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Over the last decades, the pursuit of universal access to primary education has led to an upsurge of enrolments and a need to employ large amounts of teachers. In many countries, strategies to meet these needs have led to the recruitment of non-professional teachers, which has in turn contributed to a certain ‘de-professionalization’ of the teaching profession and a lower teacher status. This, together with other aspects contributed to what some authors term a ‘teacher motivation crisis’ (Bennell and Akyeampong, 2007). This review explores the contribution of teacher career models to teacher motivation, and explores whether a change in their administration could improve the quality of teaching in schools by motivating teachers and increasing the appeal of the profession.
The book used existing psychological research and motivation theories to examine teacher career structures in different countries. It reviewed teacher career models pertaining to a spectrum of reforms - from those that heavily rely on controlling extrinsic incentives to those that employ more intrinsic incentives oriented towards teacher autonomy and professional growth. Moreover, the review develops a typology of career models and summative evaluation modalities and identifies implementation challenges associated with them.
The literature search included an analysis of a wide range of research evidence and was carried out using key terms that were not country specific. This means the review includes a variety of career structures from developed and developing contexts. It identified countries with atypical career structures and when details were missing from the report, the author made direct contact with the respective policymakers.
The findings of the review underline that career structures should be designed in such a way that would encourage autonomous motivation of teachers through the creation of an environment that encourages competence, autonomy and good interpersonal relations, while, at the same time holding teachers accountable for the quality of their teaching. This can be achieved by including extrinsic incentives and disincentives, for those who remain unmotivated, in a way that is not perceived as controlling to all those who are already autonomously motivated. In other words, accountability for teaching quality is needed, but it must be perceived as supportive and conducive to the autonomy of all teachers willing to improve their practice, so that it does not undermine their autonomous motivation.
This sounds challenging, but there are indeed some career structures that seem to achieve this balance. For example, the career ladder structure is a more promising model, in that it allows the possibility of linking pay to performance indirectly, and offers teachers a pathway for professional growth. Other design elements discussed in the book also seem to lead to these outcomes. Nevertheless, the research on all of these models is limited to the extent that no firm conclusions can be drawn. Moreover, the success of career structures strongly depends on their careful design, the system implementation capacity and on other contextual factors.