Source: Teacher Education Quarterly, Summer 2012
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study examined the motivation to teach and the commitment to teaching among prospective student teachers from mainland China and their Hong Kong counterparts.
The participants were 10 mainland Chinese and 10 Hong Kong prospective student teachers, who enrolled in the Department of English in a teacher education institute in Hong Kong. The participants enrolled to the program in the academic year 2009-2010.
The authors interviewed five mainland Chinese participants and five Hong Kong participants individually. The individual interviews were semi-structured. They interviewed the remaining ten participants in two focus groups of five participants each.
Discussion and Conclusion
The findings suggest that the individuals’ commitment to teaching was mediated by immediate contextual factors, closely related to their imagined teaching identity. These factors were also shaped by their socio-economic backgrounds, and constructed by social discourses on teachers and the teaching profession.
The findings reveal that the participants identified similar intrinsic, altruistic and extrinsic reasons for entering the profession. Despite their altruistic reasons, almost all participants admitted having entered the teacher education program because low college entrance examination scores precluded other options, rather than by choice.
It was also found that the two groups developed different levels of commitment to teaching by the end of the program’s first semester. The Hong Kong participants developed an interest in putting the theory into practice and became more committed to teaching. However, their mainland Chinese counterparts reassessed the suitability of teaching in a unfamiliar cultural context and became uncertain about the degree to which they could develop, personally and professionally, by teaching in Hong Kong.
The results also indicate that prospective student teachers’ imagined teaching identities are historically and socially constructed. The mainland participants came from families with higher socio-economic status than did their Hong Kong peers; the formers’ parents tended to expect more of their children, partially explaining why some participants envisaged becoming researchers or university-level educators rather than working in primary or secondary schools. Moreover, the mainland participants imagined having a deficient identity in local schools, positioning themselves between local teachers and native English teachers and weakening their commitment to teaching in Hong Kong schools.
The combination of the teaching profession’s low social status and the intense social demands placed on teachers made the mainland prospective student teachers less committed to teaching in the new context. In contrast, Hong Kong prospective student teachers appreciate the relatively high salary and social respect afforded the teaching profession in Hong Kong.
Additionally, the results indicate that the participants’ motivation to teach and commitment to teaching are contextually, socially and historically constructed. This suggests that the professional community and school administration could assume some role in retaining non-local teachers.
The authors argue that it is important that the student teachers' voices be listened to when developing measures to integrate them into the Hong Kong learning and professional community.
The authors conclude that this research sheds lights on how to sustain non-local prospective student teachers’ motivation to teach and commitment to teaching. This study also highlights how to ensure their full participation in teaching practices after graduation, and how to retain young qualified teachers in the teaching profession, in educational settings elsewhere.