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Using Management Motivation Techniques to Motivate Students and Develop Their Self-Motivation

Tamara Sladoljev-Agejev

Dr.Višnja Špiljak

Marija Rizmaul

Vera Krnajski-Hršak

Graduate School of Economics and Business
University of Zagreb

Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University College Dublin, 7-10 September 2005


The authors teach Business English courses at the Graduate School of Economics and Business, Zagreb University. By learning about economics and business, the authors have realised how useful management motivation strategies and techniques can be for motivating students to study, do research, and prepare for lifelong learning.

Management motivation techniques have been very well studied, since they greatly enhance efficiency - the word in the business world. Managers have long been experimenting with different motivational tools, as these can translate into huge financial gains. Research into the motivation of employees started as early as in the first decade of the 19th century, while motivation theories in teaching started some 150 later. Moreover, there is significantly more money in business than in education, which has resulted in a lot more research and experimenting in motivating employees (and managers) than in motivating students (and teachers). Hence this "cross-fertilisation" - using business management techniques and human resource management techniques in education - seems a sound way of improving teaching, particularly in motivating students and developing their self-motivation, so important for lifelong learning (as put in the EC Memorandum on Lifelong Learning, 2000).

In the first section of the paper the authors analyse the similarities and differences between motivation theories in teaching on the one hand, and motivation theories in management on the other hand. The paper touches on a broad range of theories, from those of the classicalists in the field of educational psychology, through behavioural, cognitive, contingency, expectancy theories and some others, to the latest theories of neurological brain satisfaction. The authors compare these with the motivation theories in management, starting with the classicalists: from Fayol to the Gilbreths; behaviouralists: from Mayo to Herzberg; to the contemporaneous theories of reinforcement, expectancy, equity and intrinsic/extrinsic theories, rooted in psychology and widely used in both management and teaching, finishing with the most recent ones, developed in the 1990s.

The second part of the paper discusses the Human Resource Management (HRM) model which readily offers itself for use in teaching for the purpose of fostering student motivation. The HRM model emphasises the need to search for new ways of working, managing performance and managing motivation, encouraging employees to consider managers as "partners". Most of its strategies and techniques can be transferred to teaching: "delegating", "adding value", "benchmarking", "Business Process Re-engineering (BPR)", "Continuous Improvement", "Empowerment", "Management-by-Objectives (MBO)", "Multi-skilling", "Outsourcing", "Team-building" and "Total-Quality Management (TQM)", to name just the central ones. The attractive thing is that management science has developed steps and designed performance indicators, monitoring and auditing systems, and appraisal schemes. It has researched implications and found ways to hedge risks. These ideas, strategies and techniques can be fruitfully brought into teaching.

The third section of the paper presents and discusses the results of a survey into student motivation conducted by the authors in 2004 and 2005. The sample population encompassed 200 students in the 1st and 2nd year of their studies who answered closed and open-ended questions about the motivating factors in studying on the Business English course, and the contribution of these factors to their final results.

Treating students like "human capital" by using the motivation strategies and techniques of management science could help achieve the common goal of both teaching and management: enhance productivity, increase efficiency, boost quality, and prolong the "useful life" of the "final product".


Motivation is a central issue in the learning process, and it becomes even more important if class work is organised in large and heterogeneous groups where students are often left to themselves. Such teaching experience has encouraged the authors to research motivation literature and try to improve their course of Business English and Business Communication in English at the Graduate School of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb, a large school of about 10,000 full-time and part-time students.

The teacher's responsibility is to cater for all the students, dark horses and late bloomers alike, trying to give a push and a fair chance to everyone, in other words, trying to motivate all of them, using teaching and motivation techniques that could accommodate most of their differences. Furthermore, Business English teachers generally have to meet their students' short-term goals (reading literature in English, participating in international academic programmes, etc.) and their long-term career goals (business and cultural communication in English), eventually equipping them for autonomous and lifelong learning. In this, motivation also plays a key role.

Teaching Business English is generally very challenging as a result of the pace of change in the course content on the one hand, and the scope of the language, communication and cultural skills it requires on the other hand. It is therefore in the nature of a Business English teacher's job to constantly search for new materials in business literature. The authors have come across useful motivation strategies in management literature which could prompt teachers to increase their teaching performance. As a result of its profit-driven efficiency, the world of business is very specific about trying to find the best ways to motivate employees, knowing that a motivated employee will create the best value for the organisation. It is therefore worth considering management goals or reward systems in order to benefit from the highly practical approach business has taken in dealing with people.


General psychology considers "motivation" as a term covering a wide range of variables resulting in a multitude of definitions and theories. Yet, most researchers would agree that motivation concerns the direction and magnitude of human behaviour, in other words, it is related to the choice of an action, persistence with it, and the effort expended on it (Dörnyei, 2001a) .

Having the same starting point as that in psychology, in management theories motivation is narrowed to the research of processes that account for employees' willingness to exert high levels of effort to reach organisational goals, conditioned by the effort and ability to satisfy individual needs (Robbins and Coulter, 2001). The notions of needs, effort and goals are strongly rooted in the development of motivation theories in psychology, education and management, as will be shown in this paper.

