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Shifts in Teacher Motivation over the First Year of Teacher Education

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Abstract and Figures

Teachers’ motivation to engage in a specific task depends on their perception of the task costs and values and on the perception of their ability to successfully achieve it. Results indicated that one year of teacher education impacted task-related motivation, notably self-efficacy and perceptions of cost. A high self-efficacy seemed to intensify the positive impact of teacher education. Finally, motivation to become a teacher affected the evolution of task-related motivation during teacher education.
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American Educational Research Association 2015 Conference
Shifts in Teacher Motivation over the First Year of Teacher Education
Céline Girardet, Jean-Louis Berger, & Cynthia Vaudroz
Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, Switzerland
Over the past years, the interest on teacher motivation has quickly grown (Richardson,
Karabenick, & Watt, 2014). Indeed, a better understanding of the reasons at the basis of
teachers’ career choice (i.e., motivation to become a teacher) and their consequences in terms
of commitment and satisfaction would allow researchers to propose solutions to tame the
issue of teacher shortage, which has become a concern in many countries. Moreover, teaching
is recognized as a complex, multifaceted and difficult occupation that requires deep
engagement and perseverance. Accordingly, motivation to become a teacher plays a
significant role in teachers’ behavior in the classroom, particularly their teaching style, which
in turn impacts student learning, motivation, and achievement, as accumulating evidence
indicates (Butler & Shibaz, 2008; Kunter, Tsai, Klusmann, Brunner, Krauss, & Baumert,
2008; Pelletier, Séguin-Lévesque, & Legault, 2002).
Motivation to become a teacher is not the only aspect to be considered: After having
chosen the teaching career, one has to develop another type of motivation, which is related to
the diverse tasks a teacher has to fulfill (e.g., manage the classroom, plan the instruction).
Indeed, depending on the task, motivation can substantially differ. Eccles(1983) expectancy-
value theory (EVT) of achievement motivation can be readily applied to describe task-related
motivation. The extent to which teachers engage in these tasks are a function of self-efficacy
beliefs (representative of expectancy) the perception of one’s abilities to successfully
achieve teaching tasks, as well as perceptions of the costs the undesirable facets of engaging
in the task such as time and effort needed and the lost opportunities resulting from this
engagement, and values the perceived interest, utility, and attainment.
Teacher education would be predicted to impact task-related motivation to the extent
that teachers learn knowledge and teaching skills that should help them increase their self-
efficacy and value, and reduce the perceived cost of teaching tasks (Bobbitt Nolen, Ward, &
Horn, 2014; Klassen, Durksen, & Tze, 2014; Woolfolk Hoy & Burke Spero, 2005). The
present study extends research on teacher motivation by examining how task-related
motivation evolves during teacher education and the role of motivation to become a teacher in
this evolution. Due to their importance in teaching and their major place in teacher education
programs, the teaching tasks considered are instructional planning and classroom
management. Specifically, the aims of this study were:
1) To test whether and how task-related motivation (self-efficacy, value and cost) for
classroom management and instructional planning change over the first year of teacher
2) To investigate whether motivation to become a teacher (as conceptualized in the FIT-
Choice framework; Watt & Richardson, 2007) has an impact on the evolution of task-
related motivation during teacher education.
Theoretical framework
Most research has investigated teacher motivation at a general level, e.g., reasons for
becoming a teacher or the goals pursued by practicing teachers. In consequence, task-related
motivation and the potential impact of teacher education on teacher motivation are largely
unknown. There is scarce empirical evidence showing that, thanks to teacher education,
teachers increase their self-efficacy beliefs (Woolfolk Hoy & Burke Spero, 2005), which is
followed by a decline during the first year of teaching. Other motivational aspects such as
value and cost regarding teaching activities have hardly been considered despite their likely
relevance. According to Huberman (1993), classroom management is among the major
concerns of beginning teachers, suggesting that it may involve a high cost.
