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Becoming a Teacher and Staying One: Examining the Complex Ecologies Associated With Educating and Retaining New Teachers in Rural Australia?

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The problem of teacher retention has intensified in Australia, particularly in rural areas, with a number of studies suggesting that beginning teachers are not entering the profession with a commitment to remaining there. This paper reports on a study of 102 new teachers graduating from a rural campus of a major Australian university. Utilising a self devised survey over a 3 year period, graduate reflections were captured on what it meant for them to become a teacher. The research sought to determine graduates’ goals and aspirations for working in the profession in both the long and the short term. Participants reported that while they were looking for stability and would like to remain in their current positions, they were hampered by the present contractual system which eroded any sense of permanence. It is argued that contractual employment disrupts the development of a sense of belonging to the profession and the building of meaningful connections between teachers and their schools, a factor that will require attention if retention issues within rural Australia are to be seriously addressed.
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Australian Journal of Teacher Education
|Issue 1Volume 36 Article 3
Becoming a Teacher and Staying One: Examining
the Complex Ecologies Associated With Educating
and Retaining New Teachers in Rural Australia?
Margaret Plunkett
Monash University
Michael Dyson
Monash University
This Journal Article is posted at Research Online.
Recommended Citation
Plunkett, Margaret and Dyson, Michael (2011) "Becoming a Teacher and Staying One: Examining the Complex Ecologies Associated
With Educating and Retaining New Teachers in Rural Australia?," Australian Journal of Teacher Education: Vol. 36: Iss. 1, Article 3.
Available at:
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
Becoming a Teacher and Staying One: Examining the Complex
Ecologies Associated With Educating and Retaining New Teachers in
Rural Australia
Margaret Plunkett
Michael Dyson
Monash University
Abstract: The problem of teacher retention has
intensified in Australia, particularly in rural areas,
with a number of studies suggesting that beginning
teachers are not entering the profession with a
commitment to remaining there. This paper reports on
a study of 102 new teachers graduating from a rural
campus of a major Australian university. Utilising a
self devised survey over a 3 year period, graduate
reflections were captured on what it meant for them to
become a teacher. The research sought to determine
graduates’ goals and aspirations for working in the
profession in both the long and the short term.
Participants reported that while they were looking for
stability and would like to remain in their current
positions, they were hampered by the present
contractual system which eroded any sense of
permanence. It is argued that contractual employment
disrupts the development of a sense of belonging to
the profession and the building of meaningful
connections between teachers and their schools, a
factor that will require attention if retention issues
within rural Australia are to be seriously addressed.
This research investigated the perceptions of new teacher graduates
in rural Victoria as they began their careers in the teaching profession. It
was anticipated that the data obtained in this study would clarify the
perceptions of new teachers in relation to teaching as a long-term profession
and add to the sparse body of research that exists specifically in relation to
rural teachers in Australia. While the research was conducted in the state of
Victoria, it is recognised that the issues are similar to those of the other
Australian states indicating that much of the research in this field is national
rather than state based. This paper reports on only a small section of a larger
project which examined teachers’ perceptions about how they learnt about
the places and communities in which they began teaching (Somerville,
Plunkett & Dyson, 2010). The survey developed for this three-year study
included a section on goals and intentions about remaining in the
profession, which provides the basis for this paper.
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
The initiation for the research was in response to a question posed
by a local school principal about how to attract and retain new high quality
teachers in Gippsland, which is part of regional Victoria, Australia. While it
is conceded that not all teacher attrition is problematic, and in fact a certain
level is desirable within the teaching profession, the issue of retaining
beginning teachers is one that has caused concern in recent years both
within Australia and internationally.
Literature Review
Although Ingersoll (2001a, 2001b) found that teacher turnover was
higher in teaching than in other professions, research by Harris and Adams
(2007), Henke and Zahn (2001) and Stinebrickner (2002) produced different
results, suggesting that teacher attrition rates were not dissimilar to those of
comparable occupations. Unlike Ingersoll, the latter three studies compared
only workers in the specific professions who were college graduates rather
than the broader workforce. According to Harris & Adams (2007), “our
results suggest that the average rate of teacher turnover is very close to
similar professions, contrary to the conventional wisdom. It is slightly
higher than that of nurses, but lower than accountants and social workers,
even after controlling for various measurable differences among workers”
(p. 336).
