22 SES 11 C, Teaching and Learning: Teacher Training
In many countries, student attrition remains a concern for universities due to losses in both revenue and intellectual investment (Hare, 2010; Norton & Cherastidtham, 2015). There is a growing body of research in this field, with many researchers examining why students withdraw from their course of study. Collectively, the research has provided a myriad of insights into the reasons for attrition including physical or mental health issues, poor sense of belonging, finances, family reasons, type of attendance, incorrect course choice and Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) (Department of Education and Training, 2017; Harvey, Szalkowicz, & Luckman, 2017; Kirk, 2018). Most universities collate reasons for attrition through an exit survey, with most surveys offering a selection of reasons for withdrawing. The data retrieved from these surveys indicate singular causes for attrition. Studies such as Beer and Lawson (2017) cautions against oversimplifying causes for student attrition stating there is often a combination of factors that contribute to students’ decision to withdraw.
Work motivation theorists concur that profound motivations prompt, sustain and focus behaviour (Heinz, 2015; Steers, Mowday & Shapiro, 2004). Therefore, students’ motivation to commence in a course is likely to influence how long they remain in the course. In regards to motivations for choosing teaching as a career, Richardson and Watt (2006) identified seven categories of motivations. These include: “intrinsic values, personal utility values (job security, time for family, job transferability), social utility values (shape future of children/adolescents, enhance social equity, make social contribution, work with children/ adolescents), self perceptions of individuals’ own teaching abilities, the extent to which teaching had been a “fallback” career choice, social influences and prior positive teaching and learning experiences” (p. 38). Some categories have proven to be more salient with students, and consequentially provide a stronger drive to persist at their studies.
This study sought to understand preservice teachers' motivations for enrolling in a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood studies) course whilst examining their reasons for continuing in the course. Data collection took place over a two-year period (2017-2018). By chance, the first cohort of participants were all female, and by design the second were all male. A male perspective into motivations for enrolling and retention was deemed necessary for two reasons. First, previous studies on motivation to teach have not had a strong representation of males. For example, a study conducted in New South Wales and Victoria found that early childhood education had almost exclusively female enrolments (Richardson & Watt, 2006). Second, a study conducted by Severeins and ten Dam (2012) found that the percentage of male attrition was highest in programs where women made up more than 75% of the students. In this current study, females comprised approximately 98% of course enrolments, which is consistent with enrolments at many other Australian universities.
Data were collected and conceptualised using Rogoff’s (2003) notion of transformation of participation, as the concept of retention at university is viewed as an interactive process with preservice teachers and the university alike contributing to factors relating to retention. This is particularly the case for motivation, where universities have the opportunity to adapt ways of teaching to cater for different motivations increasing the likelihood of retention. The transformation of participation approach enables an examination of the data from the perspectives of community, interpersonal and personal planes of analysis. This multifaceted view highlights connections between findings in each of the datasets enabling a more informed view of how retention strategies can be translated into practice and preservice teachers can be supported.
The research question driving this study was: What are preservice teachers' motivations for enrolling and continuing in a Bachelor of Education [BEd] (Early Childhood studies [ECS]) course? Qualitative methodological approach was employed so that rich and robust answers could be stimulated from a relatively small sample group. Specifically, the study utilised a phenomenological methodology as this approach focuses on the participants’ construction of reality. The participants’ voice is central to this paper and consequently, the questions omitted any leading statements. Ethics approval was gained through Edith Cowan University Methods Data were collected using two different research instruments. The first was an analysis of attrition data collected by the university (ECU Data Warehouse, 2016) and the second were interviews conducted with participating preservice teachers. The attrition data enabled an examination of previous student attrition patterns in the BEd (ECS) course over an eight-year period (Harvey, Szalkowicz, and Luckman (2017) report that 50% of students who started a degree and left are more likely to return within eight years of their initial withdrawal). Semi-structured interviews were conducted to allow preservice teachers more control over what they wanted to say in regards to the factors that contributed to their retention and motivations for this line of study. Interviews provide a context in which any unexpected data may emerge and provide insights into the participants' perceptions and student retention (Peters & Halcomb, 2014). All interviews were audiotaped and later transcribed. Sample Overall, 26 preservice teachers enrolled in an undergraduate BEd (ECS) degree participated in this study. In the first year of data collection, 20 females participated (first to third year). The sample represented all attendance and delivery modes, that is, full-time and part-time as well as on campus and off campus students (average age 34). In the second year of data collection, six males participated with five in first year and one in fourth year. This sample represented both full time and part time, but only preservice teachers in the on-campus mode of delivery participated (average age 28). Analysis The qualitative data were analysed by clustering themes and searching for patterns on which to draw logical conclusions. Preservice teachers’ motivations for enrolling in the Bachelor of Education (ECS) degree were observed, particularly in reference to retention.
