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Motivations to Teach: Psychometric Perspectives Across the First Semester of Teacher Education

by Catherine Sinclair, Martin Dowson & Dennis M. McInerney - 2006

Many studies have investigated preservice teachers' motivations to teach. However, few studies have (a) used robust measurement methodologies to test the psychometric properties of instruments measuring motivations to teach, (b) attempted to measure changes over time in preservice teachers' motivations to teach, or (c) attempted to assess the effects that relevant variables such as age or gender may have on temporal changes in motivations to teach. This study sought to address these perceived deficits in the literature. Results indicate that the instrument developed in this study was reliable and valid across two waves of data collection, that preservice teachers' motivations to teach changed across the course of their first semester of teacher education, and that, in some cases, these changes were related to the age of preservice teachers.


A worldwide shortage of teachers is currently developing, and specific ge­ographic and subject-area shortages are already commonplace in many Western nations. These shortages are typically attributed to the resignation of qualified practicing teachers, the retirement of an aging teaching labor force, and falling enrollments in teacher education programs (O’Connor, 1999; Preston, 1997). With respect to the first of these attributions, for example, recent research in the U.S. context (e.g., Association for Curric­ulum Supervision and Development, 2003; Ingersoll, 2003) suggests that present teacher shortages are not the result of too few teachers per se. Rather, it appears that there are a sufficient number of trained teachers, but that many qualified teachers are leaving the profession because of job dis­satisfaction, “burnout,” or other non-retirement-related reasons. Despite this, it is also the case that attracting new candidates to, and retaining these candidates within, the teaching profession is critical. Unfortunately, two key incentives—money and status—that may address issues of both teacher at­traction and teacher retention are not as readily available to teaching as they are to other competing professions. There is little that teachers or policy makers can do about the salary structure or status of teaching in the short term. What is possible, however, is identifying other incentives (or moti­vations) that may attract people to teaching and retain them once they are there.

Attracting and retaining candidates for teaching is not just important for the profession; it is also important for financial and personal reasons. For example, the financial costs (just to the preservice teacher, not the actual costs to government) of teacher education are considerable. In Australia, for example, where this study was conducted, it costs approximately $US 15,000 per annum in government fees, books, and other academic expenses to complete a teacher education course. In personal terms, teach­er education “costs” a 4- or 5-year commitment to a teacher education course before a recognized qualification to teach is gained. This money and time is obviously not put to best use if teacher candidates drop out of the profession before or soon after they enter it as qualified teachers. Thus, if it were possible to identify motivations that were associated with completion of teacher education courses and retention in the profession after gradu­ation, this would clearly be advantageous from financial, personal, and professional points of view.

Not only is it important to attract candidates to and retain candidates within teaching but also to attract the “right” candidates to teaching. The “right” candidates presumably will be those who engage deeply in their preservice preparation and their subsequent professional lives. This en­gagement may be demonstrated, for example, when preservice teachers attend and actively participate in lectures and tutorials, ask meaningful questions, enter into substantive conversations with peers and university lecturers, reflect on their experiences on campus and in their practicum schools, think deeply about their assignments, and change their beliefs and practices throughout their courses and as they become teachers.

Not all preservice teachers engage in their teacher education courses in the manner described above. Recent findings from the motivation psychol­ogy literature (e.g. Pintrich, 1990) suggest that the differing quality and level of preservice teachers’ engagement in their teacher education courses may be related to motivation constructs. For example, the motivation lit­erature has examined relationships between motivation constructs, such as students’ motivational goals, self-efficacy, self-concept, and attributions, and their performance and engagement in teacher education courses (e.g., Martin & Dowson, in press; Martin, Marsh, & Debus, 2003). What has not been examined to date, however (at least not within a robust psychometric framework), are the effects that specific entry motivations may have on the quality of preservice teachers’ engagement in teacher education courses.

Finally, preservice teachers’ engagement in their teacher education courses probably will be indicative (although not perfectly) of their en­gagement in their professional lives (Jordell, 1987; Steen, 1988). Identify­ing entry motivations, then, may have implications for both teacher education and continuing teacher practice. A prerequisite for investiga­tions of engagement at either the pre- or postqualification stages is the basic identification and measurement of motivations to teach.


