What Makes Them Tick?

Ella Ingram


Change agents universally work with colleagues, administrators, internal and external partners, and others. Let’s take as a given that these individuals have priorities and interests about which they are highly motivated. One change strategy that we as change agents can use is describing opportunities to engage in a change project in ways that are motivationally attractive. But first, we have to know what makes them tick.

In his classic essay “Carrots and Sticks”, Jon Wergin described a simple model of faculty motivation in four parts: autonomy, community, recognition, and efficacy (ACRE). This model combines elements of self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci 2000) and what psychologists know about extrinsic motivation (classic reward systems). Although the ACRE model specifically calls out faculty, it gives us direction and tools for creating and framing change activities in ways amenable to the broad community of academic professionals.

First some definitions. Autonomy is the freedom to experiment, to do things without fear of consequences, the power to grow, and to follow one’s own lead especially in ways that add to the common good. Not surprisingly, community is described by participating in the assembly of scholars, belonging to a place and system, playing an important and unique role, and giving and receiving nurturing from colleagues. Recognition comes in any form that causes the individual to feel valued both privately and publicly, to know that one’s work has worth to others, being paid attention to, or holding regard as a professional and scholar. Finally, efficacy means having an impact on the (academic) environment, contributing to the betterment of society, improving oneself to do good and add to quality of life, and escalating skills and abilities. Continue reading “What Makes Them Tick?”