Career Motivation and the Formation of Teacher Professional Identity: A Lifespan Perspective

Year: 2018

Author: Richardson, Paul, Watt, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In contemporary society much of our life consumed by the work we do, which is intimately interwoven with the pursuit of occupational goals and meaning. Teachers realise their career motivations and goals and configure their professional identities within specific school workplace cultures and environments, governed by local and global social and political forces.
Following Eccles (2009), we suggest that teacher identity can be conceptualised as a motivational construct comprised of ability self-concepts (related to skills, characteristics, and competencies) and subjective task value (personal values and goals) which work together in particular contexts to activate behavioural choices. We contend that teacher identity involves personal and social identities and can be defined as the degree to which a person identifies being a teacher as integral to who s/he is as a person, how s/he enacts the role of teacher, extent of social ties to the profession, and commitment to the career into the future.  
A strength, but also a challenge to the study of the formation and development of teacher professional identity, is its multidimensional contextualised character, reflected in the diversity of constructs through which researchers have examined identity-related processes. Key constructs have included self-efficacy, expectancies, values, goals, attitudes, beliefs and professional commitment. These have derived from major motivational theoretical frameworks that emphasise the interplay among person, task and context: expectancy-value theory (EVT), achievement goal theory (AGT), self-determination theory (SDT, and self-efficacy theory each of which has been adapted to the exploration of teacher motivation (EVT: see Richardson & Watt, 2006; Watt & Richardson, 2007; AGT: see Butler, 2007, 2014; SDT: see Roth, 2014; self-efficacy: see Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001). We draw on key motivational theories and empirical studies to highlight aspects of identity development across the lifespan of a teaching career. Such a developmental perspective on teacher identity and motivation leads us to expect processes of adaption and dynamism that are responsive to context.
We propose the SOC (Selection, Optimisation and Compensation) model, originally developed as a model of successful ageing and subsequently applied to successful occupational lifespan developmentas an overarching theoretical lens. The model provides new insights and a potentially integrative framework, within which diverse theoretical perspectives on teacher motivation and identity development can be coherently further explored.