The motivational psychology literature (e.g., Dowson & McInerney, 2003; McInerney, Maehr, & Dowson, 2004) suggests that salient motivations de­termine (a) what activities people do or don’t engage in (attraction), (b) how long they engage in these activities (retention), and (c) the depth to which they engage in these activities (concentration). In terms of teaching and teacher education, motivations may therefore determine whether potential candidates elect to teach, how long candidates remain in teacher education and, subsequently, the teaching profession, and the extent to which teach­ing undergraduates and graduates engage with concentrate on their pro­fession.

Identifying motivations associated with attraction, retention, and con­centration may have important practical outcomes. For example, if it was possible to identify a range of factors that attracted people to teaching as a profession (their initial or entry motivations to teach), then it could be possible for teacher education providers and courses to appeal to those motivations. In this way, the attractiveness of teacher education courses may be maximized.

Similarly, one potential reason that people drop out of teaching and teacher education courses is that their motivations may be insufficient to sustain their involvement in teacher education or practice. For example, the demanding nature of preservice teachers’ practicum experiences, particu­larly their early practicum experiences, often cause preservice teachers to evaluate and reevaluate their commitment to teaching. As a result, it is not uncommon for them to drop out of teacher education courses when faced with the realities of their first teaching practicum. Dropping out suggests that, at some level of consciousness, a reevaluation of commitment to teach has occurred. It is reasonable to suggest that part of this reevaluation may involve a reexamination of entry motivations to teach and a determination that these motivations are insufficient to counterbalance the “reality check” (perceived negative characteristics) of initial teaching experiences. Thus, a preservice teacher who enters teaching primarily because he or she per­ceives that “teaching is an easy profession” may experience a substantial decrement in motivation, and hence drop out, if and when he or she dis­covers that teaching is not an easy profession!

Other preservice teachers also experience this reality check but do not drop out. This suggests that their entry motivations may be more stable in the face of the inevitable stresses of practicum. Thus, a preservice teacher who enters teaching as a result of a genuine desire to work with children or adolescents would presumably be more sustainably motivated than one motivated by the perceived ease of teaching.


We have argued so far that understanding motivations to teach may be important for attracting candidates to, retaining candidates within, and en­gaging candidates in, the teaching profession. This is true at both the pre­service and in-service levels. However, we do not assume that motivations to teach will be stable across time. Rather, we suggest that entry motivations to teach may change substantially over time, particularly in response to the “real-life” teaching experiences that constitute preservice teachers’ practi­cum experiences. We also suggest that changes in motivations to teach may be associated with retention. For example, if a preservice teacher’s moti­vation shifts away from perceptions that teaching is an easy profession and toward a desire to work with young people, then his or her retention may be enhanced. Conversely, a preservice teacher who is unable to shift his or her motivation away from teaching being an easy profession may be more likely to drop out in the face of persistent reminders to the contrary. Thus, what we term motivational flexibility, and particular motivations, might also be associated with retention. A prerequisite for determining whether this is the case is understanding that shifts in motivations do occur across time. This study aims to determine whether motivational changes were evident among one cohort of preservice teachers.


One of the key outcomes of this research will be the development of an instrument to measure preservice teachers’ motivations to teach. A legit­imate question concerns how this instrument might be used in professional (as distinct from research) settings. Possible answers to this question follow.

1. Using the instrument to assist potential teacher education candidates (such as senior secondary school students) in identifying their motivat­ions to teach. This identification may assist potential candidates to ap­propriately self-evaluate their commitment and suitability for teaching. As a result, information from the instrument may facilitate more appro­priate choices of teaching as a career among potential candidates.

2. Using the instrument to assist teacher educators to identify preservice teachers’ motivations to teach. This identification may assist teacher ed­ucators in providing appropriate counseling and related support to pre­service teachers, particularly at critical phases such as entry to teacher education courses, or before, during, or after practicum experiences. For example, if preservice teachers are running out of reasons to be com­mitted to teaching, they may need to discuss their interface with the teaching profession with university staff or peer mentors. These staff and mentors may benefit from knowledge of salient motivations espoused by preservice teachers.

