For some teachers, teaching was their calling. For most other teachers and aspiring educators, they require the right motivation and incentives to endure. In a new book, Master Your Motivation: Three Scientific Truths for Achieving Your Goals, author Susan Fowler draws on the latest empirical research to show readers how to master—and maintain—their motivation by creating choice, connection, and competence, the three basic psychological needs at the heart of thriving in anything we do.

We sit in the midst of an immense teacher shortage nationwide — more than 200,000 teachers leave the profession each year, with nearly two out of three leaving for reasons other than retirement, such as salary and compensation; preparation and costs to entry; hiring and personnel management; induction and support for new teachers; and working conditions — according to the Learning Policy Institute’s report, Solving the Teacher Shortage: How to Attract and Retain Excellent Educators.

To address the challenges of teacher retention and development, educational leaders at all levels should consider how to include these truths about motivation:

  • Choice
    Teachers need to feel like they have a sense of control over what is happening. When choice is not available, their energy is diminished, and they are less likely to find the drive to push forward. By extending choices to your teachers in the form of career pathways and professional learning opportunities, you can give teachers a vision of where they can go with their careers, helping them stay engaged and motivated.
  • Connection
    Teachers need to feel a sense of belonging and genuine connection to others without concerns of politics or ulterior motives. Empower educators to foster connections to find meaning and contribute to something greater than themselves. When people don’t create connection, their energy is compromised, and even if they find success, they are less likely to find the experience meaningful or worth repeating.
  • Competence
    Teachers need to feel effective at managing their classroom situations, demonstrating skills over time, and continually learning and growing every day. Teachers need to acknowledge their progress and focus on what they are learning over what they are achieving. When people don’t feel competent, their energy is blocked, and their frustration at being unable to meet challenges or make progress puts them at risk.

To take advantage of the science requires educational leaders to shift their focus from, “What can I give teachers to motivate them?” to “How can I facilitate teachers’ satisfaction of choice, connection, and competence?”

By supporting initiatives, such as on-the-job degrees, that drive toward satisfying these three basic psychological needs, educational leaders will find that teachers experience the day-to-day high-quality motivation that fuels their work passion — and all the inherent benefits that come from an actively engaged workforce.

BloomBoard’s purpose-driven approach to professional learning incorporates these principles of motivation, providing schools, districts, and states with more coherence and alignment around educator career pathways via on-the-job degrees and certifications. Teachers can clearly see the benefits of the learning as it helps them advance their careers and earning potential. Through the learning cycle, participating teachers will connect with peers, engage in growth-oriented dialogue, and ultimately demonstrate mastery of skills.