Coaches Fostering Teacher Motivation - Steve Barkley

Coaches Fostering Teacher Motivation

Dave Stuart posted a video where he explores five key beliefs as crucial in fostering student motivation.  He identifies these as central to creating a learning environment where students feel inspired and driven to engage in learning. As I explored his beliefs, I thought that they could each be applied to school leaders and instructional coaches creating an environment for teachers that is conducive to educator learning.

Stuart describes these beliefs as building blocks with the bottom ones being critical to support the others.


  • Students must believe that their teacher is competent and knowledgeable. This belief is foundational, as students are more likely to engage with the material and trust the instruction if they see their teacher as credible. Shaun Killian writing about teacher credibility states the need for teachers to see their students as people and learners. “Credible teachers care about the results that each of their students achieves. They are not happy to let a struggling student fail any more than they are to let a bright student coast along. Yet, they do not expect their students to do it on their own. Rather, they are there for their students every step of the way – and their students know it.”

Killian summarizes credibility to three key elements: forging trusting relationships, knowing your stuff and teaching it well, and effectively managing your students’ behavior.

  • Teachers finding their instructional coach as credible is an early component to create the trust that will encourage teacher vulnerability which is key to a teacher’s growth. I think a critical message for the coach is communicating that success of all students drives the coach to be focused on the success of all teachers. As a coach I want to communicate to a teacher that I may not have a solution to the teacher’s struggle, but I will be there until we figure out a plan together.


  • It’s important for students to see the relevance and importance of the work they are doing. They need to understand how their learning activities are valuable to their lives and future goals. Stuart describes seeing that the learning they are doing matters, is interesting, fun, deep, and empowering. I have used a phrase from William Glasser that when doing quality work, it will be hard work that feels good.


  • Teachers should experience coaching being empowering. Coaches need to invest in listening to teachers’ goals and desires in order to align coaching with what the teacher will see as valuable. In an earlier blog, I focused on how coaching conversations, where the teacher’s agenda emerges and develops over time, increase understanding, build trust, and promote vulnerability and risk-taking. The teacher’s agenda includes the beliefs, values, and thinking behind the teacher’s decision-making.

Effort and Efficacy

  • Stuart defines the interconnectedness of effort and efficacy. When students recognize that their effort can improve their knowledge and skills, (growth mindset) they develop self-efficacy that encourages students to take on challenges and persist through difficulties. Students believe that they can achieve their goals with effort and perseverance. Providing students with opportunities to succeed after hard work is the most effective way to build self-efficacy. Teachers should design tasks that are challenging yet achievable and provide incremental learning opportunities.


  • As instructional coaches, we don’t have to design the challenges. They are present in every classroom, every day. I often find that my coaching role is assisting a teacher in identifying how a dilemma, which appears overwhelming, can be tackled in pieces so that small steps of progress are rewarding and motivating to encourage continued effort and efficacy. This progress approach is explored in this blog and modeled in this podcast.


  • Stuart suggests that when credibility, value, effort, and efficacy are present, belonging naturally occurs. Students want to be part of a learning environment where those items exist. Belonging fosters a supportive community where students are more likely to take risks, engage deeply, and support one another in the learning process.


  • Teachers are likely to find collective efficacy as members of a staff where teacher and administrative leadership support building credibility, value, effort, and efficacy. When belonging is present among a school staff collective teacher efficacy is likely to exist.

Stuart suggests that these beliefs are not static but can be developed and reinforced through targeted actions and interventions within the educational setting. Understanding and addressing these key beliefs can help educators create a more motivating and engaging learning environment for all students. The same is true for school leaders. What targeted actions and interventions are focused on building teacher motivation.

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