To be or not to be: Shifting motivations in Chinese secondary school English teachers' career narratives

Xuesong GAO

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


As English is now promoted as an academic subject in primary and secondary schools in China, creating an enormous demand for qualified English teachers, there is a need to understand English teachers' motivation and commitment to the teaching career. In this paper, the author reports on a biographical study of 12 teachers who taught in schools in Chinese hinterland areas so as to understand why they first joined and then left the teaching profession for postgraduate studies. Through interpreting their professional experiences, the author came to understand their ambiguous attitudes towards the teaching profession and their fascination with the English language. Initially, many of them were unwilling to become teachers but were attracted by the teacher education programmes to learn more English. Many of them became more committed to teaching after they had positive professional experiences. However, their sense of satisfaction and achievement were undermined by the challenges that they had to cope with as well as an awareness that they were unable to sustain their professional competence. In order to retain such teachers in the profession, there is a need for teacher educators and educational administrators to work out strategies to support teachers' demand for linguistic and professional improvement in remote rural areas on the Chinese mainland. Copyright © 2010 Teacher Development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-334
JournalTeacher Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010



Gao, X. (2010). To be or not to be: Shifting motivations in Chinese secondary school English teachers' career narratives. Teacher Development, 14(3), 321-334.


  • Motivation
  • Professional development
  • Biographical method
  • Chinese cultural tradition
  • Contextual mediation