Motivation theories

Motivation theories in psychology and education

Educational psychology holds that motivation is a major concept in most theories of learning. Early theories of motivation were mainly based on drives and instincts, leading to the classical motivation theories of biological responses to stimuli which further direct behaviour (Dörnyei, 2001b). Humanistic theories (Maslow) speak of an individual's drive to achieve his or her full potential through satisfying hierarchically organised needs. Weiner (1990) points out that behavioural theories tend to focus on extrinsic motivation (e.g. rewards), while cognitive theories deal with intrinsic motivation (e.g. goals). More recently, a neurological perspective of motivation research is seen in The Neurobiology of Affect in Language (1998) connecting abstract theoretical constructs to concrete biological mechanisms detected in the brain.

Dörnyei (2001a) speaks of two research traditions investigating the causes of human behaviour in psychology: motivational psychology and social psychology. While motivational psychology links behaviour to motives stemming from human mental processes, social psychology looks at a broader social and interpersonal context as reflected by the individual's attitudes.

Motivational psychology focuses on the following three groups of theories: expectancy-value theories, goal theories, and self-determination theories. The two cornerstones of expectancy-value theories, which began with Atkinson's achievement motivation theory in 1974, are expectancies of successful performance on the one side ("Can I do it?"), and the value of the action performed on the other ("Is it worth doing?"), both of which have a strong motivational impact. More specifically, whether people expect to perform successfully or not may depend on their past experiences (attribution theory), the judgment of their own abilities (self-efficacy theory), and the attempt to maintain their self-esteem (self-worth theory). Value as the second component of expectancy-value theories is discussed by Eccles and Wigfield (1995) who distinguish between attainment value (personal importance of performing well), intrinsic value (interest or sheer pleasure taken in an activity), extrinsic utility value (related to one's goals), and cost as the negative value component in terms of wasted time, effort or emotional involvement (Dörnyei, 2001a).

Goal theories are rooted in Maslow’s hierarchical needs theory (1970) identifying five types of sequentially satisfied needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualisation needs. Self-actualisation needs hold the highest rank in the hierarchy, which means that their turn comes only after all the other needs have been satisfied. It should be pointed out that current research often mentions goals rather than needs in order to stress the dynamic impact of a goal to be pursued rather than the state of just having a need. While goal-setting theories (Locke and Latham 1990) discuss the high motivational value of goals when they are specific, difficult, important and attainable, goal-orientation theories deal with people's motivation either to master a skill (mastery orientation) or to demonstrate ability, e.g. by getting good grades or outdoing other students (performance orientation as summarised by Ames in 1992).

Based on the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, the self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan 1985) describes interrelationships between the two mentioned kinds of motivation, arguing that the feelings/experience of autonomy, competence, and relatedness to others make people more self-determined, in other words, more intrinsically motivated.

Unlike motivation psychology which pays attention only to individuals, the focus of social psychological theories is on people's attitudes in relation to possible conflicts with social pressures (theory of reasoned action by Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980), together with perceived behavioural control (theory of planned behaviour by Ajzen, 1988).

In addition to the above, more recent educational research has increasingly been dealing with the broader sociocultural context impacting on the motivation to learn. Weiner (1994) mentions social motivation, and Urdan and Mahr (1995) contrast its different types (need for social welfare, social solidarity or social approval) to personal motivation (e.g. fulfilling personal desires). Furthermore, there is increasing interest in the motivational impact of different levels of social environments, such as cultural differences in terms of the value a culture places on learning, the importance of family and its support for education, or the impact of the immediate learning environment (class, school) and the motivational influence of teachers and peers.

Motivation theories in management

Motivation theories in management were first formulated in the works of the classical school of management thought. Thinking of how to best organise work in manufacturing factories, the classicalists (Henri Fayol, Max Weber, Frederick Taylor and Lillian and Frank Gilbreth) envisaged different principles aiming to increase the efficiency of workers, such as the division of labour, close supervision, fair remuneration, equity, etc. While many of the mentioned principles are still in use today, classicalists were criticised for putting too much emphasis on the financial benefits of work and treating people as only one more resource in manufacturing industry. The changing conditions of work and the appearance of trade unions called for other practical and theoretical responses to new developments in the work environment.

The Hawthorne studies of work performance as related to working conditions and workers' attitudes, and their interpretations by Elton Mayo, represent the beginning of behavioural management and the realisation that beyond merely trying to earn their living, people work to satisfy a number of other needs. In this respect, Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory, McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y, and Herzberg's motivation-hygiene theory represent the foundation for contemporary motivation theories and are still applied in management to explain employee motivation (Robbins, Coulter, 2001). According to these theories, extrinsic factors such as financial rewards are considered to be nothing more than a "hygiene factor" (Herzberg), able to satisfy a lower-level need (Maslow), and certainly not the only source of motivation, as employees often need to work to experience achievement and responsibility (McGregor). Workers are no longer seen as tiny cogs in the machine, and managers are encouraged to search for the individual potentials of their staff.

