Millennial generation preservice teachers’ intrinsic motivation to become a teacher, professional learning and professional competence

November 2020

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 96

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The study reported in this article investigates the complex and dynamic experiences of millennial generation preservice teachers.
It examines how millennial generation preservice teachers’ intrinsic motivation affects their professional learning in initial teacher education (ITE) and their perceived professional competence.
It offers a contribution to understanding millennial generation preservice teachers, and provides useful insights for ITE into addressing the needs of this key group for the benefit of the future of education.
The  following research questions are explored:
1. What is the relationship between millennial generation preservice teachers’ intrinsic motivation, professional learning in ITE and their perceived professional competence?
2. How is millennial preservice teachers’ intrinsic motivation characterized by generational characteristics, and how does it shape professional learning in ITE and perceived professional competence?

The research context and mixed-methods research design
The focus of this study is on a specific generation unit, namely the first cohort of preservice teachers who went through the five-year university-based ITE programme in Hong Kong from 2012 to 2017.
The study was part of a larger study conducted in the context of the Five-year Bachelor of Education (BEd) Programme (2012-17) at the Education University of Hong Kong (hereafter, the University).
This study employed a mixed methods design. The mixed methods design comprised two main stages:
1) collection and analysis of quantitative data, and
2) design, collection and analysis of qualitative interview data under the guidance of the quantitative findings.

Data collection

Quantitative and qualitative samples
The quantitative sample consisted of 346 preservice teachers from the 2012-17 cohort (response rate = 72%) of the University.
Preservice teachers were invited to fill in survey questionnaires upon the completion of their first fieldwork, regarding their intrinsic motivation, professional learning, as well as perceptions of their own professional competence.
During the survey questionnaire data collection, the preservice teachers were also invited to take part in follow-up interviews.
Qualitative data were collected through two rounds of semi-structured interviews with 23 preservice teachers.
Three constructs that were used in previous studies were adopted in this study: namely preservice teachers’ intrinsic motivation, their professional learning and perceived professional competence.

Qualitative data collection
Under the guidance of the quantitative findings generated from the survey data, in-depth interview questions were framed prior to the data collection, aiming at understanding the characteristics of preservice teachers’ intrinsic motivation, the different aspects of professional learning and perceived professional competence, as well as their underlying connections.
An interview protocol including interview questions and the information sheet with items related to the concepts in written form were provided for the preservice teachers.
Each of the preservice teachers was interviewed at two time points:
1) after the first fieldwork, and
2) at the end of the ITE programme.

Findings and discussion
In this study, interest in teaching and subject taught, as well as self-development and ideal lifestyle were found to characterize millennial preservice teachers’ intrinsic motivation.
Self-development and ideal lifestyle represents a distinctive type of intrinsic motivation for the millennial generation preservice teachers.
This study found that millennial preservice teachers cherished meaningfulness, financial security and work-life balance as an ideal lifestyle, and personal-professional goals emerged during the course of study in the ITE programme.
Whereas interest in teaching and subject taught is part of intrinsic motivation in the literature (Fray & Gore, 2018), the identification of self-development and ideal lifestyle as a distinctive type for the millennial generation preservice teachers brings a new understanding to intrinsic motivation to become a teacher in the field of teacher education.
This study adds new knowledge by providing insights into the three-way relationship involved in how intrinsic motivation shapes preservice teachers’ professional learning in ITE and their perceived professional competence, which goes beyond the two-way relationships between intrinsic motivation and the other two variables found in previous research (Ahonen et al., 2015; Konig and Rothland, 2017; Tang et al., 2015).
The quantitative findings of the study confirm a significant, positive, mediated effect from preservice teachers’ intrinsic motivation on the intellectual aspect of their professional competence:
Subject matter, pedagogical and educational knowledge, via their professional learning in ITE coursework and interaction with others.
By showing how generational characteristics featured millennial preservice teachers’ intrinsic motivation and drove their active learning and professional knowledge construction, the study provides insights beyond Makinen et al.’s (2018) work on the tensions in millennial generation preservice teachers’ learning experiences and Niemi et al.’s (2016) work on the impact of active learning on professional competence.
Preservice teachers’ experiences shown in the qualitative findings reveal features of the ITE programme that facilitated the development of personal-professional goals and active learning. These features include
(1) a structured programme that offered flexible alternatives for student choice;
(2) access to knowledge from a broad repertoire and from multiple sources which allows preservice teachers to incorporate academic, school-based and community-based knowledge in their professional learning; and
(3) communicative spaces for preservice teachers’ interaction with university faculty, school mentors, peers and other community-based stakeholders.
The qualitative findings also point to the importance of preservice teachers’ active stance in their trajectories.
Preservice teachers’ choice of courses and engagement with learning tasks constituted their emerging personal-professional goals.
Their active learning contributed to different forms of professional knowledge construction, namely engaging with theoretical knowledge, integrating different domains of theoretical knowledge to inform authentic tasks, and co-constructing practical knowledge in ITE fieldwork.
The study shows that
(1) setting personal-professional goals as well as
(2) adopting an active stance and taking responsibility in learning are conducive to millennial generation preservice teachers’ professional learning.
Further research may be conducted to confirm if these two characteristics also feature millennial generation teachers’ continuing professional development.
If confirmed, it may be worthwhile to establish systemic provisions that create time and space (e.g. development leave) for in-service teachers to materialize their personal-professional goals through active learning.

Ahonen, E., Pyh€ alto, K., Pietarinen, J., & Soini, T. (2015). Becoming a teacher-student € teachers’ learning patterns in teacher education. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 3(5)
Fray, L., & Gore, J. (2018). Why people choose teaching: A scoping review of empirical studies, 2007e2016. Teaching and Teacher Education, 75
Konig, J., & Rothland, M. (2017). Motivations that affect professional knowledge in € Germany and Austria. In H. M. Watt, P. W. Richardson, & K. Smith (Eds.), Global perspectives on teacher motivation (pp. 161e186). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Makinen, M., Linden, J., Annala, J., & Wiseman, A. (2018). Millennial generation € preservice teachers inspiring the design of teacher education. European Journal of Teacher Education, 41(3)
Niemi, H., Nevgi, A., & Aksit, F. (2016). Active learning promoting student teachers’ professional competences in Finland and Turkey. European Journal of Teacher Education, 39(4)
Tang, S. Y. F., Wong, A. K. Y., Cheng, M. M. H., et al. (2015). The preparation of highly motivated and professionally competent teachers in initial teacher education. Journal of Education for Teaching, 22(1) 

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021