What motivates teachers?

What motivates teachers

In studies by Watt and Richardson (2007, 2008) that authors investigated the initial motivation of individual intending to pursue a career in teaching. The framework for the study was based on expectancy-value theory (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002; Wigfield & Eccles, 1992).

The main motivations of future teachers were ability beliefs and intrinsic value. Next were to make a social contribution and the desire to work with children. Other moderately rated motivations were related to utility values such as job security, job transferability, and time for family. The lowest rated motivation for teaching was as a fall back career.

The sample of Australian teachers in this study indicated that teaching was a “highly demanding, emotionally testing, expert career, requiring specialised and technical knowledge” (Richardson, Karabenick, & Watt, 2014, p. 8).

The popular stereotype of teaching as an easy, fall-back career, or a career suitable for women, is not one which is commonly cited among teachers as their primary source of motivation. Furthermore, the teachers in this study were also aware that teaching was a low social status occupation with low rewards and high demands, meaning that there is a “cost” associated with the “value” of the expectancy-value framework.

It is interesting to discover the motivation of those intending to pursue a career in teaching. There is a perceived cost associated with teaching as a career which is important, considering the high rates of attrition of early career teachers from the teaching workforce (Ingersoll, 2002; Pfitzner-Eden, 2016; Richardson & Watt, 2010). It may be that intrinsic and altruistic reasons for entering teaching are not sustainable considering the high demands of teaching. This area of teacher motivation research is still quite young, however, results can give some indication of the quality of teacher motivation most suitable for a career in teaching.


Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (2002). Motivational beliefs, values, and goals. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 109-132.

Ingersoll, R. M. (2002). The teacher shortage: A case of wrong diagnosis and wrong desctiption. National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin, 86(631), 16-31.

Pfitzner-Eden, F. (2016). I feel less confident so I quit? Do true changes in teacher self-efficacy predict changes in preservice teachers’ intention to quit their teaching degree? Teaching and Teacher Education, 55, 240-254.

Richardson, P. W., Karabenick, S. A., & Watt, H. M. G. (Eds.). (2014). Teacher Motivation: Theory and practice. New York: Routledge.

Richardson, P. W., & Watt, H. M. G. (2010). Current and future directions in teacher motivation research. 16, 139-173.

Watt, H. M. G., & Richardson, P. W. (2007). Motivational factors influencing teaching as a career choice: Development and validation of the fit-choice scale. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75(3), 167-202.

Watt, H. M. G., & Richardson, P. W. (2008). Motivations, perceptions, and aspirations concerning teaching as a career for different types of beginning teachers. Learning and Instruction, 18(5), 408-428.

Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (1992). The development of achievement task values: A theoretical analysis. Developmental Review, 12, 265-310.


What motivates teachers

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