Factors affecting pre-service English teachers’ career plans in Turkey: institutions and regions

February 2020

Source: Compare: Journal of Education for Teaching, 46:1, 4-19

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Focusing on senior pre-service English teachers’ workplace preferences at the onset of their career, this study aims to unearth both their future plans and the reasons for them. The following questions will be the guide to reach this aim:
(1) What are pre-service English teachers’ institutional plans, which refer to teaching in public or private institutions?
What motivates them to do so?
(2) What are pre-service English teachers’ regional plans, which refer to teaching in seven different geographical regions of Turkey?
What motivates them to do so?

This study is part of a larger research on pre-service English teachers’ career plans.
A cohort of participants from 13 different universities answered a questionnaire 2 months before graduation from English Language Teaching Departments, in 2013 (N = 583).
In the questionnaire, the participants selected one of the seven geographical regions that they plan to work as a teacher and one of the institutions they plan to teach English, i.e. state schools, private schools, private courses & cram schools, Basic English departments of state and private universities.
The volunteers from eight universities took part in semi-structured interviews (N = 88).
Interviews were constructed upon the following guiding questions:
(1) In which institution do you plan to teach after graduation? Why do you plan to do so?
(2) In which region do you plan to teach after graduation? Why do you plan to do so?

Results and discussion
The majority of pre-service English teachers planned to work in public schools and their organisational plans were affected by Work Conditions, Institutional Context, Teaching Experiences, Professional Aspirations and Altruistic Reasons.
Considering the complex structure of human decision-making process, it was no surprise to find out that participants were affected by a combination of factors that are compatible with each other.
For example, a teacher candidate might plan teaching in private organisations for two reasons which address two different factors in the results:
(1) private schools and universities offer more professional development opportunities and
(2) based on personal teaching experiences in practicum, teaching in public schools were found to be stable and monotonous.
This study confirms that pre-service teachers were aware of the work conditions in public and private organisations as they propose reasons parallel with research examining the benefits and pitfalls of these school environments (İlgar 2014; Karaköse and Kocabaş 2006; Sönmezer and Eryaman 2008).
The tendency for working in public schools and universities seems to be related to flexible work conditions, salary and job security.
Although it was not mentioned frequently, altruistic motivations were also found to be effective on this.
On the other hand, institutional context and professional aspirations, which are the themes related to expected professional prestige and the professional development aspirations of teacher candidates, were found to affect teacher candidates whose priority were professional development and feeling that they have a prestigious career.
Prior teaching experiences, either in practicum or in private courses, were combined with other factors so that catalysed the plans as they provided first-hand reliable experience to the teacher candidates.
Factors that affect the organisational preferences of pre-service English teachers in terms of teaching in public vs. private settings address two drastic phenomena to be considered:
(1) instrumental motivations, such as job security, salary and minimal workload, are overemphasised for public schools and universities, on the other hand, intrinsic motivations such as altruistic aspirations were rarely mentioned; and
(2) public organisations were perceived to be monotonous and scarcity of qualified professional development in those settings canalises ambitious teacher candidates to teach in private organisations.
Based on the results of this study, it could be suggested that in order to attract promising English teacher candidates to public settings and to eliminate the ones who basically hold instrumental orientations, public organisations should become challenging and developmental environments for teachers, enriched with sound in-service trainings and constructed upon career ladders.
Considering the participants enrolled in universities in different geographical regions, it is observed that there is a tendency to work in the region where the university is located. Interestingly, the participants from Central Anatolia region were found to be more open to work in all other regions.
Aforementioned quantitative results could be explained via interview data that cultural concerns and geographical concerns play an important role in regional preferences. Participants mostly planned to work in the regions that their hometown was located in or they already lived in during their pre-service education because they were familiar to the local culture in those places.
In addition, Central Anatolia region is neighbouring five other regions, thereby reflecting the socio-cultural characteristics of others and this might be an important factor that makes the candidates here more likely to work in different regions.
Altruistic concerns are about the factors mainly associated with rural and developing regions as teacher candidates were motivated with a sense of social responsibility for equity in education and an intention to make changes in students’ lives in underprivileged regions.
On the other hand, opportunities, i.e. social facilities, professional and academic development opportunities, offered by the developed regions are the factors that attract pre-service English teachers to work in more developed geographical regions.
Finally, beliefs about the regions derived from others’ experiences have an influence on their judgements and therefore shape their preferences.
Based on the study’s findings, it could be suggested that some regulations in pre-service education could be useful in motivating newly qualified teachers to work in developing regions.
Although this research is limited to Turkish context, countries experiencing similar problems can benefit these suggestions.
It was a very meaningful result of this study that teacher candidates would feel better when they are to teach in culturally familiar settings as teaching–learning activities at schools are dramatically affected by the socio-cultural characteristics of the surrounding environment.
Therefore, increasing the number of teacher education programmes in developing regions will increase the number of teacher candidates willing to teach in those settings.
As the main factor affecting teachers’ motivation is cultural familiarity, the authors suggest that developing intercultural competence of teacher candidates can be an initial attempt to boost their motivations to teach in unfamiliar regions.
In addition, teacher candidates can be familiarised with schools and students in less privileged rural settings through rural practice teaching before they actually start their teaching so that the effects of preoccupied irrational beliefs accumulated through narrated experiences of others and the media (Kızılaslan 2012) could be substituted with more realistic ones.
In the relevant literature, researchers reported the positive effects of such practices (e.g. Hudson and Hudson 2008; Kline, White, and Lock 2013).
Moreover, integrating video discussions, in which representative stories of teachers teaching in different geographical regions of Turkey are presented, to practise teaching will increase pre-service English teachers’ awareness by providing them a context-sensitive professional development opportunity through reflective practice.

Hudson, P., and S. Hudson. 2008. “Changing Preservice Teachers’ Attitudes for Teaching in Rural Schools.” Australian Journal of Teacher Education 33 (4): 67–77.
İlgar, L. 2014. “Özel Okul Ve Devlet Okulunda Görev Yapmış Sınıf Öğretmenlerinin Sınıf Yönetimindeki Farklılıklara Ilişkin Görüşleri: Nitel Bir Çalışma.” (The Point of Views of Classroom Teachers Who Worked Both at Private and State Schools on the Differences in Classroom Management: a Qualitative Study) Hasan Ali Yücel Eğitim Fakültesi Dergisi 11 (22): 259–285.
Karaköse, T., and İ. Kocabaş. 2006. “The Effect of Teachers’ Expectations on Job Satisfaction and Motivation in Private and Public Schools.” Eğitimde Kuram Ve Uygulama 2 (1): 3–14.
Kızılaslan, I. 2012. “Teaching in Rural Turkey: Pre-service Teacher Perspectives.” European Journal of Teacher Education 35 (2): 243–254.
Kline, J., S. White, and G. Lock. 2013. “The Rural Practicum: Preparing a Quality Teacher Workforce for Rural and Regional Australia.” Journal of Research in Rural Education 28 (3): 1–13.
Sönmezer, M. G., and M. Y. Eryaman. 2008. “A Comparative Analysis of Job Satisfaction Levels of Public and Private School Teachers.” Eğitimde Kuram Ve Uygulama 4 (2): 189–212. 

Updated: Dec. 28, 2020