Why become a classics teacher?
: An exploration of career choice

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the motivation of a group of graduates who have chosen to train as Classics teachers. Classics graduates have a relatively high employment rate, entering a wide range of careers. One such career is teaching. There has been a shortage of trained Classics teachers in recent years, with only two institutions in England offering the one year pre-service Post Graduate Certificate in Education. Although candidates are not always aware of how competitive the course is, their applications clearly suggest a determination to enter the profession. Research over a number of years has suggested that motivations for choosing a career in teaching can be broadly classified as altruistic, intrinsic and extrinsic, with altruistic and intrinsic motivations generally shown to be dominant. In some countries, however, including the U.K., there has been a change in the general perception of the job of teaching, which might appear to make it a less attractive option than thirty years previously. Working conditions, salary and status are noted as contributing to this overall picture and one might expect prospective teachers to be aware of this, in which case, their altruistic and intrinsic motivations may have to be stronger than those of previous generations. There is a perception that prospective Classics teachers are a relatively homogeneous group from a specific educational background who may perceive the career differently for a number of reasons. On the other hand, this view may be misguided as the application and selection process shows that students have a variety of backgrounds and prior experiences and it is worth exploring, in fact, how similar their motivations are to each other, and to those choosing to teach other subjects. An individual’s prior experiences have been noted as influential in their view of teaching, as well as the potential impact of significant others.
This thesis explores the reasons Classics graduates choose teaching as a career, whether inspired by teachers, by loved ones, or in some cases by seemingly arbitrary, albeit influential, events. The research draws on data collected from one cohort of PGCE students, including information given in an essay submitted at the start of the course, as well as individual interviews. This qualitative approach seeks to ascertain whether there are common factors, for example, in previous educational path or ’teacher-like’ experiences. data indicated that influences were often absorbed subconsciously and only retrospectively acknowledged, in some cases only when thinking about the research project. One significant element in the data was an unusual sense of a ’mission’ to maintain and indeed advance the position of Classical subjects in the curriculum: whether an early or late decision to enter teaching, the students seemed clear that there was something ’special’ about teaching Classical subjects, often supported by their earlier experiences of the ’special’ qualities of Classics.
Date of Award1 Jun 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJill Hohenstein (Supervisor) & Meg Maguire (Supervisor)

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