We use several related constructs in talking about motivation.

We use the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.  This theory suggests that situations over which we perceive that we have a greater amount of control are more motivating to us than situations in which an external agent has control.  Autonomy, therefore, has a powerful influence on motivation.

Achievement motivation posits that we are all motivated to learn and become competent, and that is a fundamental human motivator, not something we pursue as time and circumstance permit.  Achievement motivation suggests that the drive to learn is a prerequisite to other drives, as we would not survive without an impulse to acquire mastery over our environment.

The type of feedback we receive influences our motivation.  A particularly useful distinction is that between task-involved and ego-involved feedback.  Feedback focused on improving performance (task-involved) is more likely to increase performance.  Feedback that compares a performance to the performance of others (ego-involved) is more likely to induce a defensive reaction and to thereby detract from performance.  Once ego-involved feedback is introduced (e.g. a grade or other performance rating), the efficacy of task-involved feedback is greatly compromised.

The role of the coach is to support the educational leader’s goal-setting at different scales and in different ways.  Examples might include:

  • Goals for the school improvement plan
  • Goals for a particular program, intervention, or new instructional practice
  • Goals for the creation of a leadership team or data team
  • Goals for the first 90 days of a principal’s tenure(also called entry planning)
  • Goals for a particular meeting or difficult conversation