3. University-based teacher educators might also find motivations to teach identified by the instrument useful in their interactions with mentoring and supervising teachers in schools. For example, university teacher educators might alert school-based educators (in general terms) to the key types of motivations that particular cohorts of preservice teachers may bring to their practicum experiences. This information may in turn assist school-based educators in providing more targeted support for preservice teachers.

4. Finally, although the instrument in this study is designed with pre­service teachers primarily in mind, it may also be of use to existing teachers, particularly beginning teachers. A means of identifying moti­vations to teach may assist teachers to reflect on their predispositions and reactions to various teaching and teaching-related situations. This re­flection may in turn assist teachers in maintaining or adjusting their approaches to teaching, thus enhancing their engagement and retention in the profession. Schools may also use the instrument to provide ad­ditional school support or professional development opportunities to teachers.


The literature (e.g., Allard, Bransgrove, Cooper, Duncan, & MacMillan, 1995; Berg, Reno, & Coker, 1992; Crow, Levine, & Nager, 1990; Serow, Eaker, & Forrest, 1994; Stiegelbauer, 1992; Su, 1994; Weiner, Swearingen, Pagano, & Obi, 1993; Whately, 1998; Yong, 1995; Zimpher, 1989) suggests several motivations that teacher aspirants may hold when entering pre-service teacher education. These motivations include (a) “love” of, or desire to work with, children or adolescents; (b) the perceived worth or value of teaching to others; (c) a desire to help other people; (d) dissatisfaction with a previous career; (e) the perceived benefits or convenience of teaching (at­tributable to factors such as work schedules, work hours and vacations, and salary); (f) the perceived relative ease of entry into teacher education courses or the job of teaching itself; (g) intellectual reasons, such as a love of learning or teaching, a love of a particular subject area (the latter more likely reported by secondary teachers), the desire to impart knowledge, and so on; (h) the influence of others, such as family members, former teachers, or members of the community; (i) the status of teaching, including the opportunities that teaching provides for career or social advancement; and (j) the opportunities that teaching provides for satisfying interpersonal in­teractions with others.

The literature also suggests that variations in motivations to teach may exist between different groups of teacher aspirants, such as women (Allard et al., 1995), minority groups (Dilworth, 1991; Gordon, 1993), those with differing levels of academic achievement (Hart & Murphy, 1990; Weiner et al., 1993; Whately, 1998), those with different nationalities (Yong, 1995), and second-career teachers (Crow et al., 1990; Serow, 1993). It is important to note that for the present study, age may also be a factor in differentiating between motivations to teach. Specifically, mature-aged preservice teachers, regardless of whether they are second-career teacher aspirants, may have substantially different motivations to teach than those coming to tertiary teacher education courses immediately from high school. This perspective is congruent with Zimpher’s (1989) meta-analysis of motivation-to-teach studies, which reported that motivation to enter teaching has changed across the decades.


We hypothesize, following research by Marsh with respect to self-concept (e.g. Marsh, 1986, 1990), that motivations of any kind, including motivat­ions to teach, may be externally or internally referenced. Externally ref­erenced motivations refer to motivations that primarily involve people or conditions external to individuals. For example, doing something for mon­ey may be construed as an externally referenced motivation because the money attached to a task or occupation is a condition external to the per­son. Similarly, doing something because others think that the task or activity is a good idea represents an externally referenced motivation because the impetus for the task or activity is attributed to forces (in this case, the influence of others) outside the person. Conversely, internally referenced motivations refer to motivations in which the impetus to initiate, persist, and engage deeply in the task or activity primarily is attributed to the beliefs, values, and perceptions of the individual. For example, doing something “just because I like it” (i.e., for reasons of personal interest or satisfaction) is an internally referenced motivation. So too, the desire to help others is an internally referenced motivation because the desire is located within the individual, even if the desire is expressed in relationships with others.

In addition to the frame of reference for a motivation, motivations may also be categorized on the basis of the extent to which they promote lasting and effective engagement in a task or activity (e.g., Ames, 1992; Barker, Dowson, & McInerney, 2002). Thus, motivations may be either adaptive or maladaptive. Adaptive motivations are motivations that facilitate deep and lasting engagement in a task or activity. For example, the motivation to engage in a task or activity for reasons of intellectual stimulation would be expected to assist a person’s cognitive engagement in that activity. This is because an individual would presumably perceive intellectual stimulation (the goal of the motivation) to arise from cognitive engagement (versus disengagement) in the task or activity. Conversely, maladaptive motivations are motivations that facilitate disengagement from, or “shallow” (i.e., su­perficial) engagement in, tasks or activities. For example, the motivation to engage in an activity because the activity is thought to be “easy” would be expected to negatively affect a person’s long-term persistence in that ac­tivity, especially if he or she finds that the activity is actually more difficult than estimated.