Other explanations of employee motivation are embodied in the three-needs theory, goal-setting theory, reinforcement theory, intrinsic/extrinsic theory, equity theory, and expectancy theory (Bahtijarevic-Siber, 1999). In addition to Atkinson's need for achievement, McClelland's three-needs theory introduces two more needs: the need for power and the need for affiliation (social relations), thus deepening the understanding of people’s, particularly managers', motives in work. The goal-setting theory advises managers first to clearly communicate specific and demanding goals to their employees, and then to provide accurate feedback as soon as possible. Based on the assumption that behaviour is externally caused, B.S. Skinner's reinforcement theory mentions positive reinforcers (e.g. giving a reward), negative reinforcers (withholding a reward), and punishment. To increase the motivation of their staff, managers are invited to use positive reinforcement only. Believing that a person can be motivated only by influencing extrinsic motivational factors and that no impact can be made on intrinsic factors, Madeline Hunter (intrinsic/extrinsic theory) states that managers should concentrate on making their workers accountable, providing timely and accurate feedback, leading workers to success, making jobs more interesting, and establishing unobtrusive communication with workers. Furthermore, managers should offer fair rewards, thus ensuring procedural justice as opposed to distributive justice (grade distribution) in the organisation, which will motivate employees regardless of their personal outcome (Adams's equity theory). Victor Vroom's expectancy theory, later connected by Porter and Lawler to Adams's equity theory, establishes three linkages relevant to work motivation: effort-performance ("Will my effort result in appropriate performance?"), performance-reward ("Will my performance be rewarded?"), and attractiveness of reward ("Is the reward attractive to me?"). The interrelatedness of the three elements makes managers aware of the importance of people's individual perceptions and their impact on performance.

It should be noted that, similar to trends in research on motivation in education, current studies of employee motivation (Robbins, Coulter, 2001) focus on broader social contexts such as cross-cultural challenges in management and the issue of managing a diverse workforce (men/women, professionals/low-skilled workers, permanent/temporary staff, foreign/local staff). It is also worth mentioning that particular attention has been paid to creative people, since they require an almost invisible management approach.

Comparing motivation theories in education and management

Not surprisingly, many overlaps are apparent in this brief overview of motivation theories in psychology and education on the one side, and management on the other. Originating in psychology and with the individual at the centre of its interest, both fields first took a rather mechanistic view of people as being mainly motivated by lower-order needs, i.e. physiological or material ones. It was later understood that human nature is much more complex, and names such as Maslow, Atkinson, or Vroom keep turning up in the field of management as well as in the sphere of education. These theories show that people, students and workers alike, have different levels of needs to satisfy and are more likely to perform well if treated fairly and if they have full awareness of what they are expected to do. Another similarity is that the tendency to explain motivation in the context of social and cultural influences is currently present both in management and in education research.

With regard to differences, it is clear that management and education, in other words, managers and teachers, have different goals. Managers are expected to make workers perform optimally for the sake of the organisation they work for, and teachers try to bring out the best in their students for the students' own benefit. Yet, for the purpose of this paper there is no substantial difference between the goals of teaching and the goals of management, as it often happens that due to their age students are not aware that they need to perform well for their own sake and usually need a lot of motivating effort from their teacher. Furthermore, while education theories seem to be more aware of the complexity of human nature and are less concentrated on their practical application, management theorists provide a theoretical framework to solve real-life situations and are more prone to prescriptive ways in an attempt to standardise human behaviour and make it contribute to organisational goals. More easily translatable into numerical values than in education, and more elaborately developed in measurable steps with a system of monitoring installed, management goals are usually clearer than the goals in teaching, which is where educators may additionally benefit from business.


Management motivation strategies are inevitably based on the overall management philosophy and its approach towards people, and what they want from their job. Rooted in the previously described management theories, management styles have moved away from the traditional classicalists' model based on the assumption that people do not like to work and that they need to be closely supervised and motivated only by money. Today's management styles have first turned to the human relations model, focusing on people who naturally seek acknowledgement at work, and further towards the human resource model, according to which the main task of a manager is to ensure that the organisation benefits from the employees' unused potential by encouraging their participation.

Management literature usually divides motivation strategies into two broad categories: financial (material) and non-financial (non-material). The focus of this paper will be on non-material employee motivation strategies, many of which can be, and some already are, applied in teaching.

Material (financial) rewards may be placed in parallel with grades in teaching. Yet, as important as grades are for student motivation, they primarily give feedback on the overall result of individual learning and may not always have much impact during the learning process itself. Another problem with grades is that, as a practical necessity, they try to turn knowledge and competences into numbers, thus often providing a rather simplistic or even inaccurate expression of a student’s knowledge. A parallel can be drawn with business which introduces the value of "human capital" in corporate financial statements, rendering the "hidden" brainpower into calculable and thus controllable assets (Salzer-Morling, Yakhlef, 1999). Moreover, the grading system can be demotivating for the weaker students, as the grade-related increase in the motivation of the better students may, in some cases, be more or less proportional to the decrease in motivation of the weaker students (Littlejohn, 2001). Similarly, punishments and rewards can also be considered as two sides of the same coin in business (Koebelin, 1999). They are easily used by managers to shape the behaviour of industrial workers, but there is a significant difference between the problem of how to increase production output, often a purely mechanical problem, and how to obtain maximum efficiency in creative teams searching for unique competitive advantage in today's global economy. In this respect, management literature sometimes mentions the danger of the wrong sort of motivational elements which tend to attract the wrong sort of people. Applied in education as an important element in the process of personality formation, this could be paraphrased as follows: the wrong sort of motivational elements will create the wrong sort of people driven not by true motivation, but by compliance behaviour. Even more importantly, this will not prepare the students for lifelong learning.

All this does not mean that grades or material rewards have no value in terms of motivation. Provided the reward system is clear and fair, they are probably the best indicator to a student/ worker of how successful his or her performance is. However, this should not be taken as the major motivational strategy, either in teaching or in business.

Some of the non-material management motivation strategies, many of which can be used in teaching, are mentioned by Bahtijarevic-Siber (1999) as follows: the job design model, management styles, participation, management by objectives (MBO), corporate culture, and self-motivation guidelines. A separate section is dedicated to business process re-engineering (BPR).

