Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

FOR THE LOVE OF THE MIDDLE: A Glimpse into Why One Group of Preservice Teachers Chose Middle Grades Education

Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

FOR THE LOVE OF THE MIDDLE: A Glimpse into Why One Group of Preservice Teachers Chose Middle Grades Education

Article excerpt

This article reports on a study that investigated the reasons why one group of secondary education students chose to major in middle school education. Data were collected via interviews and meeting and observational notes with prospective middle school majors at a mid-Atlantic public university during the 2010/2011 academic year. Findings indicate that students choose middle school because they (1) love the subject(s) they plan to teach, (2) believe they have a calling to the profession, (3) believe they can relate to young adolescents and they can make a difference in their lives, (4) believe there is a need for middle school teachers thus making them more marketable, and (5) are influenced by parents or other family members in the teaching profession. These findings support the premise that teacher career choice is based on an interaction of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

WHY PRESERVICE TEACHERS CHOOSE MIDDLE GRADES EDUCATION

The Association for Middle Level Education, formerly National Middle School Association, position statement This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents (2010) delineates the characteristics of effective middle grades education into the areas of curriculum, instruction, and assessment; leadership and organization; and culture and community. Specifically, the statement emphasizes the importance of middle grades teachers who choose to work with and advocate for the young adolescent. Additionally, it reports on the need for middle grades teachers to "have a zest for living; enjoy being with young adolescents and understand the dynamics of the ever-changing youth culture" (p. 9). While the role of a middle grades educator is well defined, why an individual chooses to become a middle grades educator is more of a mystery. This article reports on a study that investigated the reasons why one group of secondary education students chose to major in middle school education.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

The goal of this study was to begin to understand why teachers choose to teach middle school rather than elementary or high school. To do this, the researchers chose to study one group of teachers who had recently decided to major in middle school education. To frame the study, the researchers reviewed the literature on reasons why teachers choose teaching as a career and specifically why they choose to teach middle school. Additionally, in an effort to set the study within a larger context, it was important to review the literature on the history of middle school and the current state of middle grades education and certification in the United States.

The Choice of Teaching as a Career

Motivation is a key in choosing a career in teaching. Intrinsic motivators for those entering the education profession appear to be idealism and altruism. In a landmark study of teacher beliefs and attitudes, Goodlad (1984) concluded that teachers' desire to teach centered on the nature of teaching itself or the desire to teach, in general. Only 22% of those surveyed claimed to enter the field to teach a particular subject. In a literature review that extended through the 1990s, Brookhart and Freeman (1992) suggested that "altruistic, service-oriented goals and other intrinsic motivations are the source of the primary reasons entering teacher candidates report for why they chose teaching as a career" (p. 46).

Further support for intrinsic motivation was provided in 2000. In a survey conducted by the Fordham Foundation, Farkas, Johnson, and Foleno (2000) compared teachers' career-oriented beliefs with those of other young graduates. Teachers overwhelmingly (83%) cited "work that you love to do" as essential in one's job, compared to 60% of young graduates overall. Choosing a job that "contributes to society and helps others" was deemed essential by 72% compared to just 39% of young graduates overall. In a study of teachers-in-training at two Australian universities (Watt & Richardson, 2007), a different set of motivators emerged. …

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