What motivates early childhood teachers to undertake a teaching career, and does it matter?

Year: 2012

Author: Richardson, Paul, Fleet, Alma

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


reasons why early childhood teachers choose to enter the profession offers opportunities to effectively market the career to attract potential entrants. We examine the teaching motivations, career perceptions and aspirations of EC beginning teachers across two timepoints, from degree entry through degree exit, with 63 preservice teachers from 3 major teacher education providers in Sydney/Melbourne (Ns=37, 96, 46). Knowing which motivations predict to subsequent professional engagement and career development aspirations has implications for retaining and sustaining early childhood teachers in the profession through structures which afford realisation of their motivations. Our study addresses the question of whether entry motivations predict to subsequent levels of career aspirations and future career engagement at the outset of participants' teaching careers.

Drawing on the previously validated FIT-Choice survey (Watt & Richardson, 2007) have established that early childhood teachers' motivations resemble those of primary/secondary teachers, with the exception of the motivation "work with children", endorsed more highly EC (Richardson et al., 2011). Next highly rated were intrinsic value, perceived ability, and "altruistic" social utility motivations; then prior teaching and learning experiences and job security. Counter to stereotype, less influential were time for family and social influences; very low was fallback career, indicating EC as a career of choice.

What relevance do these motivations have for EC educators' subsequent plans to persist in the profession, exert effort, undertake professional development activities, and their career choice satisfaction? Are the main reasons why people choose to enter early childhood teaching, the same reasons which relate to their subsequent plans to persist in the profession, improve their teaching quality, and career choice satisfaction? Entry motivations indeed predicted career aspirations. However, (unlike in the more diversified scale validation sample), planned persistence for EC teachers was predicted only by intrinsic and social utility values - not by perceived ability and prior teaching and learning experiences. Importantly, in the EC sample, time for family was a higher rated motivation (M=3.9 vs. 3.7 in the validation sample), and negatively predicted professional development aspirations (r=-.25), and career choice satisfaction (r=-.30), suggesting by the end of their degree program, following extended periods of field placement (M=100 days), there has been a recalibration of beginning EC teachers' "family friendly" perception of the career. EC data may require analysing through complex lenses as the sector is less clearly defined than is either primary or secondary teaching; early analyses of the qualitative data shed further insights.