swiseSWISE 050310 015SWISE 050310 008

Prof. Dr. Paul Richardson

Beginning Teachers’ Engagement Profiles Across Country Settings: Implications for Teacher Education & Early Career Induction


Prompted by the absence of an agreed-upon theoretical and analytical framework to guide research concerning teachers’ motivations, the FIT-Choice framework and scale (Watt & Richardson, 2007) were developed to assess the primary motivations of teachers to teach, grounded in expectancy-value theory (Eccles (Parsons) et al., 1983; Wigfield & Eccles, 2000). Our initial research with 1,651 Australian future teachers (Richardson & Watt, 2006) showed highest-rated motivations were intrinsic value and perceived teaching abilities – the major predictors of choices within the expectancy-value framework – positive prior teaching and learning experiences, and “altruistic” social utility values (i.e., shape the future of children/adolescents, enhance social equity, make social contribution, work with children/adolescents). Personal utility values (job security, time for family, job transferability) and a “fallback” career were lower rated. To discover whether initial motivations mattered and whether we could predict who might stay in the career, leave, and why, it was necessary to map initial motivations against future teachers’ graduating levels of planned effort, persistence, professional development and leadership aspirations (Watt & Richardson, 2008 ). Three distinct teacher types were discerned using cluster analysis, having different motivations for teaching, perceptions about the profession, and career intentions. Highly engaged persisters were most motivated by intrinsic value, teaching abilities, and all social utility values. They were the lowest on “fallback” career motivation, although the others were also quite low. Although they were aware the financial rewards were not high, they looked upon teaching as a satisfying career offering opportunities to fulfil their real/anticipated family responsibilities. Highly engaged switchers were in-between other clusters for intrinsic value, shape future of children/adolescents, and work with children/adolescents, and similarly high to highly engaged persisters for enhance social equity and make social contribution. They planned to be effortful, undertake professional development, aspire to leadership positions in schools, and remained satisfied with their choice of teaching through the course of their degree; but, because they had other career plans, they were not planning to stay long in the profession. Lower engaged desisters were more motivated by teaching as a “fallback” career than others, and least motivated by intrinsic and social utility values. Their satisfaction with the choice of teaching declined through their degree, due to negative practicum experiences, confrontation with the demanding nature of teachers’ work, lack of school structural supports, difficulties experienced in working with children/adolescents, perceived lack of career prospects, and insecure employment.

Having identified these types in our initial Australian study, we were intrigued whether they might replicated elsewhere. Among a USA sample, we distinguished three clusters: two resembled “highly engaged persisters” and “lower engaged desisters”; a new third cluster we called “classroom engaged careerists”, who were high on planned effort, professional development plans, and persistence, but equally lowest on leadership aspirations (Watt, Richardson, & Wilkins, 2013). It is likely that different career structures towards educational leadership positions account for why classroom engaged careerists intended to remain in classroom teaching, and the absence of the “highly engaged switchers”. In support of this interpretation, in a UK sample, where pathways to school leadership include both rising through the ranks as a teacher, and undertaking studies in administration and leadership, we distinguished all four clusters. A final context in Turkey (Kılınç, Watt, & Richardson, 2012), that includes similar pathways to school leadership, and where teacher education is markedly less competitive than other degrees, we replicated these four profiles, and, an additional “disengaged desisters” cluster. The robust emergence of the highly engaged switchers and lower engaged desisters across different samples and settings suggests that previous explanations for why people leave teaching within their first five years need to be carefully re-examined. It is clear that a significant percentage of people enter teacher education with developed plans for how long they will stay in the profession. This finding has implications for teacher employers and policymakers concerned with workforce planning, recruitment and workforce renewal.


FIT-Choice (www.fitchoice.org) is funded by the Australian Research Council: DP0666253 (Richardson, Watt, & Eccles), DP0987614 (Watt & Richardson) and DP140100402 (Richardson & Watt).



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.

Kılınç, A., Watt, H. M. G., & Richardson, P. W. (2012). Factors influencing teaching choice in Turkey. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 40(3), 199-226.

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(1), 27-56.

Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 68-81.

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., & Wilkins, K. (2014). Profiles of professional engagement and career development aspirations among USA preservice teachers. International Journal of Educational Research, 65, 23-40.