Table 1 categorizes each of the motivations to teach in this study in terms of its hypothesized frame of reference and adaptiveness, or otherwise.


Although motivations to teach may be identified relatively easily, few pub­lished instruments with established psychometric properties exist to meas­ure these motivations. In fact, in a review of the literature, we were able to find only one published study (Ferrell & Daniel, 1993) that attempted to measure the validity of a motivation-to-teach instrument, the Orientations for Teaching Survey (OTS), in a psychometric context. At the time of writ­ing, we are aware of no other instruments, extant in the literature, designed to measure motivations to teach.

This instrument displayed some desirable psychometric properties (e.g., high factor loadings and relatively low cross-loadings) in the cited study. However, this study used methods to determine these properties, chiefly exploratory factor analyses (EFAs), that have been largely superseded in recent psychometric studies by more robust methodologies, such as con­firmatory factor analyses (CFAs; e.g., Dowson & McInerney, 2004; McIn-erney, Marsh, & McInerney, 1999). Thus, there is scope for further validation of the OTS using more robust and contemporary measurement methodologies.

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Because CFA procedures are typically more stringent than EFA proce­dures (Kaplan, 2000; Kelloway, 1998), CFAs usually result in many more items from given scales being found to be psychometrically inappropriate. These items need to be deleted for the scales as a whole to demonstrate sufficient validity. For this reason, in the present case, we hypothesized that if the OTS items were tested using CFA procedures, then at least some, and maybe many, items that were found to be psychometrically appropriate in the initial Ferrell and Daniel (1993) study may not prove to be so in a CFA-based study. For this reason, it would be prudent to supplement the original OTS items with further items designed to measure the same constructs as the OTS.

Finally, the meaning of items in any survey may change across contexts. For this reason, it is important to determine whether items developed in one context are appropriate for use in other contexts. In the present case, the OTS was developed in a North American context for use with North American preservice teachers. We, however, were concerned with developing an instrument (or modifying an existing instrument) that could be used in Australian contexts. For this reason, the face validity of items in the OTS had to be considered before the survey could be admin­istered.


Although a substantial amount of literature has addressed factors that in­itially motivate people to become teachers, much less is known about changes to those motivations over time. Such changes may initially be at­tributable to a growing awareness of what teaching actually involves, as opposed to what teaching is thought to involve at the beginning of a teacher education course. This growing awareness may be particularly attributable to teacher aspirants’ practicum experiences in schools (Rushton, 2001; Steen, 1988). Whatever the case, potential changes in teacher aspirants’ motivations to teach are important, not least because of the loss of resources involved when teacher aspirants drop out of teacher education courses. Additionally, there are significant losses to the profession in the early years of teaching (Billingsley & Cross, 1992; Shann, 1998). These may also be attributable, at least in part, to the appropriateness of teacher aspirants’ motivations to teach. For these reasons, a developing knowledge about how preservice teachers’ motivations to teach may change over time would ap­pear to be important for both preservice and in-service retention rates (see also Allard et al., 1995; Barnabe & Burns, 1994; Davis & Wilson, 2000; Dilworth, 1991; Oliver, Bibik, Chandler, & Lane, 1988; Pennington, 1995).


The purposes of the present research were to (a) determine, in the context of confirmatory factor and related analyses, the psychometric properties of a modified and expanded instrument designed to measure students’ mo­tivation to teach, and (b) use data gathered by this instrument to measure changes in preservice teachers’ motivations to teach over time, and how these changes may be related to the ages of preservice teachers.

As indicated, we hypothesized that mature-aged students (those over 25 years of age, n 5 35) would respond differently than younger students (those under 25 years of age, n 5 63) at both Times 1 and 2.



