swiseSWISE 050310 015SWISE 050310 008

Prof. Dr. Helen Watt

Why (not) Teach? Youth career motivations for those who do or do not aspire to teach


Motivations to teach are increasingly in the spotlight as concerns mount regarding the number and qualities of those who choose to enter, and remain in the profession. However, teaching motivations have been studied mostly among preservice or practising teachers who have already self-selected into teaching. Few studies have explored motivations among youth before such self-selection – essential to identify deterrents, not only attractors to teach. Investigation of a large sample of Australian adolescents (N = 1,115) while still in their final year of secondary school thus not yet self-selected into particular fields of professional training, enabled exploration of potentially distinguishing career motivations among those who do, versus do not, intend to teach. Students were divided into 3 teaching intention groups (TIGs) according to responses to: “How much would you like to have a teaching career?” (1: not at all, 7: extremely). “Aspirants” (n = 154) were those who rated 6-7, “Unresolved” (n = 516) rated 3-5, “Rejecters” (n = 445) rated 1-2. Motivations to teach have been mostly assessed by the FIT-Choice Scale (see Richardson & Watt, 2006; Watt & Richardson 2007, 2008), grounded in the expectancy-value theory (EVT; Eccles et al., 1983). The Motivations for Career Choice scale (MCC; Watt & Richardson, 2006) is a generalisation and extension of the FIT-Choice scale (Watt & Richardson 2007). Prefaced by the stem, “It is important to me to have a career that…”, the MCC assesses EVT constructs previously adopted in the FIT-Choice scale, and adds features of the interpersonal environment. Confirmatory factor analysis supported the theorised structure. Motivations highest-rated among Aspirants were the same as those highest-rated by future teachers in studies around the world using the FIT-Choice scale (i.e. Intrinsic and Ability motivations, consistent with the premise of EVT). Importantly, motivations that distinguished those aspiring to teach, were: higher altruistic-type motivations, role-models, and a team environment. Motivations were similar for aspiring secondary vs. primary school teachers (63/28% of aspirants), except for the motivation to work with youth - rated significantly higher by aspiring primary school teachers. Those decided against teaching held highest motivations for career status and progression prospects. There are obvious practical and policy applications of these findings to teacher recruitment in a climate of concern over shortage fields. Although teaching is stereotyped as a family-friendly career, family was not more endorsed by aspirants. Despite persistent representations of teaching as a “feminised” choice, no interaction effects with gender occurred. Some identified gender effects challenge stereotypes—such as, similar and high salary motivations for young women and men. Implications for theory and policy will be advanced.


STEPS (www.stepsstudy.org) is funded by the Australian Research Council: DP110100472/ARF and FT170100153.



Eccles (Parsons), J., Adler, T. F., Futterman, R., Goff, S. B., Kaczala, C. M., Meece, J. L., & Midgley, C. (1983). Expectancies, values, and academic behaviors. In J. T. Spence (Ed.), Achievement and achievement motives (pp. 75-146). San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman & Co.

Richardson, P.W. & Watt, H. M. G. (2006). Who chooses teaching and why? Profiling characteristics and motivations across three Australian universities. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 34, 27-56.

Watt, H. M. G., & Richardson, P. W. (2006). Motivations for Career Choice Scale. Unpublished scale. Monash University. Victoria, Australia.

Watt, H. M. G. & Richardson, P. W. (2007). Motivational factors influencing teaching as a career choice: Development and validation of the FIT-Choice Scale. 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, 408-428.