Job design

  • job enlargement – the horizontal expansion of a job by increasing the job scope, including multi-skilling (already applied in teaching, with the introduction of varied activities and tasks for students);
  • job enriching – the vertical expansion of a job by adding planning and evaluating responsibilities (present in project-based class work, but still insufficiently used in education);
  • job characteristics model (JCM) – identifies five primary job characteristics, their interrelationships, and their impact on employee productivity, motivation and satisfaction. The five characteristics are as follows (Robbins, Coulter, 2001):
  • skill variety - performing tasks requiring different skills (mostly present in education, since most teachers usually offer a range of different activities and tasks to their students);

    task identity - the degree to which a job requires completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work (present in project work in education);

    task significance – the degree to which a job has an impact on the lives or work of other people (insufficiently present in education, as students often wonder about the relevance of particular tasks. Teachers should therefore insist on assignments directly related to real life.);

    autonomy – providing substantial freedom, independence, and discretion to the individual in scheduling the work and determining the procedures to be used in carrying it out. (The degree of freedom will, of course, depend on the students' maturity, but it should be kept in mind that it is sometimes more important for students to feel free to choose, even if the choice is very limited. Let us not forget more recent motivation theories telling us about the importance of perceptions and how they affect motivation.);

    feedback - obtaining direct and clear information about the effectiveness of performance (too often present in education mainly at the formal level of grades. Awareness should be raised both in teachers and managers that informal positive feedback has a high motivational value for students and employees.).

    Participation and a path to improved quality

    As both teachers and managers naturally play a central role in their class/work environment, they are in a position to motivate their employees/students by the way they set goals, make decisions, communicate with them, and monitor them. In doing this, autocratic teachers/managers will be led by the "carrot and stick approach", while those applying the democratic style will insist on participation, involving delegation, empowerment, and mutual trust, thus ensuring the development of individual potentials. It is true that the democratic classroom can be a very challenging task for teachers with a larger number of students. However, if many corporations are trying to increase employee motivation and efficiency by encouraging their participation, should we not strive for "perfect participation" in our classroom which is still a much smaller environment in comparison with the corporate world? It should be pointed out here that to encourage participation does not mean to "enforce" it, but only to create the setting for employees/students to use such an opportunity.

    Furthermore, management literature often refers to "quality control circles (QCC)" as one of the ways to increase workers' participation. The idea originates in Japan where small groups of workers regularly meet, discuss operating problems, and make suggestions as to what could be improved. Classes would certainly benefit from student quality circles. This would be an opportunity for students, organised in groups which periodically change their members, to regularly comment on potential problems or suggestions and report back to the teacher on their conclusions. Their comments could cover a broad range of issues related to the course materials or teaching and examination methods. Such a practice would be useful both for teachers and students. Students would grow into more perceptive learners responsible for their own learning, and teachers would be given important feedback on their effort, both of which would increase the quality of classes. To paraphrase Brewster et al (2003) and apply their words on human resource management to teaching - the management of quality helps differentiate in terms of quality of delivery, allows teachers/schools to respond quickly to students' needs, eliminates poor quality ways of teaching, and generally reduces the cost of rework, thus increasing teaching and learning efficiency. Quality control circles are part of a broader concept known as total quality management (TQM) which involves all the participants in a process towards a quality improvement culture.

    Another strategy based on participation is management by objectives (MBO), a management technique much in use today which gained recognition in 1954 with Peter Drucker's book The Practice of Management. Its motivational impact lies primarily in the fact that employees take part in setting the goals of the organisation. According to goal-setting motivation theories, goals help employees focus their attention on what is important, regulate the amount of effort put into an activity, and strengthen the action plans needed to carry it out. Companies today insist on a shared mission and vision; these are not merely buzzwords, since one or two meaningful sentences can easily be kept in mind and may have a motivational impact on employees. Furthermore, management by objectives is linked to quantitative performance measures aligned with objectives, which can help in providing a clearer picture of the level of a person's success.

    What does this mean for teaching? It means defining the purpose of the course (or the "mission" in management jargon), analysing students' strengths and weaknesses in mastering the course material, setting goals and objectives (long-term and short-term), establishing methods of assessment and self-assessment, and designing reviewing procedures. Management literature emphasises the motivational value of objectives that are described as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Result-oriented and Time-limited). When done jointly with students, the process is even more valuable as it helps students not only to master the course material, but also equips them with a checklist of strategies aimed at improving their self-efficacy.

    Another way to increase student/employee participation is delegating, a technique much used in management, but still not fully exploited in teaching. One way to delegate is to take advantage of all the sources of information available to e-generations today. Students can be encouraged to constantly search for fresh web materials related to the course. They can select the materials together with the teacher and decide which to use in class and how. This would certainly help teachers and would also be a learning opportunity for students. When delegating certain tasks to students, teachers should first prepare them for the task, monitor their progress, make adjustments if necessary, check the task completed, and acknowledge the students' effort.

    Empowerment would be a form of delegating in which employees/students are fully responsible for part of the working/learning process. Students can be empowered to take the role of teacher occasionally, present the material, interactively involve other students, envisage methods of examination, and take full responsibility for the assessment following the previously-agreed assessment criteria. They can even decide to "outsource" a lecturer and invite someone to have a class with them. Different levels of benchmarking can also be suggested and performed by students who might in this way identify best practices and standards for comparison among themselves or with other classes and schools. All this requires a lot of preparation and consultation with the teacher, as well as monitoring and extensive feedback given by the teacher after the task is accomplished.