Participants in the study were 98 first-year preservice teachers studying at a large public university in Sydney, Australia. These students were enrolled in a 4-year teacher education course and undertook practicum experiences in elementary schools for 1 day each week during the first semester of their course while concurrently studying teaching on campus throughout the rest of the week. They also undertook a 1-week block practicum experience at the end of the semester.

The number of participants represented the entire first-year cohort of preservice teachers at one campus of the university. The age of participants ranged from 18 to 45, with a mean of approximately 26 years. A total of 84 (85%) females and 13 males participated in the study. Most participants (n 5 89) were from Anglo Australian backgrounds, with most other students coming from Middle Eastern and Asian backgrounds.


The Modified Orientations to Teach Survey (MOTS) was designed to measure Australian preservice teachers’ motivations to become teachers. More specifically, the MOTS was designed to measure the 10 specific moti­vations to teach. Thus, items in the MOTS were clustered around percep­tions that teaching (a) provides opportunities to work with children; (b) is a worthy and worthwhile occupation; (c) is an occupation that provides in­tellectual stimulation; (d) is an easy occupation and an easy occupation into which to gain entry; (e) provides an alternative to previously dissatisfying employment; (f) is a “good” career or may provide other options for career change or advancement; (g) provides opportunities to help others; (h) is an occupation with good “conditions” (e.g., holidays) attached to it; (h) is an occupation valued or recommended by “significant others” (e.g., parents or friends); and (i) provides varied opportunities for working autonomously and with others.

The MOTS comprises 80 items measuring these 10 motivations to teach. A total of 58 of these items were drawn from the original OTS developed by Ferrell and Daniel (1993). These items were included in the MOTS because they measured the constructs of interest in this study and because there is some evidence for their validity in the cited study. Moreover, we did not wish to develop new items to measure the constructs of interest if valid items were already published.

Despite this decision, evidence concerning the psychometric properties of the OTS items is limited because (a) this validity derives from exploratory factor analytic (EFA) approaches to item and construct validation rather than from more robust confirmatory factor analytic (CFA) procedures, and (b) the OTS items were only tested with samples drawn from the United States. Hence, there is some question as to whether the items may dem­onstrate appropriate psychometric qualities when used in other contexts (such as, in the present case, among Australian preservice teachers).

For these reasons, it was prudent to (a) modify the wording of some of the OTS items in order to incorporate wording more appropriate in Aus­tralian contexts, (b) supplement the original OTS items with 22 items of our own construction, and (c) test the psychometric properties of the 80 MOTS items using a CFA approach.

With respect to (a), for example, item 46 of the OTS, “I decided to enter teaching because I was told about a scholarship or tuition reimbursement program available to persons entering teacher education programs” was changed to “I decided to enter teaching because I was told about a schol­arship or some other financial support available to people entering teacher education programs.” This change was made because Australian under­graduate students, including the preservice teachers in this study, are not required to pay particular tuition fees. In addition, the word people rather than persons is more commonly used in the Australian context.

All items in the MOTS used a Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Table 1 includes a list of the scales comprising the MOTS, and a sample item from each scale.


All participants gave their active consent to participate in the study prior to its administration. The MOTS was then administered twice during the participants’ first year at the university—once at the beginning and once near the end of the semester, approximately 5 months apart. Participants completed the MOTS as an entire cohort during normal lecture/tutorial time on both occasions. The response rate to the MOTS on both occasions was 100%. A research assistant, rather than the researchers who may have also been teaching the participants in their course, administered the in­strument. This strategy allowed the researchers to standardize the delivery of the MOTS and attempted to remove any perception on the part of students that nonparticipation would affect their progress in their course.


CFAs assess item and scale validity by determining the extent to which variations in and between observed indicators (items) are caused by un­derlying constructs (Fleishman & Benson, 1987). The specific degree to which variation in and between indicator variables can be explained by latent (underlying) factors determines the fit of CFA measurement models. The first step in establishing the fit of a CFA model is to examine the model’s estimated parameters. The parameters of a CFA model include (a) factor loadings (relationships between items and factors), (b) factor corre­lations (relationships between factors and factors), (c) squared item corre­lations (the amount of variance associated with each item that may be attributed to underlying factors), and (d) error variances or “uniquenesses” (the amount of variance associated with each item not explained by un­derlying factors).

