Why Men Become Elementary School Teachers: Insights From an Elementary Teacher Education Program

Winter 2010

Source: Action in Teacher Education, v. 31 no. 4, (Winter 2010) p. 28-40.
The purpose of this study was to explore the factors that influence men to enter the field of elementary education, which is predominantly female.
The factor herein are described by nine male students enrolled in the elementary teacher education program (ETEP) at a Midwestern university in the United State.

The Elementary Teacher Education Program

The ETEP was implemented in its present format in the 1990s. It emphasizes a reflective, participatory, and cooperative learning approach to preparing prospective elementary school teachers. In the field experience, students are assigned to elementary classrooms in pairs rather than individually.

A qualitative case design was used as a tradition of inquiry.
Standing in the program was considered an individual case, and three cases were examined in the study: first practicum, third practicum, and student teaching.

Nine participants (three from each stage) were selected for this study according to the following criteria: male gender, 19 years of age or older, enrollment in the ETEP (first practicum, third practicum, and student teaching), and willingness to participate in the study.
The data were collected through interviews and documents.
Interview were one-on-one, face-to-face, and semistructured, and they began with open-ended questions. Documents included participants' autobiographies, reflective journals, elf-evaluations from practica and student teaching, papers, and other relevant materials.

Based on the experiences of all nine participants, the influence of former teachers and family members had a direct impact on their decision to enter the field of elementary education. Nevertheless, as student teachers, the participants used a different lens to identify influences in their career choice. They identified their work with children as being the most influential factor for them. Student teachers talked less about relatives and friends and focused more on their own experiences with children.

The men initially tended to identify external factors that influenced their career choice, such as former teachers and family members. As the students worked with children for six semesters, they focused more on these rewarding experiences. As the end of the program approached, the participants tended to identify internal factors a having motivated them to become elementary school teachers.


As the number of males enrolling in ETEPs continues to decrease, the question of who or what inspires men to chose a teaching career has become the focus of increased discussion among concerned researchers and educators.
The findings of this study indicate that the factors which influence men's decisions to enter the field of elementary education represent a spectrum ranging from former teachers, family members, and career advice received to personal educational experiences and intrinsic aspects of the profession.

Updated: Jul. 26, 2011