How Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory can be applied in your class

Dhwani Shah
July 16, 2024
5 min read

Knowing how to motivate people is the secret sauce to getting work done. Most times, people find it difficult to motivate themselves, so driving someone else towards their goals might seem like a herculean task. However, with the many theories that have evolved about motivational psychology and social behaviors - such as Maslow’s, the secret sauce could be within your reach.

In 1959, American psychologist Frederick Herzberg proposed the two-factor theory of motivation, which classified the factors critical to motivation into 

  • motivators - which encourage satisfaction and 
  • hygiene factors - which prevent dissatisfaction.

Hygiene factors

Hygiene factors are extrinsic or external factors that people wish to avoid in order to avoid discomfort, pain and unpleasantness. For example, dealing with poor leadership or working at a company with frequent layoffs is something most people want to avoid and is an example of a hygiene factor. While they do not necessarily provide positive motivation, their absence in the workplace leads to dissatisfaction. Thus, these are physiological factors that are not directly concerned with the job but must be present in the workplace to prevent dissatisfaction.

Hygiene factors include:

  • Salary
  • Company Policies
  • Perks and benefits
  • Physical Working conditions
  • Interpersonal relations
  • Job Security


These are intrinsic factors that are not present in the workplace environment but are inherent to the job itself. The fulfillment of these emotional needs internally rewards the employees to do better and to feel better and in turn, leads to positive satisfaction. 

Motivational factors include:

  • Recognition
  • Sense of achievement
  • Growth and promotional opportunities
  • Responsibility
  • Meaningfulness of the work

Businesses and organizations have increasingly relied on Herzberg’s approach to motivate their employees and boost morale and productivity. However, this theory is also a great tool when used by teachers and educators in the class to motivate learners. Here's how this theory can be modified and adapted to best suit our classrooms.

Hygiene Factors

1. Class management

When it comes to hygiene factors, the way the teacher organizes and oversees the class is of prime importance. Class management must be fair and reasonable - neither too rigid nor too flexible. Class rules and expectations must be clearly communicated (for example - comprehensible rubrics for marking assignments), keeping in mind the students’ requirements, limitations and capabilities. 

Ways to improve classroom management- 

  • Establish well-defined rules and routines in your classes - for timely submission of work, being punctual and well-groomed.
  • Ensure that they are clearly communicated to the students and followed consistently.
  • Apply them equally and fairly to all students.
  • Prepare a specific class plan and have the required teaching tools (video clips, handouts, any other equipment) in place. Give clear instructions.
  • Maintain discipline in the class.

2. Physical conditions  

This is, in essence, the equivalent to the physiological needs on Maslow's hierarchy. The physical environment in which a student learns must be clean, tidy, safe and conducive to learning. Classes must be well-equipped with the necessary hardware and software, properly maintained and up-to-date. Considering the role technology plays in education in today’s digital age, the use of ed-tech in the class can assuredly engage students and greatly enhance the quality of learning.

Ways to improve the physical class environment -

  • Keep the class neat and hygienic.
  • Ensure adequate lighting and ventilation.
  • Minimize noise and other distractions. 
  • Monitor temperature so that students do not feel too hot or cold.
  • Get creative with the aesthetics of your class space - display student work, inspirational quotes, themed layouts on the soft boards or walls.
  • Avoid monotony - use different coloured markers, employ a variety of teaching aids/tools, change the soft board displays from time to time.

3. Security

The second level in Maslow's hierarchy of needs corresponds to safety and security. Since students spend a considerable amount of time at school and at classes, it is imperative that they feel safe and secure there. Students who feel a sense of uncertainty and insecurity tend to be distracted, hindering the process of learning. They are less motivated to be at a place where they fear being judged or bullied or feel like they don't belong. Thus, creating a secure environment is essential to ensure that students are actively receptive to learning. 