The values for each of these parameters should be permissible (i.e., there should be no impossible values such as negative item or factor variances).


Researchers have developed a variety of methods for assessing model fit (Bandalos & Benson, 1990; Marsh, Balla, & Hau, 1996). These methods involve the use of a variety of goodness of fit indices that typically assess how closely a covariance or correlation matrix reproduced from a hypothesized model matches a matrix generated from actual data. If the two matrices are consistent with one another, then the goodness of fit indices will be large (close to 1), and the hypothesized model can be considered a plausible explanation for the data.

There is considerable debate in the literature as to which of these indices are appropriate for measuring model fit and in what situations (Kaplan, 2000; Kelloway, 1998; Mueller, 1996; Pedhazur & Pedhazur Schmelkin, 1991). Despite disagreement as to the relative merit of various goodness of fit indices, however, there is a general consensus that more than one of these indices of overall model fit should be used to evaluate a given model. In the present study, we use the goodness of fit index (GFI), the adjusted goodness of fit index (AGFI), and the root mean square residual (RMSR) to evaluate the fit of the CFA models that we tested. Ideally, values of the GFI and AGFI should be greater than .90, and values of the RMSR should be less than .05, if models are to be considered to fit the data well (Kaplan; Mueller).


Finally, it is possible and often preferable to test multiple factors in the context of multifactor CFA models rather than in the context of single-factor (congeneric) CFA models (Lee, Dunbar, Frisbie, & 2001; Mueller, 1996). However, if sample size restrictions do not permit this, conge­neric CFA models are particularly useful (Holmes-Smith & Rowe, 1994).

Moreover, congeneric models allow researchers who are exploring the psychometric qualities of less well-documented items and scales to deter­mine the qualities of these items and scales free from disturbance errors associated with other factors (Mueller). Thus, in exploratory-type analyses, congeneric models often provide “cleaner” information than multifactor models.

In the present study, both the sample size and the exploratory nature of the research indicated that the use of congeneric models was appropriate. Specifically, this meant that, at both Time 1 (T1) and Time 2 (T2), 10 congeneric models corresponding to each of the 10 motivation-to-teach scales were constructed. As indicated, we based the models at both times on the factors identified in the previous OTS study. This was because the OTS factors represented both a relevant and reasonably extensive range of motivations to teach. The main measurement question for this study, then, revolved around the extent to which the items in the MOTS measured the OTS factors. This was an important question because, for reasons also out­lined previously, new items needed to be added to the original OTS items, and both the original OTS items and the new MOTS items needed to be validated within a CFA framework. Thus, this research sought to build upon the previous OTS research by retaining the factors from the original study, while extending the previous study by more closely examining the validity of the original OTS and new MOTS items used to measure the original OTS factors.

At T1, modifications to the scales were made until a best fit was achieved with a given number of items. These modifications were based on an ex­amination of the parameters (factor loadings, uniquenesses, and so on) and goodness of fit indices for each model. At T2, the best fitting models from T1 were tested without alteration in order to determine whether the models were “stable” (i.e., demonstrated good fit) from T1 to T2. Thus, the re­search employed a test-retest methodology to ascertain the appropriateness of the models in the study.


Once the validity and reliability of scales have been established, the means of these scales may be computed for use in further analyses. In the present study, and on the basis of the results of the CFAs, we took the means of each of the scales (i.e., the items measuring different motivations to teach). We then used these means in a two-wave repeated-measures analysis of var­iance (ANOVA) to determine whether participants’ responses indicated changes over time in their motivations to teach. As indicated, we hypoth­esized that mature-aged preservice teachers (those over 25 years of age, N 5 35) would respond differently than younger preservice teachers (those under 25 years of age, N 5 63) at both T1 and T2. For this reason, we used age (mature-aged vs. younger preservice teachers) as the grouping factor in the repeated-measures ANOVAs.



Table 2 reports the fit statistics and alpha reliabilities for each of the scales at both T1 and T2.

Table 2 indicates that, with some exceptions, the scales demonstrated good fit at T1 and T2 (i.e., the GFI and AGFI were above .90, and the RMSR was below .05). The exceptions were with respect to (a) worth of teaching, in which the AGFI and RMSR at T2 did not meet generally ac­cepted criterion levels; (b) career considerations, in which the AGF1 at T1 and the AGFI and RMSR at T2 did not meet criterion levels; (c) influence of others, in which the AGFI and RMSR were marginally below criterion levels at T1 and T2; and (d) patterns of interaction, in which the AGFI at T1 did not meet the criterion level.

