From Teachers to Students: What Influences Early Childhood Educators to Pursue College Education

Jul. 01, 2013

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Volume 34, Issue 3, p. 211–230, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors examined factors that facilitate or hinder teachers’ and teacher’s aides’ pursuit of college education.

Telephone interviews were conducted with 68 teachers and 38 teacher’s aides currently employed by 85 child care centers in western Massachusetts.
All but one of the participants were women. Their ages ranged from 18 to 67.


Results revealed that both structural and psychological factors are associated with teachers’ and teacher’s aides’ enrollment in college.
However, financial and practical concerns did not depress current enrollment once other factors were taken into account.
The authors found that the only practical obstacles were related to enrollment were full-time employment and lack of child care for mothers of children under 14.
They also found that beliefs about education and motivation were critical for enrollment.
Participants’ desire to go to college was a key factor in predicting college enrollment, even when practical and financial issues were controlled.

The measure of the overall motivation to go to college, which was so powerful, was most strongly linked with participants’ belief that a college education would increase their knowledge of children, clearly an intrinsic goal.
Thus, intrinsic motive was indirectly linked to college attendance through its influence on overall motivation.
Furthermore, social support from parents may indirectly influence teachers’ enrollment.
Parental encouragement support, which included direct encouragement for college, confidence in the participant’s academic abilities, and parents’ belief that the teacher should go to college, promotes teachers’ enrollment indirectly by increasing their motivation to go.

Finally, the authors found that age is strongly related to current enrollment for both teacher’s aides and teachers.
Younger teachers and teacher’s aides were much more likely to be currently enrolled in college.
57% of participants, who were younger than 25 years old, were attending college classes.
However, no teacher over 55 was in college.


The authors conclude that regardless of age, these low-income women were more likely to attend college if their parents supported, encouraged, and believed in them.
The parents who urged their adult children to attend college were bucking age-related norms, but surely those norms, which discourage some from pursuing college, need to be challenged.
And just as surely, these teachers and other low-income citizens deserve policies to help them overcome the practical and financial barriers they face so they can fulfill their college aspirations.
Besides grants and scholarships, colleges and universities that serve low-income working women could develop child care options for them while they are attending class.
These colleges and universities might also develop student support programs that draw in family members as recognized actors whose support is essential to ensure the student’s success.

Updated: Sep. 21, 2015