Based on such limited past research, we expected teachers to increase their self-
efficacy beliefs and reduce the perceived cost of their tasks. The first assumption is founded
on the fact that teachers develop their understanding of classroom management and
instructional planning and learn how to practically accomplish these tasks, and as a
consequence become more confident (i.e., increase their self-efficacy). Learning how to
accomplish the tasks implies that it also becomes less demanding and thus their perceived cost
would decrease. Regarding change in task value, we conjecture that teacher education
increases understanding of how useful, interesting, and important teaching tasks are. In a
study emphasizing the relations between self-efficacy, beliefs about the profession and
motivation to become a teacher, Pop and Turner (2009) found that teachers perceiving
teaching as demanding and overwhelming also expressed lack of confidence in their teaching
skills. On the other hand, teachers perceived teaching as desirable if they had a high level of
self-efficacy. On this basis, we conjecture that self-efficacy is a predictor of the perceived cost
and value of teaching tasks.
We also assumed that task-related motivation was dependent on motivation to become
a teacher. The study by Huberman (1993) revealed such a connection: Teachers with so-
called active motivations (e.g., attributing a high intrinsic value to teaching) were less likely
to experience self-doubts and a career crisis than those who had material motives. Indeed,
those who became teachers because they felt that they had the abilities to be a good teachers
might both value teaching tasks more highly and cost as lower. There is evidence that those
who fall back on teaching and do not have any active motivation hold unrealistic expectations
about the tasks (they simply reproduce the perceived actions of their former teachers) and
underestimate the difficulty of teaching (Weinstein, 1988). Throughout teacher education they
realize the difficulty (i.e., the cost) of teaching tasks.
Research based on the “Factors Influencing Teaching Choice” (FIT-Choice) model
revealed the consequences of different motivations to choose teaching, notably for
occupational commitment (Watt & Richardson, 2008), suggesting that these initial
motivations have a pervasive effect on teacher motivation over time. Furthermore, both
beneficial motivations (e.g., having chosen teaching because one feels to have good aptitudes
for it) and deleterious or problematic motivations (e.g., choosing teaching as a “fallback
career”) were identified.
102 vocational teachers participated in the study. In Switzerland, vocational teachers can
legally teach for several years without training certification. Teacher education takes place
along with their current teaching job in a vocational school, a few years after they were hired,
and includes theoretical courses as well as educators’ visits in the teacher’s classroom. In the
teacher education program, vocational teachers are allocated to different classes (with
different teacher educators) whether they are teaching theoretical or practical subjects.
Moreover, teachers of practical subjects follow a 1-year program, whereas teachers of
theoretical subjects follow a 2- or 3-year program. Participants’ mean teaching experience
prior to entering education was 5 years. 39 participants were teaching practical subjects, and
63 were teaching theoretical subjects. At the onset of teacher education (T1), and again nine
months later (T2), the participants completed a survey including measures (Likert-scale with
various anchors) of motivation to become a teacher and task-related motivation (see Table 1
for sample items and factor determinacies). In addition, two control variables were included:
a) prior teaching experience (years of experience in teaching before entering teacher
education) and b) type of subject taught (theoretical vs practical).
Motivation to Become a Teacher
An adapted version of the FIT-Choice scale (Watt & Richardson, 2007) was used to examine
motivations to enter teaching, including the following seven dimensions: Aptitude (3 items
referring to a choice based on the perception of one’s competence at teaching), Social utility
value (5 items assessing the extent to which one chose teaching for social reasons such as
working with young people, or making a social contribution), Personal utility value (5 items
assessing the extent to which one chose teaching for quality-of-life issues such as job security
or time for family), Intrinsic value (3 items assessing the extent to which the career choice
was made on the basis of one’s interest in teaching activities), Fallback career (5 items
referring to a choice by default, or the lack of any other option), Choice by opportunity (4
items referring to a possibility that was offered to the teacher), and Subject interest (4 items
assessing the extent to which the choice to become teacher derives from one’s personal
interest for the subject taught).
Task-Related Motivation
Self-efficacy beliefs was assessed by three subscales adapted from the Ohio State Teacher
Efficacy Scale (OSTES; Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001) and included self-efficacy
for classroom management (4 items), self-efficacy for student engagement (4 items), and self-
efficacy for instructional planning (4 items; developed by the authors). Perceived value of
teaching tasks was assessed by 4 items related to interest, attainment, and utility (2 items).
Perceived cost of teaching tasks was assessed by 4 items including perceived difficulty (time
and effort needed; 3 items) in addition to opportunity cost.
Regarding the first research question, the differences in latent means between the two
measurement times are reported in Table 1. Teachers evolved towards a higher self-efficacy
for instructional planning and for student engagement, but no difference was found in self-
efficacy for classroom management. Task value did not significantly change in any of the two
teaching tasks. Finally, perceived cost significantly decreased for instructional planning but
not for classroom management. In sum, teacher education had an impact on task-related
motivation though not for each of the components considered.
