Online motivational interventions for teachers: Longitudinal effects on attributions, burnout, and quitting intentions

Nathan C. HALL, Anne C. FRENZEL, Thomas GOETZ, Hui WANG, Sonia RAHIMI

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Objectives. Given the demonstrated potential for brief online motivational interventions to enhance psychological adjustment and performance in educational settings (Yeager & Walton, 2011), research over the past decade has intensively explored the benefits of training instructors to utilize optimal teaching and assessment methods derived from research on achievement goals (e.g., goal structures; Linnenbrink, 2005), task values (e.g., value enhancement; Hulleman et al., 2010), and self-determination (e.g., autonomy support: Ryan & Deci, 2009). Perhaps the most long-standing research literature on the effects of classroom-based motivational programs is based on Weiner’s (1985, 2006) attribution theory that for 30+ years has demonstrated consistent motivational, affective, and achievement benefits of encouraging students to adopt controllable explanations (attributions) for failure experiences (i.e., Attributional Retraining (AR); for reviews, see Haynes et al., 2009; Wilson et al., 2002). However, despite considerable research on programs for students, and a burgeoning literature on motivation and adjustment in teachers, there exists little published research on the longitudinal effects of theoretically-based, motivational interventions for teachers. To address this research gap, our study examined the long-term psychological benefits of a brief, online motivational intervention for teachers.

Method. In Feb. 2013, 526 Canadian teachers (85% female, Mage = 41.31) at the primary (51%), secondary (43%), and junior college levels (6%) participated in an online study with Phases 1 and 2 (N = 422, 6 month lag) administering a questionnaire evaluating motivation and emotion constructs including causal attributions (adapted from McAuley et al., 1992), burnout (emotional exhaustion; Maslach et al., 1986), and intentions to quit (Hacket et al., 2001). Following the Phase 1 questionnaire, teachers were randomly assigned to a control or intervention condition (~20 mins) providing a brief set of readings (~800 words) outlining methods and findings from AR research with students, contrasting the motivational benefits of controllable failure attributions (e.g., insufficient effort) with the disadvantages of uncontrollable attributions (e.g., lack of ability). Teachers then reviewed two segments from a published handbook providing user-friendly instructional and assessment advice based on attribution and emotion research (e.g., attributions implied to students via expressed emotion; ~900 words) and completed five reflection questions (e.g., summarization, elaboration, relevance).

Results and Discussion. A latent change, fully recursive SEM analysis of the effects of the intervention (exogenous) on the intercept and slope for attributions (mediator) and burnout (endogenous) fit the data well (CFI = .983, RMSEA = .045), showing AR to predict decreased exhaustion, β = .151, p = .010, and controllable attributions for student failure to generally predict lower exhaustion, β = -.146, p = .012 (no mediation). A second analysis further showed AR to predict decreased exhaustion, β = .160, p = .006, that in turn predicted decreased quitting intentions, β = .225, p = .001 (CFI = .951, RMSEA = .081). Taken together, these results highlight the potential utility of brief, web-based motivational programs for improving long-term adjustment and attrition in teachers such that, by equipping teachers with effective strategies for motivating students, it may be possible to improve not only student development but also teacher well-being. Copyright © 2015 AERA.


Conference2015 Annual Meeting of American Educational Research Association: "Toward Justice: Culture, Language, and Heritage in Education Research and Praxis"
Abbreviated titleAERA 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityChicago, Ill.
Internet address


Hall, N. C., Frenzel, A. C., Goetz, T., Wang, H., & Rahimi, S. (2015, April). Online motivational interventions for teachers: Longitudinal effects on attributions, burnout, and quitting intentions. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) 2015 Annual Meeting, Chicago, US.


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