Teaching Motivations in Hong Kong: Who Will Choose Teaching as a Fallback Career in a Stringent Job Market?

Jul. 01, 2014

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education Volume 41, (July, 2014), pages 81-91.
(Review by the Portal Team)

This study aims to examine the factors that motivate teacher education students to choose teaching as a career in Hong Kong.
The study aimed to address the following research questions:
1. What motivates pre-service teachers to become teachers in Hong Kong?
2. How do different teaching motivations relate to teaching-related outcomes in terms of planned engagement in future teaching?

The participants were 132 pre-service teachers who had just completed their Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) Programme, which prepares university graduates to become professional teachers.
Data were collected through both quantitative and qualitative methods: student teachers completed a newly developed questionnaire.
Seven of them were invited to participate in a follow-up individual interview.


The results showed altruistic and intrinsic motivations were the most important teaching motivations.
These motivations correlated positively with planned teaching engagement.
The most important was the altruistic aspiration to contribute to the development of their students and society.
This idealistic stance is also reflected in the higher importance attached to the intrinsic motivations of subject matter interest and interest in teaching than extrinsic incentives which is noteworthy in view of the high starting salary of teachers in Hong Kong.

For these pre-service teachers, the meaningfulness of the job and personal fulfillment count more than material gains.

The current study makes it clear that altruistic and intrinsic motivations are the paramount forces that draw individuals into the teaching profession, regardless of whether there is an excessive or insufficient supply of teachers.
Concerning the teaching-related outcomes, the key teaching motivations - altruistic and intrinsic - were related to higher planned professional commitment and are clearly adaptive.

A major new finding of this study is the identification of two distinct types of fallback career. Two factors along this line of reasoning were extracted from our factor analysis, namely Fallback career: Teaching as an alternative and Fallback career: Teaching as a provisional, non-committed option.
However, although two types of fallback career motivation were identified, only one correlated negatively with planned engagement.
Fallback career: Teaching as a provisional, non-committed option, correlated negatively with planned commitment in teaching.

Fallback career: Teaching as an alternative had positive correlations with other types of teaching motivation.
In addition, analysis of interview data revealed that the maladaptive effects of fallback career motivation could be reduced by altruistic and intrinsic subject matter motivations.


The prime role played by altruistic and intrinsic motivations in pre-service teachers’ choices to become teachers in Hong Kong fills a knowledge gap in the study of teaching motivation by providing data of a context in which teacher surplus has been a problem.
This study shows that altruistic and intrinsic teaching motivations can be regarded as adaptive teaching motivations because of their consistent correlations with positive teaching-related outcomes when there is both a teacher deficit and a surplus.

More importantly, the present study adds to our understanding of the complexity of fallback career motivation.
Two types of fallback career motivations have been identified in the current study.
However, they are not equally maladaptive and should be conceptualized as independent. Finally, it clearly demonstrates the heuristic value of examining the complete teaching motivation profile in context, especially in the study of less-known teaching motivations such as fallback career motivation.

The authors conclude that fallback career motivation is maladaptive if the complete motivation profile of the interviewees had not been analyzed.
But when Fallback career: Teaching as a provisional, non-committed option was embedded in the motivation profile characterized by strong altruistic and subject matter motivation, its possible maladaptive effects were canceled out.

This finding has significant implications for teacher education.
While it is inevitable to have pre-service teachers who choose teaching as a temporary option with minimum commitment, the present study suggests that helping them to nurture altruistic motivation and interest in their teaching subject may neutralize the possible negative teaching-related outcomes arising from their fallback career motivation.

Updated: Mar. 11, 2015