Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, 42:4, 459-477
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
In this paper, the authors are particularly interested in how teacher educators, working in teaching-intensive institutions, perceive their work context, and how this, in turn, relates to the development of their researcherly disposition.
It aims to contribute to the wider debate on how teacher educators perceive, act on, and experience the dual responsibility they have.
Research goal (RG) and research hypotheses (H)
Grounded in the Self-Determination Theory (SDT), the aim of this study is to advance insight into the relationships between the specific aspects of teacher educators’ work context (i.e. work pressure and opportunities for professional growth), teacher educators’ basic needs satisfaction, and teacher educators’ researcherly disposition.
First, the relationships between teacher educators’ experienced work pressure and opportunities for professional growth and teacher educators’ basic needs satisfaction are explored (RG1).
Second, the relationships between teacher educators’ basic needs satisfaction and teacher educators’ researcherly disposition are explored (RG2).
Finally, this study does not only aim to test the direct links involving psychological needs, but also aims to examine whether teacher educators’ basic psychological needs are mediating the relationships between the work context (i.e. work pressure and opportunities for professional growth) and the work outcomes of the authors’ model.
This study has a specific focus on teacher educators based in Flemish teaching-intensive institutions – representing the largest group of teacher educators (European Commission 2013) – whose main responsibility is the education of future teachers.
Since teaching-intensive institutions do not have strong research traditions, research is often considered as a rather new, difficult, and challenging task requirement (Gilroy and McNamara 2009).
Sample and procedure
In total, 43 colleges of higher education and 17 centres for adult education in Flanders agreed upon participation.
Teacher educators from participating institutions were asked to fill in the survey.
Survey data were collected from a sample of 944 teacher educators.
Work pressure and opportunities for professional growth
Work pressure was assessed with four items of the ‘Work pressure’ subscale, which is part of the School Organisation Health Questionnaire (Hart 2000).
Similarly, opportunities for professional growth were measured with five items that form the ‘Opportunities for professional growth’ scale of the School Organisation Health Questionnaire.
Basic needs satisfaction at work
The ‘Work-related Basic Need Satisfaction Scale’ (designated as W-BNS) (Van den Broeck et al. 2010), a 18-item questionnaire, was used to assess teacher educators’ self-reported basic needs satisfaction at work. The W-BNS (Van den Broeck et al. 2010) has three subscales: (1) Autonomy (six items), (2) Relatedness (six items), and (3) Competence (six items).
Teacher educators’ researcherly disposition
The ‘Teacher Educator Researcherly Disposition Scale’ (designated as TERDS), a 20-item questionnaire – based on the theoretical framework on teacher educators’ researcherly disposition (Tack and Vanderlinde 2014), was used to assess teacher educators’ self-reported researcherly disposition.
TERDS has four subscales: (1) ‘Valuing research’ (six items), (2) ‘Being able to conduct research’ (four items), (3) ‘Conducting research’ (four items), and (4) ‘Being a smart consumer of research’ (six items).
The descriptive statistics reported by the authors demonstrate that the mean scores for work pressure, relatedness and competence are high, indicating that teacher educators experience high levels of work pressure, feel connected to other colleagues, and feel competent in doing their job.
Furthermore, the results reveal moderate scores for opportunities of professional growth.
Finally, teacher educators have rather low to average scores on the different aspects of teacher educators’ researcherly disposition, indicating that even though teacher educators believe they are rather able to conduct research and somehow value research as a teacher educator, they do not engage in research activities as both a producer and a consumer that much.
Research goal 1 (H1 – H2)
The authors’ first research goal aims to advance insight into the relationships between the experienced work pressure and opportunities for professional growth and teacher educators’ basic needs satisfaction.
Grounded in the Self-Determination Theory, a negative relationship between work pressure and the three basic needs was expected (H1); a positive relationship between opportunities for professional growth and the three basic needs was hypothesised (H2).
The first hypothesis (H1) was confirmed: teacher educators’ perceived opportunities for professional growth within their institution are positively related to the satisfaction of autonomy and competence.
Related to the second hypothesis (H2), a negative significant relationship was found between the extent to which teacher educators experience a high work pressure in their institution and their level of autonomy; a positive significant relationship was found between teacher educators’ experienced level of work pressure and their relatedness at work.
Thus, the second hypothesis was only partly confirmed.
Research goal 2 (H3 – H4 – H5)
The authors’ second research goal aims to advance insight into the relationships between teacher educators’ basic needs satisfaction and teacher educators’ researcherly disposition. Grounded in the Self-Determination Theory, positive relationships between autonomy (H3), relatedness (H4), competence (H5) and teacher educators’ researcherly disposition were expected.
With regard to teacher educators’ autonomy at work (H3), one positive significant relationship was found between the extent to which a teacher educator experiences a sense of autonomy at work and the extent to which a teacher educator values research into teacher education.
Related to teacher educators’ relatedness at work (H4), two positive significant relationships were confirmed.
The following relationships were significant: the extent to which a teacher educator has intimate and close relationships with colleagues positively affects the extent to which a teacher educator (1) conducts research into teacher education, and (2) values research into teacher education.
Finally, with regard to teacher educators’ perceived competence at work (H5), three positive significant relationships were found.
Positive significant relationships exist between the extent to which a teacher educator feels competent in carrying out his/her overall job tasks, on the one hand, and, the extent to which a teacher educator (1) uses existing research in their teaching practice, (2) conducts research into teacher education, and (3) perceives him/herself able to conduct research, on the other.
In sum, significant relationships were found, but not all hypotheses could be fully confirmed.
Research goal 3 (H6 – H7 – H8)
The authors’ third research goal aims to advance insight into the mediating role of teacher educators’ basic psychological needs in the relationships between the work context and the work outcomes of their model. A series of Sobel tests (Sobel 1982) were conducted in order to further explore their hypotheses (H6-H8). Results confirm the partial mediating role of competence in the relationship (1) between professional growth and being able to conduct research, (2) between professional growth and conducting research, and (3) between professional growth and being a smart consumer of research. No mediating role of competence was found in the relationship between professional growth and valuing research. Moreover, no evidence was found for the mediating role of autonomy and relatedness in the relationships between opportunities for professional growth and teacher educators’ researcherly disposition. Finally, the analyses of the current study do not support the mediating roles of autonomy, relatedness and competence in the relationships between work pressure and teacher educators’ researcherly disposition.
The authors’ hypothesised model needs to be further validated by additional studies.
Nevertheless, it holds important practical implications for teacher educators’ professional development.
In line with earlier findings (Tack et al. 2018), this study again demonstrates that opportunities for professional growth provided by teacher educator institutions for Flemish institution-based teacher educators are rather low to moderate.
As one’s opportunities for professional growth are significantly related to teacher educators’ basic needs satisfaction at work – an essential condition for teacher educators to (further) develop into their occupation – this study, however, again stresses the need to create opportunities to support teacher educators’ professional development, at institutional, national and international levels.
This recommendation is in line with the wider call for the establishment of a more formal professional development program for teacher educators (Kelchtermans, Smith, and Vanderlinde 2017; Tack et al. 2018; Vanassche et al. 2015).
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