Motives for Becoming a Teacher and their Relations to Academic Engagement and Dropout among Student Teachers

Jul. 01, 2014

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 40, No. 2, 173–185, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to examine the motives for Swedish student teachers to study to become teachers and to explore the relationship between teachers’ motives and their academic engagement and dropout rates at the end of their studies.

A sample of 333 student teachers at a Swedish university completed a questionnaire measuring motives for becoming a teacher and their academic engagement. About 237 participants (71%) were female students and 96 participants (29%) were male students.


The best model of a confirmatory factor analyses defined three motivational factors as altruistic, intrinsic and extrinsic motives.
The findings reveal that the students enrolled in teacher education due to mainly altruistic motives, such as a desire to help and support students and contribute to society, and intrinsic motives, such as perceiving teaching to be stimulating and being interested in the particular school subjects. Extrinsic motives such as good working hours, reliable income and secure job conditions were not as important to them.

More importantly, the novel contribution of this study showed the associations between the three motives, academic engagement and dropout rates among student teachers in one single path analysis. The findings showed a negative significant relationship between the altruistic motive and dropout, mediated by academic engagement, whereas the relationships between intrinsic and extrinsic motives and academic engagement were not significant.
The importance of altruistic motives for becoming a teacher might be that teaching in fact involves a moral commitment to serving the interests of students and society. In addition, teachers driven by altruistic motives should be crucial to education considering that a positive teacher–student relationship is confidently associated with academic engagement, academic achievement and psychosocial functioning and negatively associated with disruptive, defiant and aggressive behaviour among their students.


The strong positive association in the current findings between altruistic motives and academic behavioural engagement
outside class time further indicates the importance of altruistic motives as a predominant source of motivation among student teachers. In addition, behavioural academic engagement outside class time was negatively associated with dropout. If student teachers have highly altruistic motives to study, their academic engagement is likely to be higher, and there is a better chance that they will graduate and start working as teachers. The finding that the path model did not show any association between extrinsic motives and academic engagement is in line with what could be expected. Students who wish to become teachers because they are concerned with aspects of the job which are not inherent in the work itself do not set goals to learn deeply the content that is treated in courses.

To conclude, if teacher education programmes are to have high retention rates, it is important that the student teachers have altruistic motives to study, because these are negatively related to dropping out of the teacher programme, as mediated by academic engagement.
There was one significant main difference regarding the motives for becoming a teacher between female and male students: female students had significantly stronger altruistic motives.

Conclusions and implications

Thus, the emphases of this study are clearly matters of international interest. To attract and retain student teachers it is essential to focus on the motives that student teachers find most important for choosing teaching as a profession. This is the first study that shows that altruistic motives to become a teacher are the most important motives to focus on in order to have highly engaged students who remain in teacher education. Thus, universities in Sweden and elsewhere should emphasise the key factors that appear to attract and retain students to the profession and try to portray how the education and teaching profession offers these factors.

Updated: Jul. 27, 2016