This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Examining the Relationship between Principal Leadership, Teacher Motivation, and the Classroom Environment




Shepherd-Jones, Anna

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


One purpose of this study was to examine the different aspects of a school environment including leadership, motivation, and instruction. Specifically, the following relationships were investigated: (a) principal leadership styles and teachers’ motivation at work, (b) teachers’ motivation to work and the conditions in which they motivate their students, and (c) teachers’ motivation to work and the learning experiences they provide their students. Moreover, another prevailing purpose was also to determine the implications of the findings for school leaders seeking to support teacher motivation, student autonomy, and authentic intellectual work in the classroom. Previous research has not examined these relationships through the theoretical lenses provided by the two fields of educational leadership and educational psychology. Moreover, related research has not explored these relationships by collecting data from both teachers and administrators within the same school system populations. Also unlike extant literature, the research design of this study called for the collection of quantitative and qualitative data in order to triangulate findings and provide richer data to explain these complex constructs inherent to a learning organization. The results from surveys completed by 141 K-12 educators and interviews conducted with six administrators in two southeastern participating school systems were analyzed. The survey consisted of three scales designed to measure teachers’ perceptions of their principal’s leadership style, psychological need satisfaction at work, and motivational orientation. The survey also asked teachers to upload an original activity that incorporated challenging learning experiences for students which was then evaluated based on rigor and relevance. These survey results were analyzed using statistical methods such as a one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and multiple regression. The findings were then shared with participating administrators during an interview in order to determine implications for educational leadership practices. Results from the multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) indicated principals’ leadership styles significantly affected teachers’ motivation, and post hoc tests revealed that the facets of their motivation that were significantly affected included their feelings of autonomy, relatedness, and competence at work. Specifically, teachers reported significantly greater psychological need satisfaction when their principal held a democratic leadership style. Based on the responses from interviews, participating administrators appeared to lead with a democratic style and their support of teachers’ autonomy, competence, and relatedness also emerged along with other motivational strategies. Furthermore, results from multiple regression analyses suggested that teachers’ motivation did not significantly predict their support of students’ autonomy nor their implementation of authentic intellectual work. The administrator participants were the most surprised by these findings and stated that based on their experiences, highly motivated teachers did effectively implement these motivational and instructional strategies. However, the administrators infrequently mentioned student autonomy, rigor, or relevance when discussing highly motivated teachers before these survey results were revealed in the interview, reflecting the insignificant results from the survey.