Promoting Professional Growth: A Developmental and Motivational Approach to Teachers’ Professional Learning

  • Author / Creator
    Durksen, Tracy L.
  • Teachers, with an inherent commitment to life-long learning, sow the seeds for their students to become life-long learners. Using motivational theories, I conducted a three-study dissertation that provides a developmental description of the connections between teachers’ efficacy beliefs, engagement, and professional learning across two major professional life phases: pre-service teachers and practicing teachers. The overarching research question that guided my dissertation was: What patterns exist within and across professional life phases, in relation to the influences of efficacy and engagement on teachers’ professional learning? I argue that university coursework during initial teacher education is the first and foundational professional learning experience for teachers. To enhance understanding of motivation and emerging beliefs about professional learning, I examined 153 second-year education students’ questionnaire responses in Study 1 to answer the question: How do personal characteristics, teachers’ self-efficacy, and current course engagement influence the professional learning beliefs of students at the beginning of their teacher education program? Participants responded to questionnaire items on professional learning, career choice satisfaction, teachers’ self-efficacy, and engagement as a teacher education student. Program level and motivation to pursue an education degree contributed to a hypothesized structural equation model for motivation and professional learning. Study 1 concludes with implications for teacher educators.

    The final practicum placement is considered the most intensive professional learning experience for pre-service teachers. Therefore, Study 2 was set in the context of pre-service teachers’ final practicum placements and aimed to answer the research question: How does a 9-week professional learning experience influence pre-service teachers’ motivation, and in particular, commitment and engagement to the profession? Quantitative analyses of weekly questionnaire data collected from 150 participants during a final 9-week practicum revealed significant and non-linear patterns for commitment and engagement, while a multiple-case qualitative design with two contrasting cases highlighted the variability of pre-service teachers’ experiences in the practicum. Results revealed themes akin to three basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) and underscored the critical influence of a mentor teacher on a pre-service teachers’ professional commitment and engagement. Study 2 concludes with practical implications for educational psychologists. Practicing teachers’ professional learning beliefs and associated experiences not only impact their practice and influence their students but also play a key role in the professional lives of their colleagues. For Study 3, data were collected from 296 practicing teachers in order to answer the research question: How do practicing teachers’ self- and collective efficacy beliefs and teacher engagement influence reasons and preferences for professional learning? Results include a model of practicing teachers’ self-reported efficacy beliefs and teacher engagement in relation to professional learning. Teaching level and professional life phase predicted efficacy beliefs with teachers revealing collaboration as the most influential type of professional learning on efficacy beliefs. Conclusions highlight the role of collaboration in professional learning and outline practical implications and future research. Taken together, the three studies provide a descriptive and developmental (cohort-based) perspective of motivation and professional learning across two general professional life phases. In the concluding chapter, I synthesize the three studies by providing comparative results. For example, Chapter Five includes a comparison of the importance ratings provided by teacher education students (Study 1) and practicing teachers (Study 3) on reasons for professional learning. An integrative and theoretical model for teachers’ motivation and professional learning is presented, along with overall recommendations for professional learning practices and future research.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.