Continuing Professional Development – Why Bother? Perceptions and Motivations of Teachers in Ireland

Feb. 20, 2016

Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 42, No. 1, 150–167, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article aims to focus on the motivating and inhibiting factors relating to teachers’ engagement with continuing professional development (CPD) and to analyse the data in relation to Herzberg et al.’s (1959) two-factor theory, as a means of drawing implications for the future provision of CPD in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The research participants in the current study were qualified teachers (nursery, primary and post-primary) undertaking master’s level (M-level) postgraduate courses in two universities: Trinity College Dublin (n = 120) and Stranmillis University College, Belfast (n = 100).
Data collection involved two initial focus groups followed by questionnaires.
Nine M-level students participated in the focus groups (Republic of Ireland, n = 5; Northern Ireland, n = 4).


The study has provided ample evidence that Herzberg et al.’s (1959) two-factor theory, whilst not providing all of the answers to the complex question of what motivates teachers to engage in CPD, remains highly useful and relevant as an analysis tool within the field of teacher CPD today. Motivation factors are considered at three levels: personal, school-related and system-wide. A Teacher CPD Motivation Model has been devised, which privileges the personal motivators of achievement, growth and advancement; promotes contingent factors such as interpersonal relations and school policy; and advocates a benevolent tangential factor of compulsory CPD.
The findings indicate that teachers’ intrinsic motivation to seek out their own CPD continues to apply to actually engaging in CPD. Teachers in this study expressed a preference both to seek out and to pursue CPD areas that they valued for their own personal reasons and in response to their own personal and/or professional needs. The findings demonstrate that intrinsic (personal) factors – namely career advancement, potential growth and achievement – were the chief catalysts in motivating teachers in this study to engage in CPD.

The most pertinent contingent (school-related) factors were interpersonal relations, where peers’ feedback on their CPD experiences played a highly influential role, and school policy, so that teachers were more likely to engage where there was a cultural practice of undertaking CPD. Teachers in the current study clearly rated intrinsic, personal motivation factors highest in their decision to engage with CPD, supported by external, school-related contingent factors. However, teachers’ exposure to CPD is ultimately determined by system-wide factors and these must be considered in order to complete the picture. System-wide motivation factors
The evidence from the current study therefore suggests that a truly holistic approach to teacher CPD in Ireland should be mandatory in order to provide a benevolent system-wide tangential (movement) factor; it would promote key school-related contingent factors, such as interpersonal relations and empowering school policy, and it would prioritise the fundamental personal motivators of growth, achievement and advancement.


The authors conclude that the main message of the current study for teacher CPD in Ireland relates to the need for both jurisdictions to develop a system of CPD that privileges teachers’ personal choice, charges schools with providing empowering communities of practice and develops an overarching system of compulsory professional development.
The evidence from this study, as illustrated by the Teacher CPD Motivation Model, is that the three levels must be skillfully interwoven, with opportunities for negotiation and compromise, but that, in the last analysis, teacher CPD must be prioritised from the centre. The development of intentional and effective teacher CPD policies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland depends upon careful consideration of the motivational factors involved in engagement and upon close listening to the voices of those involved – the teachers themselves.

Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., and Snyderman, B., 1959. The motivation to work. New York: Wiley.

Updated: Aug. 03, 2016