Four reasons for becoming a teacher educator: A large-scale study on teacher educators’ motives and well-being

June, 2021

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education Volume 102

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The present study aims to contribute to a better understanding of the reasons why teachers embark on a career in teacher education. The study attempts to measure push and pull factors of teacher educators and to examine their relationships to aspects of well-being.
The authors investigate the motives of teacher educators who work with in-service teachers and the relationship between these motives and aspects of their professional wellbeing, which has been shown to be a prerequisite for successful performance in the teaching profession (Klusmann, Kunter, Trautwein, Lüdtke, & Baumert, 2008).
In particular, this study aims to answer four questions:
(1a) Can different motives for becoming a teacher educator be measured using a multifaceted, theory-driven instrument?
(1b) To what extent do teacher educators report different motives for becoming teacher educators?
(2a) What is the relationship between one’s well-being as a teacher and
(2b) teacher educator and the motives for becoming a teacher educator?


Study design and context
The present study uses a cross-sectional design to examine motives of school-based teacher educators and the relationships between their motives and their professional well-being.
The study was conducted in a large federal state in Germany.
All teacher educators work in a school district that provides ongoing teacher training.

The federal state employs a total of 304 teacher educators who provide classes for all in-service teachers.
The authors conducted a paper-and-pencil survey at a mandatory staff meeting in the school district in spring of 2019.
In total, 145 of 304 teacher educators attended the staff meeting.
All individuals present at the staff meeting participated voluntarily in the survey.
Therefore, responses from 47.7% of the population of all teacher educators in this federal state were obtained.

The authors assessed demographic background information on the teacher educators, their motives, and their well-being as both teachers and teacher educators using a paper-pencil-questionnaire.

Since this is one of the first studies to examine the motives of teacher educators in a quantitative investigation, the authors first had to develop new items and scales.
They followed a multi-stage procedure that began with an intensive literature review of proven and frequently cited studies on this issue in order to connect their work with previous research and to build cumulative knowledge.
They distinguished the following motives: career aspirations, social contribution, escaping routines, and coincidence.
Each motive was measured with two items.
Respondents were asked to rate all eight items on a four-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree).

Aspects of well-being
To capture aspects of well-being, the authors assessed four measures: job satisfaction as a teacher and as a teacher educator, and emotional exhaustion as a teacher and as a teacher educator.
They assessed both perspectives of job satisfaction with the same instrument.
They used the German version (Merz, 1979) of the Work Satisfaction Scale of the Job Diagnostic Survey (Hackman & Oldham, 1975).
Respondents were asked to rate six items from the perspective of the teacher and the teacher educator on a four-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree).
They assessed both perspectives of emotional exhaustion with the German adaption of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (Enzmann & Kleiber, 1989; Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 2010, p. 3) with items rated on a four-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree).

Results and discussion

Motives for becoming a teacher educator
The primary aim of the study was to identify key factors that influenced a teacher’s decision to become a teacher educator.
The study showed that we can differentiate four different motives: career aspirations, social contribution, escaping routines, and coincidence.
The results show that teacher educators’ motives are interrelated to some extent.
This is in line with findings on research on motivations for choosing the teaching profession (Konig € & Rothland, 2012).
In this sense, teacher educators were not driven to pursue a career in teacher education primarily by a single motive, but rather by several different motives simultaneously.
The strongest relationship was found between career aspirations and social contribution.
The results confirm the authors’ assumption, based on push-pull theory (Kirkwood, 2009), that the motives for becoming a teacher educator are driven by previous experiences as a teacher (push factors, e.g.: escaping routines) and by the anticipated benefits of being a teacher educator (pull factors, e.g.: career aspirations), although all motives differ in strength.
In addition, their results contribute to the small body of literature by replicating findings from previous qualitative research that showed similar reasons for becoming a teacher educator, such as career aspirations and the desire to make a social contribution. (Goodwin et al., 2014; Vanassche & Kelchtermans, 2016).
The authors were also able to demonstrate that career aspirations and the desire to make a social contribution were the major reasons in their sample for choosing to become teacher educator.
The escape from routine seems to be a relatively unimportant reason for choosing this career path in the sample.
The results demonstrate that teacher educators who previously worked as school teachers did not take up their new positions because they felt overwhelmed with their previous work as teachers and therefore wanted to leave it.
Falling into the profession by coincidence also seems to be a rare phenomenon.

Motives and well-being
This study is one of the first that links teacher educators’ motives for their career choice with their perceived well-being as both as teachers and as teacher educators.
In line with the authors’ expectations and findings from previous qualitative research (Holme et al., 2016; Yuan, 2016), escaping routines (push factor) is negatively associated with job satisfaction as a teacher.
Contrary to their expectations, there is also a correlation between well-being as teacher and the motive career aspirations, which they consider a push factor.
In particular, teacher educators who score high on this motive report that they felt less exhausted by their work as teachers.
This finding is quite intuitive, considering that there seems to be a group of individuals who feel less burdened by their work and want to use their capacities to further their career.
In addition, they also found positive associations between pull factors and well-being as a teacher educator, in line with their expectations and prior research (Holme et al., 2016; Vanassche & Kelchtermans, 2016; Yuan, 2016).
In particular, they found that individuals with higher scores on career aspirations show lower levels of emotional exhaustion and higher levels of job satisfaction as teacher educators.
Moreover, the motive social contribution is also negatively associated with emotional exhaustion as a teacher educator.
It seems that factors ‘pulling’ participants toward a career in teacher education exerted a greater positive influence in the sense that the motives of social contribution and career aspirations were both negatively related to emotional exhaustion as a teacher educator and the latter was also positively associated with job satisfaction as a teacher educator.
The findings thus correspond with the authors’ expectations and with findings from the qualitative study by Holme et al. (2016).
The description of a potential source of wellbeing for teacher educators could be of great importance for further research in this field, since Andreasen, Bjørndal, and Kova (2019) found that job satisfaction is an important prerequisite for teacher educators being able to develop a professional identity that can help them to be successful in the profession.

Practical implications
In addition to potential directions for future research, the findings of this study also imply recommendations for practice.
Since the results suggest that the motives behind a change of profession are related to well-being within the profession, the choice to become a teacher educator should be given more attention even before the decision to enter this profession has been made.
In this context, the authors’ instrument could serve as a self-assessment tool in the recruitment of potential teacher educators, helping them reflect on why they want to enter the teacher education field.
This could help bring individuals into the profession who are motivated by a positive commitment to delivering high-quality learning opportunities to teachers rather than those who already exhibit signs of emotional exhaustion as teachers.

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Updated: Oct. 20, 2021