Yet it could be argued that the potential associated repercussions
differ considerably for the teaching profession. In addition to the general
productivity costs associated with staff turnover in any profession, there is
the added concern of possible compromisation of student learning. Recent
research by Guarino, Santibañez, and Daley (2006) indicated that “attrition
is generally costly to schools and may be detrimental to learning” (p. 186).
Other negative implications that have been found as a result of a lack of
teacher employment stability include high levels of uncertainty in
educational settings and organizational instability (Ingersoll & Smith,
2003); impediments to school reform (Fullan, 2001); funding that could be
spent on resources and facilities instead being directed into recruitment and
replacement (Minarik, Thornton, & Perreault, 2003) and the loss of
potentially excellent teachers (Podgursky, Monroe, & Watson, 2004).
According to a recent study by Swars, Meyers, Mays and Lack (2009), the
problem is one that needs to be taken seriously and “educators need to
consider teacher turnover as an inherent and universal problem, where all
teachers are at risk for leaving” (p.180).
The National Commission on Teaching and America’s future (2007)
indicates that more than fifty per cent of those entering the profession will
leave within the first 3-5 years. The Australian pattern appears to be very
similar. Two recent national surveys illustrated the perceptions that
beginning teachers have in relation to the longevity of a career in education.
The first, conducted by the Australian Primary Principals Association
(APPA), surveyed 1,351 beginning teachers and found that “although 93%
of the survey respondents enjoy teaching, 24% indicate that they will be
leaving the profession within 5 years” (APPA 2006, p. 8). Even more
concerning, from a rural perspective, are the findings from a follow up
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
study by this Association, which suggests that 86% of respondents sought
teaching positions in urban areas because of the lack of incentives to attract
new teachers to rural areas (APPA, 2007). Another study by the Australian
Education Union (AEU) surveyed 1200 beginning teachers and found that
45% did not intend to be teaching in 10 years time (AEU, 2006).
Internationally, a similar picture emerges, with Guarino et al.’s,
(2006) review of recent empirical literature illustrating that “one very stable
finding is that attrition is high for young or new teachers and lower for older
or more experienced teachers until they reach ages at which retirement is
feasible” (p. 185). Ingersoll and Smith, (2003) found that approximately one
third of new teachers left the profession within their first 3 years and only
40% to 50% remained at the end of 5 years. Other studies have also
highlighted the need for new ways of attracting and retaining new teachers,
particularly in light of increasing levels of retirement as the teaching
population ages (Ramsey, 2000; Ingersoll, 2001a, b). An interesting slant
has arisen as a result of recent research indicating that the first three to five
years of teaching involves significant factors which may impact on
decisions to leave the profession. A study of 50 beginning teachers in
Massachusetts found different approaches and attitudes between teachers
who had commenced teaching in the 1960s and 1970s and the new
generation of teachers, such that while some did expect education to be a
long term career, few envisaged remaining in the classroom (Johnson,
The investigation of attitudes of the generation to which many new
teachers belong has produced some interesting insights (Peske, Liu,
Johnson, Kaauffman, & Kardos, 2001). Indeed the majority of the
beginning teachers in this study (71%) belong to Generation Y. Defining a
generation is an imprecise science but Gen Y is generally identified as those
born between 1980 and 2000 (McCrindle, 2006; Wyn & Woodman, 2006).
Henry (2006) suggests that “each generation has its own distinct set of
values, view of authority, orientation to the world, sense of loyalty, and
expectations of leaders and the work environment” (p. 5). The uncertainty
and instability of working and family patterns suggests that young people
have to work at creating long term relationships that may in the past have
occurred through more stable and assured life patterns. According to
Mackay, (1999) the present youth culture has “the desire to reconnect with
‘the herd’, [original emphasis] so that individuals obtain a stronger sense of
identity and of emotional security from recreating communal connections
that stimulate the ‘village life’ to which so many Australians aspire” (p. 3).