Despite these exceptions, 6 of the 10 scales (i.e., working with children, intellectual stimulation, ease of entry/work, dissatisfaction, helping others, and con­ditions of employment) all demonstrated good fit on all indices at T1 and T2. This suggests that these scales are particularly good measures of their re­spective constructs. Of the remaining scales, at least one measure of fit (and usually two) at T1 and T2 met criterion levels.


Table 3 records the results of the repeated-measures ANOVAs examining the changes over time in preservice teachers’ motivations to teach. Specif­ically, Table 3 records the main effects for the differing motivations to teach, preservice teachers’ age, and the interaction between these.

Before examining these effects, however, it is worth noting the overall pattern of means in Table 3. The participants reported very strong moti­vations for teaching related to working with children, worth of teaching, intellectual stimulation, and helping others. All means for these factors for both age groups at both times were over 4.00. Means for working with others were also high (approaching 4.00 in all cases). The participants reported less, but still mod­erately, strong motivations for teaching related to career considerations, condi­tions of employment, and influence of others. Conversely, ease of entry and work and dissatisfaction with previous employment were not strong motivators. Means for these factors were in the range of 1.44-1.64 and 2.12-2.64, respectively.

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Reading across the Time 1 (Mean TI) and Time 2 (Mean T2) columns in Table 3 shows main effects for motivation on working with children, worth of teaching, intellectual stimulation, ease of entry/work, and helping others. With the exception of ease of entry/work, both age groups showed a significant decline in these motivations over time. Conversely, ease of entry/work showed a sig­nificant increase over time.

Reading down the Mean T1 and Mean T2 columns of Table 3 for each motivation to teach shows main effects of age for working with children and dissatisfaction with previous employment. Specifically, at both T1 and T2, older preservice teachers reported weaker motivations to work with children but stronger motivations as a result of previous employment dissatisfaction.

Finally, Table 3 shows interaction effects for worth of teaching. This inter­action effect overrides the main effect of motivation for worth of teaching. The interaction effect indicates that younger preservice teachers began (at T1) with stronger motivations to teach based on the perceived worth of teaching than older preservice teachers. However, this motivation had de­clined significantly by T2 so that, at T2, this motivation was weaker for younger preservice teachers than older ones. Conversely, older preservice teachers’ motivation to teach on the basis of the worth of teaching remained essentially stable between T1 and T2.



The CFA approach to the validation of scales in the present study is more robust than the EFA approach used in previous studies (e.g., Ferrell & Daniel, 1993). Using this approach, 6 of the 10 scales (working with children, intellectual stimulation, ease of entry/work, dissatisfaction with previous employment, helping others, and conditions of employment) showed excellent measurement properties at T1 and T2. The remaining four scales (worth of teaching, career considerations, influence of others, and patterns of interaction) demonstrated less robust measurement properties. Despite this, all the remaining scales met criterion levels on at least one goodness of fit measure at T1 and T2. These results, taken together, indicate that the MOTS demonstrates good, if not universally excellent, measurement validity.


Participants reported strong motivations for teaching related to working with children, worth of teaching, intellectual stimulation, and helping others. This is an encouraging finding because these motivations seem to relate to the intrinsic worth of teaching. As such, these motivations might be expected to be more stable across time than other, externally referenced, motivations such as conditions of employment.

Conversely, ease of entry to the occupation and dissatisfaction with pre­vious employment were not strong motivators. Thus, these preservice teachers do not appear to be strongly motivated by negative reasons such as work avoidance or dissatisfaction. Put another way, these preservice teach­ers appear to be positively attracted to the teaching profession rather than negatively attracted to it, or positively repelled from another profession.

More generally, the results above appear to indicate a relatively clear delineation between externally and internally referenced motivations to teach and between negative and positive motivations to teach. Future stud­ies (using, for example, factor analytic methodologies) could investigate whether preservice teacher motivation can indeed be psychometrically cat­egorized along one or both of these dimensions. This would be a useful addition to the literature because motivations to teach have largely been presented in the literature as unrelated singular dimensions. It may be, however, that categories of motivations to teach can be used to construct more parsimonious and equally explanatory models of motivations to teach.


