Seminar on teacher motivation – Achievement goals for teaching: What are they and do they matter?

Letters spelling "motivation"
Image Jesper Sehested, PlusLexia (, 2018, (CC BY 2.0).

Join us for a seminar by visiting scholar Professor Ruth Butler from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Ask how her approach is being applied to university teaching!


Student motivation has long been a major focus of theory and research in educational psychology, but it took motivation researchers many years to begin to wonder about teacher motivation. I shall present and then critique my achievement goal framework for conceptualising, assessing, and studying teacher motivation. I shall draw on my own work and on studies across four continents over the last decade to address three main questions:

  1. what are personal achievement goals for teaching,
  2. do they matter, in that they are differentially associated with more versus less adaptive processes and outcomes among teachers and their students, and
  3. what influences teachers’ achievement goals.

In my critique, I shall focus on some pitfalls and limitations of extrapolating directly from theory and research on student motivation, as I initially did, and as many continue to do. I shall describe how considering differences between teachers and students, and especially the inherently interpersonal nature of teaching led me to conceptualise a new and it seems very meaningful ‘relational’ goal for teaching. I shall conclude with some implications for educational practice and policy.


     When: Tuesday 14th May, 2019 @ 4-5pm

     Where: Room 612, Education Building A35

     RSVP: Friday 10th May to

     Hosted by: MOVEicp Research Network


Ruth Butler’s Research Background

Much of my research has focused on the determinants and consequences of school-age students’ motivation, which I have studied from a social-cognitive and mainly achievement goal perspective. In keeping with my interest in addressing educational disparities and inequity, I have also examined how gender and achievement influence student motivation and how learning environments and especially educational assessment influence the motivation of girls and boys and students of diverse abilities. Over the last decade, I have become interested in teacher motivation. I developed a novel conceptualization and measure of achievement goals for teaching that has proven very fruitful in understanding and predicting teachers’ professional engagement, well- and ill-being, strategies of coping and defense, and instructional approaches and behaviors, as well as the motivation and learning strategies of their students. I have applied my research by developing educational interventions and training programs in the areas of educational assessment and student and teacher motivation.

I received a PhD from the Hebrew University, and joined the faculty of the School of Education at HU after postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley. Among other positions, I served as Dean of the School of Education, and Chair of the Tenure Committee for candidates from the Faculties of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Law, and Schools of Education, Social Work, and Business and as Chair of the Center for Research on Teaching and Teacher Education. I have been a visiting professor and scholar at UC Berkeley, Stanford University, Columbia University, Boston College, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and the Max Planck Institute of Human Development and Educational Research, Berlin. I also worked for many years as a School Psychologist.

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