing them longer, and put more effort into attaining them. Leaders also manage expectancies concerning rewards. Leaders influence the expectation about whether desired rewards (promotion, pay, grades) will be granted with the accomplishment of desired performance. Every employee—staff or faculty—carries varying levels of self-efficacy for differing tasks. One junior professor, for example, may feel extremely capable of designing the course but less capable of its execution. Feeling incapable, he or she may be embarrassed and try to hide perceived weaknesses. Practicing “understand,” will help administrators discover such feelings and then provide the appropriate experiences Bandura (1997) recommends to increase self-efficacy. For teachers, students may also feel variable self-efficacy in different learning domains. Understanding those situations, and then providing the means for students to increase self-efficacy, should increase the effort, persistence, and motivation needed to accomplish significant learning goals.


The result of a motivating environment is expanded capacity to accomplish personal and organizational goals. This occurs through the enactment of OCBs and Organizational Commitment. The result of successful goal setting and pursuit is increased performance in the form of accomplishments or learning.


The popular and well known theories of Maslow and others continue to dominate discussions of workplace motivation at the same time research into organizational justice, organizational citizenship behavior, perceived organizational support, self-efficacy, goal theory, and volition—among others not covered here—is burgeoning. Scholars and practitioners should be aware that multiple perspectives about workplace motivation exist.

Despite the existence of theoretical motivational models, little has been done to translate existing research into practical tools for leaders or teachers. The model presented is an attempt to do that, recognizing there are differing ways one might configure application processes, and different choices that can be made about what motivational processes to include. It has two characteristics worth emphasizing.

First, although each of the seven actions identified above are useful, this model pulls together two emphases that do not receive significant attention—the need for caring and the need for understanding. Both behaviors are necessary for subsequent motivational results. Caring, in the form of fair treatment of followers, supervisor or teacher support, and good work conditions, leads to perceived organizational support and organizational citizenship behaviors. Understanding is the predecessor to work design that meets the particular needs of individual followers. Some understanding can be transferred from previous experience with faculty, students, or life, but some can only be derived from direct interaction with individuals or groups.

Second, much has been made of expectancy and self-efficacy theory, for good reason, but this model emphasizes the role the leader has in managing expectancies for followers. Leaders’ behaviors influence how followers view past successes and failure; they direct learning and other experiences that increase follower self-efficacy; and they either reinforce or weaken outcome expectancies. Follower motivation will wane if leaders raise reward expectations and do not honor them.

For CTE, this model may be incorporated into teacher preparation courses, in particular those covering adult learning theory, andragogy, self-directed learning, and learning environments. It should also prove useful in leadership development programs. Typically, participants in such programs are given brief descriptions of established theories, from theorists like Maslow or McGregor, and are then sent on their way. This model would be especially useful when considering case studies and real motivational problems administrators face daily. It might be elaborated upon as well, with training exercises provided in each of the seven action areas, to develop skills in each.

This model is not comprehensive. Equity theory (Adams, 1963) , job satisfaction research ( Brewer & McMahan-Landers, 2003 ; Judge et al., 2001 ), flow ( Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1988 ), positive psychology ( Seligman et al., 2005 ) and attribution theory ( Weiner, 1986 ) are among a number of theoretical lines of research that deserve attention but are not included here. The intent of this model is to broaden thinking about motivation concepts and to provide practitioners with a heuristical approach to motivating others.

An increasingly complex, technologically able society will provide larger numbers of choices, yet having a wider range of alternatives does not necessarily lead to greater happiness ( Schwartz, 2004 ). Similarly, a mushrooming body of research does not necessarily lead to better leadership. It is when depth of knowledge is the foundation for elegant solutions that pragmatic challenges can be surmounted. This model is one attempt to help leaders in our field do that.


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Michael Kroth is an Assistant Professor in Adult and Organizational Learning at the University of Idaho. He can be reached at mkroth@uidaho.edu.