    Both delegation and empowerment often rely on teamwork as a way to increase the group's productivity in management and in education. Haasen (1997) speaks of a team's "motivational structure" in terms of its ability to carry out a meaningful task in business, one requiring multiple skills, different roles for team members, and collective responsibility for the outcome. Teaching experience shows that after the task is completed, it is motivating for students to be rewarded, both collectively as a team and individually.

    Organisational culture and class culture

    In today's business, a great deal of attention is given to organisational culture, or corporate culture. While Brewster et al (2003) define culture as a set of values, beliefs and views shared by the employees in a company, Bahtijarevic-Siber (1999) sees culture as a segment of the organisation which sends signals to the employees on what is desirable or undesirable, a definition which appears to be more indicative of the deliberate attempt of the organisation to create a certain way of behaviour. Bahtijarevic-Siber lists the features of highly-motivating corporate cultures:

  • fundamental values are linked to people and the quality of work provided
  • success is rewarded
  • creativity and risk-taking are encouraged
  • there are no punishments for mistakes
  • an open-door policy and direct, often informal, communication are practised
  • all ideas are listened to, regardless of who they are given by – what is said is more important than who says it
  • feelings of success, satisfaction, pride and loyalty are spread around the organisation
  • a spirit of unity and care for others, and a belief that the organisation will help employees if necessary
  • The role of the teacher is indisputable in developing class culture, as she or he creates and maintains the atmosphere in the classroom. Kushel's (1994) "peak performance managers" give their people sufficient reasons to want to excel, and at the same time see themselves in a service capacity dedicated to helping others to perform at peak. Such managers offer special assistance to standard performers, but stay out of the way of peak performers unless the latter ask for help. Finally, they enjoy life in the peak performance zone, both for themselves and for their people. Similarities with teachers are more than obvious. In such a pleasant learning environment, students are encouraged to take intellectual risks and are not afraid of mistakes. They are proud of their success and willing to put in more effort in the event of an occasional weaker performance, knowing that their teacher is there to help.

    Self-motivation guidelines

    Our students today belong to the generation which will have to compete fiercely in the global labour market. To illustrate the need for greater personal competitiveness, two sets of figures should be compared. The trend in business is towards greater efficiency following the concept of business process reengineering (BPR), in other words, from the "1x1x1" formula to the "˝ x 2 x 3" formula, the latter figures meaning "half the number of employees, double the pay, triple the output" (Bahtijarevic-Siber, 1999). With such staff reductions, the remaining half of the employees will be required to perform with excellence, take initiative, risk and responsibility, adapt to change, make decisions, and work in teams, which cannot be achieved without a great amount of self-motivation.

    As self-motivation is usually related to intrinsic motivation, no matter how motivating a teacher might be, once students stop attending classes, their hunger for more knowledge is likely to disappear unless the teacher and the overall education system have equipped them with lifelong learning strategies and helped them develop their long-term motivation. Management authors often underline the importance of self-set goals and job diversity for enhancing self-motivation, which can also be brought to teaching. Students should be made responsible for their own learning, both now and in the future, as work in the 21st century will mostly rely on self-motivated people, in other words, those with high self-efficacy and those who are full of intrinsic motivation. Can self-motivated learners be motivated, and is this not a contradiction in terms? There are opinions that motivation is not an external force that can be applied either to employees or students, but that these people should motivate themselves. Consequently, teachers/managers should create a friendly environment, thus raising students' awareness of themselves as self-regulated learners (Boekaerts, 1999). They should point out to their students the importance of individual development plans and their own responsibility for the choices ahead of them.

    The balanced scorecard approach

    Although not directly related to motivation, but to the overall performance of an organisation, the balanced scorecard represents a valuable management tool for teachers and schools to rethink their orientation and improve their overall performance. This approach, developed by Kaplan and Norton (Brewster et al, 2003), focuses on four important perspectives in business, namely, the customer perspective (How do customers see us?), the internal perspective (What must we excel at?), the innovation and learning perspective (Can we continue to improve and create value?), and the financial perspective (How do we look to shareholders?). In education, this could be modified as follows:

  • a student perspective

    (How do our students see us?)

  • an internal perspective

    (What must we excel at?)

  • an innovation and learning perspective
  • (Can we continue to improve and "add value"?)

  • other stakeholders' perspective - parents, the school, future employers, the state, etc.
  •  (How do we look to our stakeholders?)

    To "activate" the scorecard, the general goals of each of the four mentioned elements should be identified and followed by specific measures. Such a broad analysis of our teaching and of the educational institution itself could enhance both teaching and learning motivation, resulting in the implementation of the measures aimed at achieving the set goals.



    The aim of the research carried out in the spring of 2005 was to find out what students perceived as sources of motivation for the Business English course taught at the Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSEB), and whether management motivation techniques could help enhance student motivation. Four teachers of Business English surveyed their students (a total of 427) of the first (285) and second (142) year of study. The respondents had Business English as a compulsory course in 2004/2005. Only the respondents with attendance of over 75% were included in the survey. Over 90% of the respondents had a minimum of 9 years of learning English before coming to the university.