The majority of participants enrolled in the BEd (ECS) degree because of prior positive teaching and learning experiences. While this provided a strong motivation to enrol, the motivations differed for many of the students. The female students were more likely to cite their love of children as their motivation for teaching and the males were more inclined to refer to the way that young children learn. One male enrolled because he felt the early childhood pedagogy was how all individuals learn best. This student had engaged in five other courses of study. Many female students named their own children as motivation to continue in their career choice, as they wanted to be a good example for them. One male student was highly motivated by social utility values where he desired to make a difference to his cultural context by encouraging education and aspirations from a young age. This motivation had him return to the course after a few years break. Students’ self-perceptions of teaching abilities were insinuated than identified specifically as a motivation to enroll. The practicums that are offered early and yearly in the course were acknowledged as a motivation to stay as they provided a confirmation of ability. None of them cited teaching as a ‘fallback’ career choice. This study has identified a number of key issues in relation to retaining students in the course. Creativity and hands-on learning were identified as motivations to enter teaching, hence these styles of teaching and learning are likely to be well received by students in their own learning. Additionally, well-placed practicums provide confirmation of ability and therefore confirms choice of enrolment.
Beer, C., & Lawson, C. (2017). The problem of student attrition in higher education: An alternative perspective. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 41(6), 773-784. doi:10.1080/0309877X.2016.117171 Department of Education and Training. (2017). Completion Rates of Higher Education Students- Cohort Analysis, 2005-2014. Retrieved from: https://www.education.gov.au/completion-rates-cohort-analyses Edith Cowan University Warehouse Data. (2016). Attrition data. Joondalup, Australia: Edith Cowan University. Hare, J. (2010, October 20). High university drop-out rates cost 1.4bn. The Australian Retrieved from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/high-university-drop-out-rates-cost-14bn/news-story/3ab0e494787389df9b0a8a892bba2242?sv=c045c3290dc2b8e5023796033cdf44fc Harvey, A., Szalkowicz, G., & Luckman, M. (2017). The re-recruitment of students who have withdrawn from Australian higher education. Report for the Australian Government Department of Education and Training. Melbourne: Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity Research, La Trobe University. Heinz, M. (2015). Why choose teaching? An international review of empirical studies exploring student teachers’ career motivations and levels of commitment to teaching. Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice, 21(3), 258-297. doi: 10.1080/1383611.2015.1018278 Kirk, G. (2018). Retention in a Bachelor of Education (Early childhood studies) course: students say why they stay and others leave. Higher Education Research & Development. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2018.1455645 Peters, K., & Halcomb. E. (2014). Interviews in qualitative research. Nurse Researcher, 2(4). doi:10.7748/nr.22.4.6.s2 Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. NY: Oxford University Press. Severeins, S. & ten Dam, G. (2012). Leaving College: A gender comparison in male and female-dominated programs. Research in Higher Education, 53, 453–470. Thorpe, K., Sullivan, V., Jansen, E., McDonald, P., Sumsion, J., & Irvinee, S. (2018). A man in the centre: inclusion and contribution of male educators in early childhood education and care teaching teams. Early Child Development and Care, doi: 10.1080/03004430.2018.1501564 Vendrell, R., Capdevila, R., Dalmau, M., Geis, A., & Ciller, L. (2014). Descriptive study on gender equity in Early Childhood Education in Catalonia, Spain. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 4(7), 279-290.
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