The role of motivational resources for beginning teachers’ resilience to excessive work demands

Year: 2015

Author: Richardson, Paul, Watt, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Can initial teaching motivations have lasting effects for beginning teachers’ professional engagement, wellbeing and teaching styles? In a 3-Phase longitudinal study we examined impacts on Time-2 professional engagement and career development aspirations, and Time-3 self-reported teaching style and burnout, in the presence of “excessive demands” during early career.

Participants were 493 Australian primary/elementary and secondary school teachers (391 women) from the continuing FIT-Choice project (, tracked from entry into teacher education (Phase-1), through the end of their teaching qualification (Phase-2) and into early career teaching up to 7 years (Phase-3). Self-report surveys tapped initial motivations (Phase-1), PECDA (Phase-2), teaching style, burnout and experience of excessive demands (Phase-3). Highest initial motivations were intrinsic value, perceived teaching abilities, positive prior teaching and learning experiences, and “altruistic” social utility values (see Richardson & Watt, 2006). Other motivations included social influences, personal utility values (job security, time for family, job transferability) and teaching as a fallback career.

In a first SEM, initial motivations had enduring impacts on dimensions of early career professional engagement and positive/negative teaching style: Ability, Intrinsic and Social utility motivations predicted positively; Fallback career and Social influences negatively. In a second set of SEMs, to answer whether motivations can protect teachers against burnout due to excessive demands (=.41), we conducted latent moderation analyses (per motivation) using Marsh et al.’s (2007) unconstrained product terms approach. Because no initial motivations related to early career burnout, we repeated analyses using concurrent motivations (moderate stability Phases 1—3: median =.43). Concurrent Ability (=-.16), Intrinsic (=-.45) and Social utility motivations (=-
.09) reduced burnout; Fallback motivations increased burnout (=.15); Social influence motivations exacerbated the harmful impact of excessive demands on burnout (=.08). Personal utility values showed no relationships with PECDA, teaching style or burnout. All SEMs exhibited excellent fit.

Interesting to us is that ability and intrinsic value motivations, key predictors within EV, appeared as main drivers even up to 7 years teaching, alongside the desire to work with youth and make a social contribution—consistent with teachers’ core relational work goals identified by Butler (2012). Problematic motivations were fallback career, and interestingly, social influences, interpreted in light of self-determination theory, which suggests the choice of teaching due to others as a rather controlled motivation. Predictions were quite similar across wellbeing and teaching style outcomes, suggesting these patterns of mal/adaptive motivations as rather robust and deserving of further study across different sets of outcomes and teaching contexts.