Gaps Too Large: Four Novice EFL Teachers’ Self-Concept and Motivation

Jul. 01, 2013

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 33, (July, 2013), p. 45-55.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article reexamines the data set of a longitudinal study of four novice EFL teachers’ motivation in the context of Japan (Author, 2011).
The article attempts to illuminate novice teachers’ changing motivation and self-concept as situated in the routines of their first teaching posts.

The questions guiding this investigation are:
how the participant teachers’ self-concept changes in their transition from student to teacher? and how their motivation is influenced by their shifting self-concept?

The participants were four novice teachers of English who graduated from college or graduate school in the spring of 2006 or 2007.
Data were collected through 21 in-depth interviews.


A major finding of this study is the weakened effects of ideal selves as future self-guides.
The ideal teacher selves, which the four young teachers exercised, reduced effects on their motivational states.
Furthermore, their ideal teacher selves, especially those upon entry into the teaching career, were mostly born out of their past experiences as students, and they had very little ground in the real world of school teaching.
In addition, the widely cited gap between teacher education programs and realities of teaching practice was also a significant factor behind the unattainable ideal teacher selves of the four novice teachers.

As for their ought-to selves, the participants were forced by the external pressures and contextual constraints to assume uncomfortable and undesirable roles, which were hardly internalized into their individualized future selves.
All these factors created conflicts in their possible selves and prevented those self images from functioning successfully as future self-guides.
As novice teachers with rather unrealistic expectations and goals, the perceived plausibility of the participants’ ideal selves was often small, which inevitably decreased their levels of motivation.
As they were preoccupied with the duties, the participants were intensely focused on a short time frame, sometimes just hoping to survive another day, oblivious to their long-term future goals.

Another salient characteristic which was found about novice teachers’ motivation and self-concept was the power of reflexivity.
The four novice teachers’ stories in the second stage showed that the responsibilities, constraints, pressure, and joy of the reality of secondary school teaching induced serious reflective thoughts in their minds.
The four participants’ reflexive processes have highlighted the intensity of a self-searching journey that many novice teachers go through, and therefore seem to support the view of self-as-teacher as a central component in teacher development and education.
Finally, the significant effects of ought-to selves on the motivation of the young teachers reveal the complex, social nature of teachers’ motivation and self-concept.
The conflicts between the participants' ideal and ought-to selves frequently reduced their power to move positively toward achieving their ideal selves.


The author claims that the students in teacher training courses should be inform of the realities of secondary school teaching.
Teacher educators must well inform their students about what the life of a secondary school teacher entails and about what challenges await novice teachers, in particular, by emphasizing the misalignment between theory and practice.

In addition, given the significant demotivating effects of severe gaps between the novice teachers’ ideals self images and the reality, authorities should consider teacher applicants’ professional orientations and interests as much as possible upon assigning them to their first teaching posts.

Third, for school administrators, it seems necessary, first, to reconceptualize their school environment as a place for young teachers to adjust their possible selves to their daily reality.

Finally, the author would recommend that school administrators lessen a sense of borderlessness (Sato, 1994) in novice teachers’ duties.

Sato, M. (1994). Ky oshi bunka no k oz o [The structure of teachers’ culture]. In T. Inagaki, & Y. Kudomi (Eds.), Nihon no ky oshi bunka [The culture of teachers and teaching in Japan] (pp. 21e44). Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press.

Updated: Dec. 08, 2014