Why Teach? A Project-ive Life-world Approach to Understanding What Teaching Means for Teachers

Brittany Landrum, Catherine Guilbeau, Gilbert Garza


Previous literature has examined teachers’ motivations to teach in terms of intrinsic and extrinsic motives, personality dimensions, and teacher burnout. These findings have been cast in the rubric of differences between teachers and non-teachers and the linear relations between these measures among teachers. Utilizing a phenomenological approach (Giorgi, 1970) to analyze data generated in structured interviews with four tenured professors from small, liberal arts universities whose central mission is teaching, this paper presents the telic or project-ive horizons of teaching – those motives aimed at what is ‘not yet’ (Heidegger, 1927/1962). Results revealed that teaching is understood by teachers to be a dialogical enterprise between a teacher and learners across dimensions of transformation, knowledge, and personhood. This dialogue entailed an abiding tension between self and other, activity and passivity, giving and receiving, preparation and spontaneity, instructing and learning, leading and following, asserting and withdrawing. It comprised an orientation to a teachers’ vision for the possible future personhood of the teacher and their students and to the character of the world which teachers and learners inhabit together. These findings are discussed in terms of the reviewed literature and as a case in point for a vital complementarity of research approaches.


teaching, motives, teachers, burnout, qualitative, phenomenology

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17583/qre.2017.2947

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Qualitative Research in Education | ISSN: 2014-6418

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