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In this study on motivations concerning professional development (PD) we interviewed 95 primary school teachers in the Netherlands. We coded these data using the Unified Model of Task-specific Motivation (de Brabander & Martens, 2014) in different decision contexts concerning who decides about teacher participation in PD: school board, teacher teams, or individual teachers. We analysed the valences that teachers associated with PD activities, their experiences of autonomy, and whether and how these variables were affected by decision context and teacher age. Results show that decision contexts relate differently to valences and autonomy experiences. Positive autonomy and positive valences increased going from schoolboard to team to individual decision contexts. Whereas the literature on effective teacher PD stresses the importance of PD design features, our study is the first to empirically demonstrate the crucial influence of decision contexts. Among older teachers, teaching experience informed the selection of PD content to transfer to their classrooms. Younger teachers tended to first explore whether PD worked in their classrooms before deciding about adoption. Direct applicability emerged as a dominant criterion for evaluating PD. Decision context and autonomy regarding PD programmes play important roles in ensuring applicability. Our research revealed that the dominance of the direct applicability criterion was not motivated by student benefits alone. It was also based in an attitude of efficiency among primary teachers, reflecting growing work pressures and a general prioritisation of classroom teaching above all other tasks, including PD.
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