    The survey was based on a close-ended questionnaire preceded by an open-ended pilot questionnaire which encompassed 200 respondents of the same profile as described above. The pilot questionnaire was designed to elicit the students' opinions on possible sources of their motivation and reasons for it. A coding strategy was applied while processing the open-ended questions. Specific codes were assigned to all the distinct responses.

    The close-ended survey questionnaire consisted of 32 questions. The questions were based on the pilot respondents' answers (e.g. progress made, motivational impact of various teaching techniques), and on questions found in various employee motivation questionnaires used in management (e.g. questions related to goals, feedback, expectancy, equity, etc.).

    Results and Analysis

    The questionnaire was structured to cover two main areas: the student on the one side, and the teacher and teaching on the other. The main idea was to ascertain whether management motivation techniques could help a teacher to manage (enhance) student motivation and student performance..

    Section 1: Student

    In this section, the authors first wanted to find out about the respondents’ performance and their perception of their performance ("actual knowledge") both in secondary school (grades and student perception of actual knowledge acquired) and at GSEB (grades, expected grades, and actual knowledge acquired). The questions related to GSEB were more extensive as this was the authors' main interest in this research. Three sets of questions were then asked about the respondents' perception of progress made at GSEB (general assessment, motivation factors, obstacles).

    Secondary school vs. GSEB (grades, expectations, knowledge acquired)


    5 (the highest)




    1 (fail)

    average grade obtained






    perception of actual knowledge






    Table 1: Secondary school - average grade in English vs. students' perception of actual knowledge


    5 (the highest)




    1 (fail)

    average grade obtained






    average grade expected






    To what extent does the grade reflect your actual knowledge?

    5 (completely)




    1 (not at all)






    Table 2: GSEB - average grade in English vs. expectations and perception of actual knowledge

    The results show discrepancies between the grades obtained in secondary school and at GSEB. 95% of students obtained the highest grades (5 and 4) in secondary school as opposed to 65% at GSEB. However, it should again be pointed out that only the students with attendance of over 75% were included in the survey, which, in the authors' opinion, explains the still fairly high percentage with the highest grades obtained at GSEB (grades 4 and 5, totalling 65% of the surveyed sample), and the very low failure rate (grade 1 – 5%).

    Despite a high share with the highest grades (4 and 5) in secondary school (95%)(1), the respondents' perception of their actual high school knowledge looks more realistic, with 75% of them assessing it as "excellent" (5) or "very good" (4). These figures match the share of the respondents (76%) who expected the highest grades (4 and 5) in English at GSEB. The actual percentage with the highest grades (4 and 5) is 65%, and with the lower grades (3 and 2) altogether 30% (22% and 8% respectively). It should be noted here that the surveyed students come from five different groups taught by four different teachers.

    While about half of the respondents (51%) think that their grades in secondary school matched their actual knowledge, as many as 49% of them say that the grade reflected their knowledge only "moderately" (21%), "hardly" reflected it (15%) or reflected it "not at all" (13%). Such a large percentage of non-matching (49%) may be interpreted either as a lack of students' awareness of what their learning outcome should be (in other words, there was a lack of clear goals, a lack of clear communication of goals, or clear grading criteria), or their belief that they could do better if they retook the exam.

    Perception of progress

    The respondents were asked to assess their progress made in the Business English course at GSEB in the first year of study or, for the 2nd year students, in the first two years of study. The following figures represent the opinion of all the respondents (Fig. 1), the 1st year students only (Fig. 2) and the 2nd year students only (Fig. 3). The assessment was made on a scale ranging from 1 to 5 as follows:

    1– no progress at all

    2– very little progress

    3 – moderate progress

    4 – substantial progress

    5 – very high progress

    6 – no response

    Figure 1: Students' assessment of progress made in BE course – 1st year and 2nd year

    Figure 2: Students' assessment of progress made in BE course – 1st year

    Figure 3: Students' assessment of progress made in BE course – 2nd year

    Almost half of all the respondents (45%) assess their progress as "very high" (9%) or "substantial" (36%). As many as 72% of the 2nd year students ot;very high" or "substantial" as opposed to the 1st year students where the figure stands at 35%. There are several reasons for the differences between the 1st year and the 2nd year students in assessing the progress made. Firstly, the first year Business English exam eliminates the students whose level of general English is insufficient to master the syllabus, so the 2nd year students are "filtered". Secondly, 2nd year students have a much broader knowledge both of their core subjects (business and economics) and of English, and can therefore more easily master the study materials of the Business English course. Thirdly, due to their experience in the 1st year, these students are more autonomous and competent learners, and learning autonomy seems to be one of the basic "survival skills" in mastering the Business English programme in large classes. Finally, the teachers have worked on the students' motivation for learning Business English, and the students' motivation does increase in the 2nd year.

    Furthermore, students were asked to rate the factors which contributed to their progress in mastering Business English at GSEB on a scale from 1 (the least important), to 5 (the most important). The percentages in the following table were obtained by adding the two highest grades, 4 and 5, in each element. The following table shows how the respondents distribute the strongest motivating factors that have contributed to their progress.

    In the progress you have made, how important is the contribution of …?

     % students who answered “very important” or “highly important”
    you and your own effort


    course materials (course book, business press, project material researched)


    teaching methods


    teacher's personality


    course syllabus


    Table 3: The highest ranking factors perceived as major contributors to the respondents' progress

    A large percentage of the respondents attribute their progress to themselves (70.63%), which might suggest a high degree of autonomous learning and perceived self-efficacy.