Ways to create a safe environment-

  • Cultivate an environment that allows for healthy discussion and non-judgmental conversation.  
  • Monitor the environment of your class to identify and prevent bullying.
  • Address and settle class issues promptly.
  • Acknowledge mistakes in a positive light; refrain from penalizing minor mistakes or shaming students for errors.
  • Smile often!

4. Interpersonal relations

The third level of Maslow’s hierarchy - love and belonging needs - also emphasizes the importance of relations. Positive relationships with teachers as well as peers are fundamental for a student to thrive not just academically, but also on the personal front. Creating a warm, healthy environment in which each member of the learning community feels supported and appreciated ensures better attendance, grades, and scores and boosts overall happiness and well-being. 

Ways to improve the class relationships -

  • Establish ground rules about being respectful towards one another. 
  • Create a sense of team by engaging students in team-building and bonding activities.
  • Encourage group work and other inclusive learning techniques.
  • Make conscious seating arrangements and groups. Place students whether they can be best supported and aided.
  • Be easily approachable and available. 
  • Connect with your kids outside of the syllabus - try the FFM approach, attend their extra-curricular activities.


1. Recognition

Acknowledging and praising student work and accomplishments makes them feel seen and appreciated and encourages them to push themselves to perform better. Both student performance and participation are improved when students receive the necessary, relevant feedback and are rewarded for their achievements and also for other qualities like effort, improvement and teamwork. Showing learners that their efforts are recognized - by both, their peers and their teachers - will help them feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in what they are doing.

Ways to celebrate student success -

  • Praise students whenever possible - for a task completed, for a job done well, for helping a struggling classmate. Verbal encouragement is easy and underrated.
  • Give timely, quality feed-forward on assignments and tests.
  • Display student work in the classroom.
  • Create a class reward system - stars or badges, token currency.
  • Organize annual award ceremonies based on achievements, character and growth.

2. Sense of achievement

Attaining a goal that one has worked hard to realize is a feeling of great pride and joy. Feeling a sense of progress and success builds consistency, confidence and competence among students. Moreover, it ignites the motivation to work enthusiastically to achieve further. 

Ways to help your learners experience a sense of accomplishment -

  • Allow students to demonstrate their knowledge.
  • Set clear, tangible goals with your students.
  • Provide recognition and celebrate achievements.
  • Give students time to reflect on their learnings and achievements.
  • Share accomplishments and positive feedback with parents or guardians.

3. Responsibility

Empowering students to take initiative and responsibility of their own learning, as opposed to being driven by external stimuli - such as a teacher or a curriculum, nurtures them into independent and accountable individuals. Teacher-supported autonomy is a great way to increase motivation and academic success and enhance engagement and interest in learning. 

Ways to promote autonomous learning -

  • Help students to define goals for their learning - what do they wish to learn and how can they do it?
  • Allow learners the freedom of choice about how they learn best.
  • Use learner-generated content - let students communicate, collaborate and share ideas on a lesson.
  • Encourage independent learning - reading or watching videos about a topic outside of class, independent research.

4. Meaningfulness

A good education plays a key role in determining the quality of an individual's life. It builds not only his knowledge, intellect and skills, but also his character, opinions and attitude. Thus, the meaningfulness and impactfulness of education is paramount in motivating students and drawing them into the fascinating world of boundless knowledge.

Ways to make learning meaningful -

  • Develop a relevant, interesting and challenging curriculum.
  • Make relevant connections beyond the subject - use real-world examples, organize field trips.
  • Make learning fun and interesting - incorporate games, hands-on activities and experiments, group projects.
  • Ask more open-ended questions.

Dealing with students is not very different from dealing with employees. The presence of just one set of factors without the other will not tip the scale. The ideal situation would be a combination of high hygiene and hygiene motivation. In order to create a stimulating environment for our learners to thrive in, it's imperative that we are aware, responsive and adaptive to their needs. Tailoring your class to accommodate a high level of hygiene factors and motivators can prove to be highly effective in the long run.

Dhwani Shah

Up next