What really motivates aspiring teachers?

What really motivates aspiring teachers?
Teachers are more likely to choose teaching as a career because they want to help people and society, according to the first international book measuring teacher motivations.

The findings are among those detailed in Global Perspectives on Teacher Motivation from a new book exploring why teachers around the world choose to teach, and what sustains them in the profession.

The book is the latest collaboration of Professor Helen Watt of the University of Sydney and Professor Paul Richardson of Monash University, who are editors with Professor Kari Smith, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

“The most engaged and effective teachers were those who report that they chose teaching because they care about people and society, are interested in teaching, and believe they possess the abilities to be good teachers,” Professor Watt said.

Professor Richardson’s advice was for governments around the world to look upon their education systems as “engine-rooms of future creativity and economic development”.

“They spend a lot of money on education, so there is a strong focus on school quality, teacher quality and the impacts on student learning,” Professor Richardson said.

In Australia, Professor Watt said, their research showed people who choose teaching as a career are motivated by a complex interaction of factors.

“Generally, though, people who choose to be teachers want to do meaningful work that contributes to a better, more equitable society, and perceive they have the ability to be good at it,” Professor Watt said.

“These findings were remarkably similar across samples from different countries and education systems. Unlike some careers, where rewards are in the form of salary and status, these factors do not figure heavily for people who want to become teachers.”

Professor Watt said their findings suggested that people motivated to teach as a result of not knowing what else to do, as a ‘fall back’ choice, or being persuaded by others to go into teaching, were unlikely to be positively engaged in teaching as a career.

“Listening to friends say, ‘you should be a teacher because you’d be good at it’ seems to be a bad reason to become a teacher, in terms of the long-term impacts on that teacher and his or her engagement with students,” she said.

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