    Students' dissatisfaction

    A fairly large percentage of the respondents (41%) were not satisfied with their performance. As a share of the total sample, about 8% pointed to their poor pre-knowledge of English as a reason for underperformance, 11% mentioned the incomprehensible course materials, 6% the teacher, and 16% a personal lack of interest.

    Students opinion on the reasons for underperformance in BE

    % students

    A general lack of interest in the course


    Incomprehensible course material


    Poor pre-knowledge of English




    Table 4: Perceived reasons for underperformance

    Asked about class participation, 43% of the respondents say they participate successfully, but 52.23% say they do not (7% did not answer the question). However, 78.6% find "listening to other participants interesting", and 92.71% find they feel that "everybody is given the right to participate", and "everybody's ideas are appreciated".

    A surprisingly high percentage of respondents (50%) say that they are "shy" which prevents them from active involvement in class discussion, oral group work, the presentation of project work, simulations of business meetings/negotiations, etc, especially in large groups(2)

    Section 2: Teacher and teaching methods

    Management strategies and techniques of motivation are linked to the role oho also leads the class and takes responsibility for the students’ success.


    The teachers were given a high score in several questions in the questionnaire. A majority of the respondents (59.82%) say that the teacher is “the most important” and “a very important” reason why they come to classes.  It seems that in order to be a good motivator, a teacher should possess personal, professional and managerial skills.

    Personal human skills ("softskills" in management) include the teacher's (manager's) communication skills, individual approach to every student, fairness, enthusiasm, rapport with students, patience, being able to give criticism constructively and discretely, creating a positive working atmosphere, but also being able to motivate himself/herself.

    Professional competencies and skills include the teacher's expertise in the subject taught (language and business in the case of the authors of the paper), teaching methodology, preparedness for classes (which is part of both personal and professional integrity), ability to communicate course/class objectives clearly and in a timely manner and to link the topics and materials with the current business issues.

    The list could be extended with the teacher's managerial skills to build and manage teams, give clear instructions, provide prompt feedback, create a democratic classroom, communicate professional expectations to students, create fair, efficient and motivating appraisal schemes, give recognition to students, etc.

    What in their teacher motivates students? The students were offered a question in which each item needed to be assessed on a scale from 1 ("not motivating at all") to 5 ("highly motivating"). The results presented below were obtained by combining the two highest responses (5 – "highly motivating" and 4 – "very motivating").

    How does your teacher motivate you?

    % of "highly motivating" and "very motivating"

    Creating a democratic classroom


    Creating a positive working atmosphere


    Rapport with students


    Encouraging students to participate actively


    Preparedness for classes






    Showing examples from current business practice


    Individual approach to every student


    Constructive criticism given individually and discreetly


    Table 4: How does your teacher best motivate you?

    The teacher's effort to "create a democratic classroom" is appreciated most by the respondents: 78% of the respondents found it "highly motivating" and "very motivating". For 69% of the students "creating a positive working atmosphere in classes" is highly and very motivating, as well as "rapport with the students" (68%). This is closely followed by "encouraging students to participate actively" (63%), and then by "preparedness for the classes" (61%). the teacher's "patience" fares highly (61%), and is followed by "enthusiasm" (58%), then by "showing examples from current business practice" (54%). An "individual approach to every student", and "constructive criticism given individually and discreetly" is also highly valued by many students (45% and 40% respectively), which is not surprising since the course is held in large groups. The results indicate that at their young age (18 or 19) students are primarily perceptible to the "soft", human skills of the teachers.

    Teaching methods


    Figure 4 shows how confident and independent the students feel in choosing tasks and materials on their own. Since only 28% of the respondents prefer choosing tasks and course materials on their own, it seems that the efforts of the teachers to empower their students have only partially succeeded. Students apparently prefer a combined approach, which can also be explained by the predominance of the 1st year students in the sample.

    Figure 4: Independent choice of materials and tasks – student preferences

    Figure 5: Independent choice of materials and tasks – students’ perception of the 9; teacher's preferences

    Most motivating teaching methods

    Here the respondents were offered a list of teaching methods used in class and were asked to grade each of them according to their motivational impact on a scale ranging from 1 ("not motivating at all") to 5 ("highly motivating").

    In order to see the main trends, the results from the table are interpreted in a way that the "4" and "5" grades are taken together as approximations, and the same is done with "unmotivating" and "barely motivating at all" (grades 1 and 2). The middle grade (3) is not commented on, as it is not significant enough to have either a positive or a negative motivational impact.

    Tasks and activities

    % of students who consider the task/activity "highly motivating" or "very motivating"



    Class discussions


    Pair work




    Task diversity


    Group work (in class)


    Office hours


    Individual work (in class)






    Table 5: Students' list of motivating teaching methods

    The most motivating teaching method (4 and 5 – "highly motivating" and "very motivating" taken together) for the respondents is the simulation of business meetings (c. 65% of the respondents), followed by discussions (c. 63%), pair work (c. 58%) and students' presentations (c.55%) based on student research of their own choice but related to the syllabus. Task diversity in class is also much appreciated by 51% of the respondents.

    The next group (over 40%) is group work in class (c. 49%), work with the teacher in office hours (c. 44%) when the teacher helps students to solve their individual problems related to the course , and individual work in class (c. 42%).

    Near the bottom of the list come lectures, with only 30% of respondents rating them either as "highly motivating" or "very motivating", while even more students find them "unmotivating" or "barely motivating at all" (1 and 2 – c. 34%). Home assignments had the lowest ranking, 24% rating them either as "highly motivating" or "very motivating".