The changes over time with respect to several motivations to teach are noteworthy because they demonstrate (a) that preservice teachers’ entry motivations do change over time and (b) that where changes occur, they typically do so in the negative direction. We speculate that these negative changes in motivations to teach are attributable to participants’ experiences of teaching during their first practicum (between the first and second waves of data collection) and the way that they evaluated these experiences. Thus, lowered motivations might be attributable to preservice teachers developing a more realistic appraisal of teaching during their practicum. It may also be that they encountered negative opinions about teaching expressed by su­pervising teachers or school communities during their practicum. These negative appraisals may have also impacted their motivations to teach.

Whatever the case with respect to the speculations, it is clear that moti­vations to teach are not set in stone, and even across relatively short time periods (in this case, one semester), motivations to teach may change sig­nificantly.


There were relatively few reported age differences in motivations to teach among this cohort of preservice teachers. Only 2 out of the 10 motivations showed a significant main effect of age. These few differences may suggest that age is not a very significant influence on these preservice teachers’ motivations to teach. However, speculating on the causes of these differ­ences is interesting. At both times, the older group of preservice teachers reported weaker motivations to work with children. It may be that mature-aged preservice teachers are more likely to have had direct contact with children—perhaps their own or those of their friends—and this may give them a more realistic view of what it is like to work with children. Con­versely, younger preservice teachers may have more idealistic visions of children. With respect to dissatisfaction with previous employment, it makes some intuitive sense that mature-aged preservice teachers are more likely to have entered teaching because of dissatisfaction with a former career. This is not least because these preservice teachers have had more time to have a career, and so more time to experience dissatisfaction.


There was only one significant interaction effect between age and motiva­tion to teach, and it had to do with the worth of teaching: Younger pre­service teachers reported a greater decline in this motivation than older preservice teachers. This result may suggest that older preservice teachers enter their preservice teaching course with more realistic and stable per­ceptions of the worth of teaching for themselves. Thus, negative experi­ences, or negative perceptions of others, regarding the worth of teaching may differentially impact younger preservice teachers’ motivations. Con­versely, older preservice teachers’ sense of the worth of teaching may be less influenced by negative feedback from external sources than is the case for younger preservice teachers.


This study demonstrated that preservice teachers may exhibit a variety of different motivations toward teaching and that these motivations can change across the first semester of a preservice teacher’s teacher education course. However, the relatively small sample size of this study may limit the generalizability of its findings. Thus, future research with larger sample sizes is warranted. In addition, on the basis of the results thus far, it would be worthwhile to collect further waves of data to track changes in preservice teachers’ motivations over the whole of their courses and even into the beginning phase of their teaching careers. And although the instrument used in this study displayed useful measurement properties, further research will be able to substantiate (or otherwise) the psychometric prop­erties of the MOTS with other samples.


This study provides initial evidence for the validity and reliability of the MOTS, demonstrates that preservice teachers’ motivation to teach do change over time, possibly as a result of the reality of working with children in schools, and indicates that there are some age differences in preservice teacher motivations to teach. For these reasons, the present study provides an initial empirical basis that may inform future psychometric studies on preserve teachers’ motivations to teach.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 6, 2006, p. 1132-1154
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12520, Date Accessed: 12/4/2021 5:57:01 PM

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About the Author
  • Catherine Sinclair
    University of Western Sydney
    E-mail Author
    CATHERINE SINCLAIR is senior lecturer in education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. Her primary research interests are in teaching and teacher education.
  • Martin Dowson
    University of Western Sydney
    E-mail Author
    MARTIN DOWSON is postdoctoral research fellow at the Self-Concept Enhancement and Learning Facilitation Centre of the University of Western Sydney. His primary research interests are in the psychometrics and the psychology of motivation.
  • Dennis McInerney
    University of Western Sydney
    DENNIS M. MCINERNENY is professor of psychology at the Self-Concept Enhancement and Learning Facilitation Centre of the University of Western Sydney. His primary research interests are in the psychology of motivation and cross-cultural psychology.
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