How teachers' motivation and mindset predicts how they teach

A new study (Vermote et al., 2020) examines how the motivation and mindset of higher education teachers (N = 357) relates to their teaching styles. This research is interesting for the following reasons:
  1. It investigates the circumplex model of motivational styles. Aelterman et al. (2019) have previously investigated and confirmed the circular structure in secondary schools. The current study does this in higher education, 
  2. It looks at the separate relationship between motivation and mindset on the one hand and teaching styles on the other. 
Does teacher motivation predict their teaching style? Does the mindset of teachers predict their teaching style? Read answers to these questions below.


The main variables in the study were:

  1. The motivation of the teachers was measured using the WTMST scale on the basis of which a score was calculated for Autonomous Motivation, Controlled Motivation and Amotivation for each teacher (read more about these terms).
  2. The teaching style was measured using the SISQ-HE scale, a situational questionnaire on the basis of which scores for 4 teaching styles (and 8 sub-styles) were calculated per teacher. Ten teaching situations are described in the SISQ-HE. Some ways of reacting are described for each situation. Respondents were asked to indicate to what extent these ways of responding correspond to how they have acted themselves this school year.
  3. Teachers' mindsets were measured using a slightly modified version of the Implicit Theory of Intelligence scale (Dweck et al., 1995) based on scores for a fixed mindset and a growth mindset were calculated per teacher.

In addition, three other scales were included in the study to measure the construct validity of the SIS-HE. These were the PCT, the TASCQ and the SEQ.

Overall results

The main results were:

  1. The circular structure of the teaching styles was confirmed through multidimensional scale analysis.
  2. Hierarchical regression analyzes found that the motivation and mindset of teachers predicted the teaching style of teachers in different ways.

Construct validity SISQ-HE

The table below provides information on the construct validity of the SISQ-HE scale. By studying the table you can get an impression of what the different motivation (sub)styles entail.

Association of motivation and mindset with teaching styles

In the article you can read the detailed results. In the table below, I have summarized and simplified the most interesting results regarding the relation between motivation and mindset and teaching styles. The columns represent (sub) styles of teaching, the rows are respectively about the mindset and motivation of the teachers. For clarity, I made favorable correlations blue and unfavorable red (to avoid confusion: a negative correlation with something negative is favorable).

 Summarized in words:

  1. Both the mindset and motivation of teachers are related to how they teach. You can roughly say that autonomous motivation and a growth mindset are positively associated with more motivational teaching styles.
  2. Autonomous motivation in teachers is positively related to all four motivational teaching styles: participatory, coordinating, guiding and clarifying.
  3. A growth mindset in teachers is related to 2 motivational teaching styles: guiding and clarifying. It is surprising to me that a growth mindset was also negatively associated with participation. 
  4. At the same time, it is the case that controlled motivation, amotivation and a fixed mindset were positively associated with more demotivating teaching styles.


This research forms another small piece in the complex puzzle of creating a motivating teaching climate. Previous research has already shown how motivation styles are related to teacher effectiveness. Roughly speaking, it looks like this:

The research by Vermote et al. provides an indication that both the motivation and mindset of teachers are relevant to how they teach. Autonomous motivation and a growth mindset of the teacher appear to contribute to effective teaching styles and thus to motivated and high-performing students. Controlled motivation, amotivation and a fixed mindset of teachers can undermine their effectiveness and thus the quality of education.

Implications for practice

It seems advisable to keep investing in the following things:

  1. stimulating autonomous motivation and a growth mindset in teachers
  2. preventing and / or reversing amotivation, controlled motivation and a fixed mindset in teachers