How to improve teaching practices: The role of teacher motivation, organizational factors, and leadership practices

Erik E.J. Thoonen*, P.J.C. Sleegers, Frans J. Oort, Thea T.D. Peetsma, Femke P. Geijsel

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    256 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: Although it is expected that building schoolwide capacity for teacher learning will improve teaching practices, there is little systematic evidence to support this claim. This study aimed to examine the relative impact of transformational leadership practices, school organizational conditions, teacher motivational factors, and teacher learning on teaching practices.

    Research Design: Data were collected from a survey of 502 teachers from 32 elementary schools in the Netherlands. A structural model was tested on the within-school covariance matrix and a chi-square test taking into account nonindependence of observations.

    Findings: Results suggest that teachers’ engagement in professional learning activities, in particular experimenting and reflection, is a powerful predictor for teaching practices. Teachers’ sense of self-efficacy appeared to be the most important motivational factor for explaining teacher learning and teaching practices. Motivational factors also mediate the effects of school organizational conditions and leadership practices on teacher learning and teaching practices. Finally, transformational leadership practices stimulate teachers’ professional learning and motivation and improve school organizational conditions.

    Conclusions: For school leaders, to foster teacher learning and improve teaching practices a combination of transformational leadership behaviors is required. Further research is needed to examine the relative effects of transformational leadership dimensions on school organizational conditions, teacher motivation, and professional learning in schools. Finally, conditions for school improvement were examined at one point in time. Longitudinal studies to school improvement are required to model changes in schools’ capacities and growth and their subsequent effects on teaching practices.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)496-536
    JournalEducational administration quarterly
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • Organization
    • School leadership
    • Teacher learning
    • Teacher motivation
    • Teaching


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