The Impact of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Incentives on Teacher Morale

Gayle Denise Merkerson, Tennessee State University


Many academic professionals have considered teacher morale and its influence on the school environment. Low teacher morale has been an issue for many years. As such, administrators have tried to find different means to help thwart this lull. Because the research suggests that low teacher morale negatively impacts student performance and teacher retention, it is important for educational leaders to consider ideas designed to bolster teacher morale. Hence, this qualitative study attempted to find out the impact of intrinsic and extrinsic incentives on teachers’ morale. The theoretical framework for this study was threefold. First, David McClelland’s Needs Theory of Achievement, Affiliation and Power provided a framework for consideration of how individuals are motivated in a work environment based on their different experiences. Next, Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory highlighted the importance of researchers’ consideration of the five different types of [teacher] needs being met in a specific order. Third, Frederick Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory of Motivation-Hygiene provided a framework to analyze the factors that cause satisfaction and dissatisfaction in the workplace. For this study, purposive sampling techniques were used. All participants were certified classroom teachers with five or more years of experience in urban school districts located in Georgia and Tennessee. Individual interviews were conducted using an open-ended questionnaire via ZOOM over a period of three days. In an additional session via email, member checking was utilized for accuracy and validity purposes. Results revealed that motivation and morale were increased in 100% of teachers studied based on two research-based strategies designed to enhance and/or improve teacher morale. These included team-building activities and a plethora of creative incentives offered by administrators. Findings also indicated that many teachers favored intrinsic incentives such as verbal praise and recognition in addition to other non-tangible items. Teachers also enjoyed receiving extrinsic incentives. These included actual gifts and other tangible rewards from their administrators. These findings showed that the use of both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives are viable avenues to help increase the morale of teachers.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Occupational psychology

Recommended Citation

Gayle Denise Merkerson, "The Impact of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Incentives on Teacher Morale" (2021). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI28775960.