    Class management

    The research found weaker areas in the teachers' work where certain deficiencies could be corrected by the teachers themselves. The first such area refers to the goals of the course.

    Question: Do you ...?

    % respondents who answered "Yes"

    a) know the course goals


    b) agree with the course goals


    c) can formulate them in three sentences


    d) know the objectives of each class


    e) know what the teacher expects of you


    Table 6: Respondents’ awareness of the course goals


    % respondents who answered "Yes"

    f) Are you motivated by the grading system?


    g) Do you find the grading system fair?


    Table 7: Respondents' opinion of the grading system

    As good as these figures may look, the gaps are obvious. When reversed, the results show the following:

    about one third of the sample (27.5%) are not quite sure why they are doing what they are doing, because the goals have not been clearly communicated, explained in a simple way, and reiterated (a); again, about a third (31.86%) cannot formulate the course goals concisely, which may mean they do not really understand them (c); and 26.59% of the respondents do not know what the teacher expects of them (e); furthermore, 26.78% are not motivated by the grading system (f) and 22.00% of the respondents find the grading system not fair (g).

    These gaps necessarily diminish students' motivation and point to the lack of the teachers' managerial skills.

    When asked about the feedback provided by the teacher in different situations, the respondents answered as follows:

    "Are you provided with the timely feedback by your teacher after accomplishing the following tasks?"



    class discussion


    presentations / meetings


    progress tests


    final exam


    Table 8: Respondents' perception of the feedback provided by the teacher

    The table shows that the teachers provide timely feedback to a large majority of the respondents while in class (81% for class discussion and 93% for simulated meetings and presentations), but improvements could be made in the cases of testing and written examinations.


    Having provided a brief analysis of motivation theories in psychology and education on the one side, and in management literature on the other, this paper has shown that the two groups of theories draw on the same body of psychological research which develops from focus on the individual to a broader social and cultural context of motivation. Motivational theorists, both in management and education, have taken some time to understand that human beings are not hewn from the same block and that complex sources of motivation appeal to different persons. The specific value of management motivation theories for teaching lies in the fact that they often provide a well-developed and practically-oriented analytical framework that seeks to make management of employees as efficient as possible.

    The practical application of the mentioned theories is seen in management motivation strategies. These are aimed at achieving the ideal in business: to align a company's vision/mission/goals to those of the employees, since only then can employees develop deep intrinsic motivation to excel. In this sense, the management ideal does not differ from the ideal striven for in teaching – to make the course goals intrinsically shared by students. Furthermore, motivational strategies used in business are well-elaborated and are often communicated to the employees, while progress is measured against the set goals, and the results are rewarded. In the sphere of teaching, such techniques can productively help students develop motivation and even instil self-motivation, and can also help teachers manage the course, the classroom, students' motivation, and their own performance. At the same time, they make teachers' and students' lives easier, as they signal where the weak spots are and sound an alarm. If such a system is installed in teaching, it can prevent underperforming teachers from "ruining" the class, can provide assistance for underperforming students, and peak performers on both sides will also appreciate its clarity and structure.

    This is demonstrated in the gaps and convergences identified in the survey presented in this paper. These gaps (e.g. satisfaction with grades vs. assessment of actual knowledge, self-efficacy, feedback, etc.) necessarily diminish students' motivation and indicate a lack of managerial skills in their teachers. This group of unsatisfied respondents is the unused potential or a wasted resource, which could be helped with the right management techniques. Interestingly, the survey shows that the biggest single motivator is the student himself/herself, while well over half of all respondents single out the teacher as the greatest motivator for coming to class in the first place. The results also show high appreciation for the teacher's personal human skills and professional skills, while managerial skills are also rated very highly.

    Is it not true that teachers know all this from the teaching system itself? In fact, was it really necessary to go to management literature for such conclusions? Yes, teachers have known about it - in some cases as part of well-written course books - yet teaching practice has much too often seen it done in an ad hoc and sporadic way, and not as a system. Management motivation techniques in business are monitored and regularly audited. The logic of such techniques is visible from the inside, to students, and from the outside, to other stakeholders, of which the labour market is the first and the foremost evaluator.

    To conclude, every teacher should find out what motivates their students most and should adjust the teaching strategies and techniques accordingly, always bearing in mind that it is long-term motivation which is crucial. Teachers' work in developing self-motivation in students needs to be included in the course goals which should be clearly communicated to the students. Students must be constantly reminded that only the self-motivated students, with high self-efficacy and deep intrinsic motivation will survive in the labour market. They alone will become the "market leaders" and "market challengers". The rest will share the destiny of "market followers" who disappear in the turbulence of the market.


    1. Neither elementary nor secondary schools in Croatia have uniform grading criteria, although the grading system is the same. On top of that, school teachers feel pressurised by the fact that the grades they give are critical for the enrolment of their pupils in universities. GSEB, for example, has an entry system in which the secondary school results (including the grade in English) make up to one third of the possible final score. The other two thirds come from the results of the entrance exam.

    2. Another reason for the high percentage of students who perceive themselves as shy could lie in the fact that in Croatia neither elementary schools (from the age of 7 to 15) nor secondary schools (from the age of 15 to 19) insist very much on interactive teaching. However, this has been changing recently.


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    This document was added to the Education-Line database on 21 October 2005