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Motivation theories and existing research evidence suggest that teacher career structures represent a powerful leverage to improve teacher motivation (Crehan, 2016), which is particularly important in the light of what some authors esteem to be a ‘teacher motivation crisis’ (Bennell and Akyeampong, 2007). Many countries have reformed their teacher career structures over the last decade and many others are in the process of doing so. Governments are looking for ways to diversify the professional courses of teachers, to widen advancement opportunities, and to help ensure that good teachers remain in the teaching profession. Nevertheless, it is difficult to find detailed documentation about the organization of teacher careers, how they are managed, and their effects on teachers.
To make information more readily available, this mapping exercise aimed to generate knowledge and to identify key aspects to consider when organising teacher careers. The findings are meant to assist countries wishing to adapt their teacher career policies with a view of potentially improving teachers’ motivation and ultimately learning.
Using a theoretical framework and a typology of teacher career models and evaluation modalities developed at project inception, it collected accurate country descriptions of teacher career structures, related challenges and perceived effects using existing documents (laws and regulations, basic statistics, existing research evidence) and a limited number of semi-structured interviews in eight countries (Lithuania, Scotland, South Africa, Ethiopia, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, and Thailand). The latter were purposively selected among countries from different geographical zones and income levels and reflect a diversity of innovative teacher careers schemes with the potential to bolster intrinsic motivation.
Besides making available information on the organisation and management of teacher careers in a diversity of countries, the research findings highlights key aspects that policy makers need to consider before embarking on teacher career reforms. First, certain design choices tend to lead to specific challenges and outcomes when it comes to their implementation and should therefore be taken into account. Second, the results suggest that some ‘pre-requisites of the reform’ are essential for its success no matter which career structure is chosen, i.e. the system capacity for change, adequate financial resources, trust in the education system, teacher buy-in, and clarity about the goals and means of the policy. Inadequate teacher salaries and work conditions, in particular, are key aspects that may considerably hinder the positive effects of teacher career structures. Teacher careers should therefore always be analysed in a wider context as enabling factors considerably contribute to their outcomes.