Regarding the second research question, Figures 1 and 2 show that teachers who had a
high self-efficacy at the beginning of teacher training tended to perceive teaching activities as
less demanding in terms of costs at T2. This was valid for instructional planning as well as for
classroom management. Motivation to become a teacher had a significant effect on task-
related motivation at T2 both for classroom management and instructional planning. The
importance attributed to one’s aptitude in becoming a teacher was related to an increase in the
value of instructional planning over time, whereas choosing teaching as a fallback career
increased the perceived cost of classroom management over time. None of the other types of
motivations to become a teacher had a significant effect.
Finally, prior teaching experience was found to be positively related to the three types
of self-efficacy and to the perceived value of classroom management at T2, while teaching a
theoretical subject was a negative predictor of self-efficacy (instructional planning and student
engagement) at T2.
Significance of the Study
The results revealed that teacher task-related motivation shifted during teacher education,
notably self-efficacy beliefs and perceptions of cost. Value was less impacted. Furthermore,
teachers with a high self-efficacy did benefit more from the teacher education program as they
reduced their perceptions of the two tasks as representing a cost.
The assumption of an articulation between motivation to become a teacher and task-
related motivation was confirmed by the results: Some motivations affected the shift in task-
related motivation during teacher education. First, the importance of aptitudes in becoming a
teacher favored the valuation of one’s abilities: Teachers who believed they had more
aptitudes for teaching were more likely to self-confirm their choice by attaching higher value
to instructional planning. Second, the effect of choosing teaching as a fallback career on the
perceived cost of classroom management might be interpreted as a form of disillusion. This
suggests that those who came to teaching as a second-choice career might have realized
during teacher education that classroom management required time, effort and had an
opportunity cost.
Finally, prior teaching experience was related to self-efficacy and task value, which
indicates that it helped teacher develop a positive profile of task-related motivation. Teachers
of practical subjects were found to increase their self-efficacy beliefs more than those
teaching theoretical topics. This might be due to differences in how teachers were trained
(same content but different teacher educators) and/or the fact that teachers of practical
subjects reached the end of the program at T2 and considered themselves fully qualified for
teaching, whereas the theory teachers only completed part of their program and might feel that
they still had much more to learn about teaching. In sum, the study illustrates how teacher
education exacerbated, to some extent, the effects of motivation to become a teacher on
teachers’ task-related motivation, and that EVT is an appropriate theoretical framework with
which to examine the impact of teacher education.
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Table 1. Measures and sample items
Factors Sample items
determinacies (T1)
Latent mean differences
Motivation to become a teacher
I chose teaching because I have the qualities of a good teacher.
Social utility value
I chose teaching because it allows me to work with young people.
Personal utility value
I chose teaching because it provides a secure job.
Intrinsic Value
I chose teaching because I am interested in teaching.
Fallback career
I chose teaching as a last-resort career.
I chose teaching because certain circumstances brought me into teaching.
Subject interest
I chose teaching because it allows me to stay in touch with my favorite domain.
Task-related motivation
Classroom management-related motivation
Self-Efficacy for Student
As a teacher, I feel able to motivate students who show low interest in school work. .861 +0.357 (p = .013)
Self-Efficacy for Classroom
As a teacher, I feel able to control disruptive behavior in the classroom. .957 -0.034 (p = .680)
Task Value
Classroom management is useful.
-0.092 (p = .404)
Classroom management is time consuming.
-0.065 (p = .629)
Instructional planning-related motivation
As a teacher, I feel able to plan activities that cover the duration of the lesson.
+1.267 (p < .001)
Task Value
Instructional planning is important.
-0.022 (p = .855)
Instructional planning is demanding.
-0.353 (p = .014)
Figure 1. Structural equation modelling of teacher task-related motivation for instructional planning.
N = 102.
X2(101) = 130.07, p = .027, CFI = .92, RMSEA = .05.
*** p < .001, ** p < .01, * p < .05, † p < .10.
Figure 2. Structural equation modelling of teacher task-related motivation for classroom management.
N = 102.
X2(147) = 200.83, p = .002, CFI = .92, RMSEA = .06
*** p < .001, ** p < .01, * p < .05, † p < .10.
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