A career in teaching: decisions of the heart rather than the head

O'Sullivan, Mary, MacPhail, Ann and Tannehill, Deborah (2009) A career in teaching: decisions of the heart rather than the head. Irish Educational Studies, 28 (2). pp. 177-191.


There is a growing body of research and scholarship highlighting the importance of teachers and teaching to children's learning and life opportunities (Bransford, Darling-Hammond and LePage 2005). More specifically what teachers do in classrooms is a function of many things (e.g., content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge) including their belief about students, the subject, and the teaching process (Calderhead 1996). The focus of this research was to understand why young people in Ireland are attracted to teaching physical education and what factors contribute to their decision to enter a teacher education programme. A cohort of 75 physical education teacher candidates wrote brief narratives summarising key factors that influenced their decision to be teachers of physical education. Most of these students chose teaching as a career because of their interests in sport and physical education, love of working with children, and the a number of significant others telling them they would be good at teaching. Their leadership roles on teams (captaincy) and their personal athletic success also promoted a keen sense of wanting to help others be as successful as they had been. While a number of the teacher candidates wrote about negative experiences in physical education or receiving negative comments about a teaching career from teachers, they wanted to be physical education teachers as they believed they could provide positive experiences for pupils when they became teachers. A number of implications for teacher education programme design and delivery are discussed.

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