The"push"and"pull"of feared and hoped for teacher future identities

Year: 2009

Author: Richardson, Paul

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Drawing on"possible selves"theory (Markus & Nurius, 1986), this paper examines whether beginning teachers have a developed sense of the type of teacher they most want to, and most do not want to be, how these relate to behavioural and affective teaching-related outcomes, and their demographic, school contextual and internal bases. 253 Australian beginning teachers completed an online survey asking about ideal, feared and actual perceived teacher selves. 7-point Likert-type scales measured the extent to which their actual was alike ideal vs feared. Also collected were demographic and school context (location and SES) data, perceived barriers to goal achievement (school vs self-related), affective (satisfaction, liking, demand, stressfulness) and behavioural (current goal achievement, planned persistence and effort) outcome indicators.

Types of ideal selves derived by content analysis included positive role model, positive student and staff relationships and student achievement. Feared types related mostly to future disengagement and negative mood, class mismanagement and poor student relationships. Contemporary and prior teacher role-models were the major source of ideal and feared teacher selves. Overall, actual teaching selves were rated more congruent with ideal (Mdn=5) than feared (Mdn=2) selves, which were not direct opposites (rho=-.41). Congruence did not depend on gender, primary/secondary, undergraduate/graduate-entry teacher qualification, or school SES.

Seemingly, internal resources are deployed in the attainment of the ideal self, while more disparate influences affect feared self enactment. Feared self related to perceived school (rho=.32) and skills/abilities-related (rho=.33) barriers to goals, as did remote school location (rho=-.16; 1=remote-5=inner-city). Ideal self congruence related only to skills/abilities-related barriers (rho=-.16). Ideal self congruence correlated with affective and behavioural indicators, positively except for demand and stressfulness. Feared self congruence showed the opposite: correlating negatively except for stressfulness (ns with demand). Relationships were stronger for ideal than feared self congruence, and for satisfaction/liking outcomes.

I further tested for impacts of the extent to which ideal self congruence exceeded feared, to determine whether they operated as a joint system. Their discrepancy showed similar patterns to those for ideal self congruence. These correlations were also a little stronger, indicating their joint salience and importance. These beginning teachers clearly articulated ideal and feared teacher selves, whose motivational force was independently and jointly evident for affective and behavioural teaching-related outcomes. Possible selves theory provides a new perspective on motivations which impact teachers' perceived goal achievement, perceived demand and stressfulness, satisfaction and liking, and planned effort and persistence.