“A Passion and Enthusiasm to Bring out the Best in All”: Regional Candidate Teacher Motivations

December, 2019

Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 44(12), pp. 81-101

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The focus of this paper is on understanding the motivations of regional candidate teachers.
In order to add to the understanding of career retention, particularly regional candidates, the present study aims to investigate the relationship between candidates’ values and teaching motivations.
Insights into the reasons why teacher candidates choose to live and stay in regional communities will serve as important knowledge for informing teacher education, career planning, and retention, particularly in hard to staff regional locations.
In order to add to our understanding of career retention, particularly regional candidates, the present study aims to investigate the relationship between candidates’ values and teaching motivations.
Insights into the reasons why teacher candidates choose to live and stay in regional communities will serve as important knowledge for informing teacher education, career planning, and retention, particularly in hard to staff regional locations.
In order to increase the understanding of regional candidate teachers’ career motivations, this research investigated candidates’ values using the definition of Eccles et al., (1983).
Therefore, the research question is: what are the regional candidate teacher’s career motivations and how are they interrelated?

This study presents findings from the first survey instrument of a longitudinal study that aims to track the progression of regional candidate teachers, in a new two-year Master of Teaching Degree, from entry into the profession.
It focuses on the interrelationship of candidates’ motivations for choosing teaching.
For the purposes of this paper Regional includes all of the towns, small cities and areas that lie beyond the major capital cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide & Canberra) (Regional Australia Institute [RAI], n.d.).
The data collection instrument used quantitative questions with a five-point Likert scale and single choice and qualitative open-ended questions requiring an extended response.
Open-ended questions were added to ask participants’ views on their values in terms of:
teacher qualities (TQ);
professional practices (PP);
and personal attributes they believed they brought into teaching.

Participants - The context for this study was a multi-campus university with four small campuses (25 or less students) situated up to 6 hours away from the main campus.
The main regional campus was one and half hours from a capital city.
The participants in this study were located in five separate locations (different campuses) along 500km of the south east coast of Australia.
The initial teacher education (ITE) program was delivered face to face on each of the five regional campuses.
The candidate teachers who participated in this study were post graduate and lived or had selected to study teaching in regional locations.
There was a total of 135 invited participants in the study.

Data collection - To gather participants’ views the survey was distributed via Survey Monkey across the five campuses in the first week of the program.
Qualitative responses were collected from three open-ended questions on the survey instrument.
The participants were asked to identify the ‘qualities’ they valued and believed they brought with them into teaching.

Findings and discussion
The research demonstrated a close relationship between candidates’ values and career motivations.
Through the use of the Eccles et al., (1983) value categories, it was evident that personal values helped to support persistence, performance, and ability beliefs (Martin & Dowson, 2009).
These values are considered as critical for retaining quality teachers.
However, the strength of that association varied depending upon the person’s immediate needs (job security & location).
Findings indicated that the areas of most value were firstly, ‘interest’ in teaching, and secondly, the ‘utility’ of career motivations.
These values weighed heavily on career decisions and were influenced by the candidate’s socioeconomic background (Guarino et al., 2006; Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009; Thomas & Beauchamp, 2007), and whether they wanted to live and work locally (Kline & Walker-Gibbs, 2015; Lester, 2011).
The author notes that the novel contribution of this study is its focus on regional teachers.
This addresses a gap in our understanding of career motivations for different groups entering teacher education (Watt et al., 2014). These findings echo earlier studies that candidates selected teaching for two key motivations: aspirational (Watt & Richardson, 2007) and pragmatic (Moran et al., 2017; Richardson & Watt, 2006).
A key difference to earlier studies on teachers’ career motivations in metropolitan areas is that 50% of the candidates in regional ITE programs had come directly from undergraduate study.
This compares to 30% in Richardson and Watt’s (2006) study.
The direct intake candidates may have conflicting motivations, with teaching not always their first career choice.
This creates tensions and can weaken the candidates’ motivation for a teaching career.
Low levels of motivation for a career can directly impact the level of commitment, perseverance and self-efficacy (Gagne & Deci, 2005).
The conflicting motivations present a challenge for teacher education in how to best support regional candidates to remain in the profession.
One way to strengthen agency is in understanding the particular motivations of those candidates coming straight from undergraduate degrees.
These candidates sought personal attainment in teaching. Bandura (1989) refers to this as career behaviour that is “regulated by forethought embodying cognized goals and influenced by self-appraisal of capabilities” (p. 1175).
Belief in one’s own capabilities was expressed as being able to make a positive difference.
These strongly held self- beliefs were often based on their own school and/or work experiences.
For many candidates, teaching was an opportunity to foster close relationships with local communities and to follow personal passions and interests (Gagne & Deci, 2005).
Attracting, preparing and ensuring a career path for candidate teachers in regional locations is often challenging with candidates entering the profession with a continuum of conflicting motivations.
However, motivation alone does not necessarily reveal an individual’s psychological resilience or their ability to complete their studies or even their effectiveness as practitioners (Watt, Richardson, & Wilkins, 2014).
This was certainly evident (anecdotal data in retention numbers/grades) with many regional candidates hampered by personal, financial and external conditions in completing their degrees and securing full time jobs.
Personal, financial and circumstantial factors had a significant indirect influence on career motivation and persistence (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009; Thomas & Beauchamp, 2007; Watt et al., 2014). This was particularly the case with half of the candidates coming into teaching from blue collar careers.
This group’s motivations were shaped by personal interests, “I want to make a difference in my local area…”, and also by their current circumstances, “…this is where I live and want to work in my local area”.
The candidates’ desire to belong and stay connected to local communities (Gagne & Deci, 2005), was an important career motivation (Day et al., 2006; Flores & Day, 2006).
Even though aspirational motivations were identified as most important the overall strength of career motivation varied depending upon age, social/economic circumstances and location.
For example, many of the candidates in the smaller remote regions had chosen to study a primary degree as they saw this as an opportunity for a satisfying professional career in the local community that would ‘fit in’ with their current family commitments.
Regardless of their motivation for teaching, most candidates acknowledged the complexities of the teaching role, recognising the need for a balance of ‘teacher qualities’.
Overwhelmingly the value of being interested in teaching and children was key to their motivations. Intellectual fulfilment and enjoyment are common themes in motivational literature (Gore et al., 2016; Moran et al., 2017).
Overall the candidates’ motivations were fluid, existing along a continuum from aspirational to pragmatic, strongly influenced by social/economic circumstances.
Teaching was an opportunity “to make a difference” in the lives of children or simply a chance of a satisfying job. Motivations were not always aligned with one motivational category as they often appeared interrelated and interconnected with candidates’ current life situations.
Although this is not only a regional phenomenon, it does have implications in terms of promoting teacher agency (Biesta, Priestley, & Robinson, 2015) and ensuring regional teachers have the knowledge and preparation needed to be successful teachers in regional schools.
The ‘right’ motivations are crucial in terms of commitment, persistence and sense of self-efficacy in order to overcome personal and professional adversities as a regional teacher.

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Updated: Nov. 20, 2020