For love or money : perceptions and conceptions of the work ethic held by a group of preservice teachers in Queensland

Mailler, Emma Cornelia (2006) For love or money : perceptions and conceptions of the work ethic held by a group of preservice teachers in Queensland. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The work ethic has been a popular topic for public comment and for research in the social sciences. The work ethic is usually understood to embody the values, beliefs and principles an individual has in relation to work. Work is an important dimension of human experience. Governments and employers are particularly interested in increasing productivity and competitiveness in connection with work and the work ethic is perceived as an important catalyst in achieving these goals. The main point of reference for discussion about the work ethic in the past century has been Max Weber's Protestant ethic thesis. Weber's thesis has attracted much criticism over the years and contemporary writers have suggested that alternative conceptions of the work ethic do exist. Despite widespread agreement that this is the case, consensus has not yet been reached on how such conceptions should be defined or how they may manifest in an individual. The majority of research on the work ethic has been limited to the collection of quantitative data using one of several survey instruments that are available. Fewer studies have collected data on the work ethic using a qualitative approach and yet, this is exactly what is required to achieve progress in identifying the range of conceptions that may exist.

This study occurs in the context of teacher education and the work ethic has relevance to teachers and teacher educators for several reasons. Teachers, through the explicit and hidden curriculum they provide, have some responsibility for inculcating a work ethic in their students. It follows that it is important to understand the work ethic of teachers on this basis alone. A most logical starting place for accomplishing this task is during their career preparation. This study advocates explicit examination of preservice teachers' conceptions of the work ethic and exploration of how this might affect their career and curriculum decision making processes. This research is primarily intended to inform teacher educators who wish to pay attention to these things in their programs, along with researchers from other disciplines who are interested in the work ethic.

Inspired by a pragmatic philosophy, this study utilised a mixed method research design to investigate the conceptions of the work ethic held by a group of preservice teachers studying in Brisbane, the capital city of the state of Queensland, Australia. Priority was given to the first phase of the research, which was to identify the qualitative conceptions of the work ethic held by the preservice teachers. The second quantitative phase was intended to complement and expand those findings by demonstrating that an established instrument in the measurement of work ethic could be used to profile conceptions of the work ethic held by an individual. The first phase of the research adopted a phenomenographic approach to identify nine conceptions of the work ethic held by a group of 22 preservice teachers. A courtship metaphor was used to characterise each of the nine conceptions which were labelled as Honeymoon, Monogamist, Serial Monogamist, Arranged Marriage, Celibate, Obsession, One-night Stand, Hedonist and Polyamorist. The second phase of the research used quantitative techniques involving factor analysis and linear modelling to link anonymous responses from 411 preservice teachers to the Occupational Work Ethic Inventory (OWEI) with the nine conceptions identified in the first phase of the research. It was found that the OWEI could be used to profile an individual's orientation to the work ethic conceptions that were defined.

This research responded to calls in the literature for a better understanding of the characteristics of the people who choose to become teachers. It also suggested ways in which teacher education could be improved to prepare preservice teachers better through socialisation practices and the university curriculum. This study confirms that there are qualitatively different conceptions of the work ethic that may provide an alternative to the traditional Weberian conception. A technique is proposed to associate OWEI responses with the model of nine work ethic conceptions. Suggestions are also made with respect to potential improvement of the OWEI.

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ID Code: 16221
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Lidstone, John & Shield, Paul
Keywords: conceptions of the work ethic, metaphor in phenomenography, mixed method research, modelling techniques, Occupational Work Ethic Inventory (OWEI), phenomenography, pragmatism, preservice teachers, Protestant ethic, Protestant work ethic, teacher education, teacher socialisation, work ethic, Honeymoon, Monogamist, Arranged Marriage, Celibate, Obsession, One-night Stand, Hedonist, Polyamorist, Serial Monogamist
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Past > Schools > School of Cultural & Language Studies in Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Emma Cornelia Mailler
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:58
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:44

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