Designing TPD programs to overcome motivational barriers: 10 strategies

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It is critical to identify and mitigate motivational barriers teachers may face with participation, acquisition, or application of new skills. Photo: Flickr/Worldbank It is critical to help teachers with application of new skills. Photo: Flickr/Worldbank

Finding the motivation to change is hard. It is particularly daunting in a workplace, where individuals may be used to the same routine day in and out, or where they may be poorly supported to innovate or try something new. In the case of teachers, finding the motivation to apply new professional skills, even after they have gained these skills through teacher professional development (TPD), can be difficult.

In part, this can be because teachers are often overworked, under supported, or recognized, and now more than ever are overwhelmed by increasing challenges in day-to-day work. COVID-19 has increased the burden on teachers as they manage challenges such as remote learning, remedial education, while attending to psychosocial needs of students, and their own health and well-being. These challenges and low motivation levels are especially true of teachers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In this context, teachers need TPD that helps them mitigate learning losses and addresses the differentiated learning needs of their students.

Effective TPD programs should take into consideration human behaviors and motivators when designing and implementing programs. This entails identifying and mitigating motivational barriers teachers may face with participation, acquisition, or application of new skills. Here are ten strategies, outlined in 3 phases, for addressing motivational barriers that draw from empirical evidence and country practices from Kenya, Peru, Yemen, and Zambia, among others.

Phase 1: TPD Participation

  • Strategy 1. Diagnose and tailor TPD to professional needs and classroom contexts so that teachers find meaning. Use data from classroom observations and teacher surveys to identify and prioritize learning needs for teachers so that it is more meaningful to their needs. Research shows that adults are better able to master new skills that are relevant to their needs and contexts.
  • Strategy 2. Clearly communicate TPD goals, details, and utility so that teachers can make informed decisions to participate. Leverage communication channels that are preferred by teachers in your context to bridge information barriers that may limit or influence teachers’ willingness to participate. Lack of information or inaccurate information about TPD programs’ goals, relevance, logistics, and incentives can negatively influence teachers’ decision and ultimate motivation to participate.  
  • Strategy 3. Allow choices so that teachers can feel stronger ownership for their learning. Offering flexibility to choose not just the content (what) but also the mode (how) and time (when) can enhance teachers’ sense of ownership and drive for learning.

Phase 2: Acquisition of New Skills and Knowledge 

Phase 3: Application of TPD Learnings 

  • Strategy 7. Provide regular feedback during implementation so that teachers can feel supported and encouraged to persevere. Approaches can take the form of providing teachers with in-person, virtual, or blended access to mentors or coaches who can provide structured feedback to them. Research shows that obtaining feedback from a knowledgeable observer can help teachers with implementation.
  • Strategy 8. Provide opportunities to collaborate so that teachers can build relationships. Create one-on-one or small-group; formal or informal; school-based or virtual communities of practice for teachers to learn and grow together. Teachers need to see visible results to believe in new programs and sustain changes in teaching practices. By engaging with a learning community, teachers are in a better position to maintain their excitement for applying new practices.
  • Strategy 9. Provide ongoing opportunities so that teachers can remain engaged. Ongoing support can include recurring workshops, coaching sessions, or engagement on online platforms. To extend engagement, consider also providing access to support materials such as teacher guides and lesson plans. TPD that translates into changes in practice requires time, that is why it is necessary to design continuous support with follow-ups into the TPD opportunity.
  • Strategy 10. Recognize and promote teachers for successful application of TPD learnings so that teachers can feel a sense of accomplishment. Align TPD with career paths and teacher standards; provide certification; and celebrate achievements. Teachers often are not motivated to apply what they learn in TPD because neither their efforts are recognized as much nor are their career advancement opportunities dependent on their increased effort.

To learn more about implementing these strategies and their contextual considerations, review the Motivating Changes in Teaching Practices technical guidance note. The note presents evidence-based strategies that can help teachers overcome motivational barriers to behavioral change in the TPD journey.

As the Coach team prepares a final version of the note for publication, we are seeking feedback to ensure that the guidance is comprehensive, clear, and useful for practitioners and other stakeholders in a range of contexts. How can we make this guidance more useful for practitioners around the world? And are there other motivational barriers and/or enablers we should include? Please reach out to us at to share your feedback by April 30th 2022 and stay tuned for more opportunities to engage with our work!

This guidance note is part of a package of tools for countries and stakeholders to support teacher professional development. Please visit this link to learn more about Coach, the World Bank’s flagship initiative on teacher in-service professional development.

Further reading:


Manal Quota

Senior Education Specialist

Jayanti Bhatia

Consultant in the Education Global Practice

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