Do Career Goals Promote Continuous Learning among Practicing Teachers?

Aug. 10, 2010

Source: Teachers and Teaching, Volume 16, Issue 4, 2010, pages 397-422.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This exploratory study explored the relationship between career considerations and professional learning. In particular, using an achievement goal framework, this study investigated the relationship between teachers’ career goals and the use of learning strategies, regulatory strategies, learning interest and future learning intention.

The main research questions in this study are:
1. What are the motivational effects of different career goals on learning?
2. Will teachers valuing different types of career goals in their goal profile show differential learning patterns?


The participants were 275 practicing teachers enrolled in a compulsory course within the Bachelor of Primary Education programme offered by a university in Hong Kong and completed and returned the questionnaire.

A questionnaire was designed to assess teachers’ career and achievement goals, learning strategies, regulatory strategies, self‐efficacy, learning interest and future learning intention regarding a compulsory course in their degree programme.


The results show that a high level of efficacy can mediate the effects of teachers’ goals on continuous learning in two distinct ways, enhancing the positive effect and buffering against the use of maladaptive strategies.

The buffering effect of a high level of efficacy can be seen in the case of extrinsic career goals. Teachers coupled a higher level of efficacy with extrinsic career goals will probably consider that they have a higher chance of success, and therefore will drop the use of maladaptive strategies, such as surface strategies, and endorse a more regulated approach to achieve their extrinsic goals (cf. Vrugt, Langereis, & Hoogstraten, 1997).
In addition, it was found that teachers focusing solely on extrinsic career goals in their profile will have a less adaptive pattern of strategy use, weak intention to continue learning similar courses and show less interest in the course. More adaptive patterns of association were found among teachers focusing on professional learning goals (i.e. learning‐focused, all‐goal and balanced‐goal teachers).

The study also found that all‐goal teachers used more regulatory strategies than did those focusing solely on professional learning goals. In addition, all‐goal and balanced‐goal teachers had a higher level of self‐efficacy than did those focusing solely on professional learning goals.

Two important implications can be derived from the current results for policy development related to teachers’ continuous professional learning.
First, focusing teachers on the development of essential professional knowledge and understanding is more effective than focusing teachers on better promotional prospect, better remuneration and higher professional status.
Second, it is important to widen the base of rationales for justifying teachers’ needs to engage in continuous professional learning. Teachers learn with different goals, concerns and focuses.

Vrugt, A., Langereis, M. and Hoogstraten, J. 1997. Academic self‐efficacy and malleability of relevant capacities as predictors of exam performance. Journal of Experimental Education, 66: 61–74.

Updated: Aug. 23, 2011