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Resilience, Resistance and Regulation: Australian English teachers’ perspectives on the quality of their professional lives

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This paper presents the key findings from a research study with 211 secondary school English teachers in New South Wales, Australia. The study was designed to gather empirical evidence of secondary English teachers’ perceptions of and attitudes towards teaching: their beliefs, values and goals; their levels of satisfaction with their professional role and teaching as a career; the continued salience of their initial motivations for entering the teaching profession; their perspectives on current curricular and policy reforms; the factors impeding or enabling professional self-efficacy and resilience in times of change; and their career intentions. Considerable research in the field has established the nexus between teacher motivation, professional competence, teacher wellbeing and hopefulness (Bullough & Hall-Kenyon, 2011), and students’ academic and socio-emotional outcomes (Guerriero, 2015, p. 3). We were therefore interested in probing the conditions that may contribute to sustaining or eroding teacher satisfaction with and investment in teaching, across the career stages. Participants’ responses to a mixed-item response questionnaire revealed that almost one third of the sample was ‘unsure’, ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with teaching. Half of the sample reported that their sense of professional agency and hopefulness had been diminished by the pressures associated with preparing students for high-stakes testing programs; an intensification of administrative workloads and regulatory accountability systems; and a consequent “crisis of professional identity” as educators (Day, 2012, p. 8). Of the 211 teachers in the study, twenty percent reported ambivalence about their career intentions, with a significant proportion expressing disillusionment with what they perceive to be the increasingly prescriptive ideological interventions in their work. More than three quarters of teachers in this study reported personal concern about burnout. The findings of this research study identify a range of extrinsic factors influencing teacher motivation, wellbeing, perceived self-efficacy, job satisfaction and career intentions, mirroring the findings of similar international studies (Goodwyn, 2012). The data point to the relationship between the heightened impact of regulatory and interventionist government policy, flagging levels of motivation, and teachers’ decision-making about their future in the profession. The findings of the study add further weight to international concerns about the deteriorating quality of teachers’ working lives and the consequent implications for student engagement, learning and achievement. References: Bullough, R.V. & Hall‐Kenyon, K.M. (2011). The call to teach and teacher hopefulness. Teacher Development, 15 (2), 127-140. Day, C. (2012). New Lives of Teachers. Teacher Education Quarterly, Winter, 7-26. Goodwyn, A. (2012). The Status of Literature: English teaching and the condition of literature teaching in schools in English in Education, 46 (3), 212-227. Guerriero, S. (2015). Teacher motivation research and its implications for the instructional process: A Technical report and recommendations for an international large-scale assessment of teachers’ knowledge and professional competencies. OECD.
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