Associated with, and directly related to, their education is Gen Y’s
understanding and concept of what leadership is, or should be, for them.
They do not relate to traditional styles of leadership centred on ‘the
superior’ or ‘the adult’ being in control. According to McCrindle (2006),
“traditional leadership stresses structure, hierarchy and control - they are
looking for relating, mentoring, and guidance….they want direction,
feedback and good communication channels” (p, 5). However if the existing
patterns of employment continue, this will not be what they receive.
In terms of more traditional analyses of reasons for teacher attrition,
a substantive body of research has been developed suggesting that
underlying contributing factors are many and varied. Swars et al., (2009)
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
found “that the most common reasons related to teacher mobility were (a)
finding a better teaching assignment (40%), (b) dissatisfaction with support
from administrators (38%), and (c) dissatisfaction with workplace
conditions (32%)” (p. 169). Other studies suggest relationships between
attrition and teacher demographics including gender (Gritz & Theobold,
1996) and age (Adams, 1996; Ingersoll, 2001a); school and classroom
factors generally (Ingersoll, 2001a; Podgursky et al., 2004) and specific
workplace conditions (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004; Kukla-Acevedo, 2009).
With regard to workplace conditions, while not directly related to
teaching, it was Pfeffer’s (1995) contention that employment security was
one of the most significant factors in organisational success as it signalled
the long-standing commitment of the organisation to its workforce. As such,
Norms of reciprocity tend to guarantee that this commitment is
repaid, but conversely, an employer that signals through word
and deed that its employees are dispensable is not likely to
generate much loyalty, commitment or willingness to expend
extra effort for the organisation’s benefit (p. 31).
In relation to the higher education sector, a study by Barnes and
O’Hara (1999) argued that contractual status affected performance and
reduced commitment. Within Australia, there is a dearth of research into the
impact of employment conditions on teacher attrition or the practice of
teaching yet research from the UK suggests
there is mounting evidence in England that rapid changes
in the external and internal conditions of schools and the
changing nature of teaching, similar to those articulated
for the Australian context, have produced conditions of
extreme uncertainty and identity crises within what
historically has been for many teachers a stable profession
(Day, Elliot & Kingston, 2005, p. 565).
An issue that has received little attention in the research is the
current system utilised in many Australian Education Departments,
involving a contract system whereby the employment of new teachers is
mainly based on short term contracts (usually 12 months but can be as short
as one school term). Contract teaching was introduced in 1993, creating a
two-tier system within the schools. Contract teachers have no
permanency—they are forced to repeatedly apply for their jobs. The
Australian Teacher Education Union (2007) claim that attrition rates quoted
in Annual Teacher Supply and Demand Reports do not include “the one in
five teachers who are employed on a contract. They are not counted.
Contract teachers are leaving the profession at a much higher rate - why
should they stay? And it is in the governments interest that they not be
included in the attrition rate”. According to Mary Bluett, Victorian Branch
President of the AEU, "the level of contract employment is extremely
discouraging for new entrants, and with less teachers delivering consistent
education across the board, you have to question what effect this has on the
quality of education students receive" (Bluett, 2007). The situation with
regard to graduate positions is even more alarming with recent figures
illustrating that less than one third (29.3%) of appointments under the
Graduate Recruitment Program for Government schools in 2008 were for
ongoing positions and over half of all appointments were 1 year contracts.
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
Ongoing appointments to non-metropolitan schools, under the program,
were less common than to metropolitan schools and two thirds of all
appointments to non-metropolitan schools were for 1 year or less (DEECD,
2008, p. 30).
The problem is further magnified in rural areas where there are
major teacher shortages to begin with. For example in the rural area of
Gippsland, where the current study was conducted, a recent report by the
Teacher Supply and Demand Reference Group (Department of Education &
Early Childhood Development, Vic, 2008) illustrated the significant
problem of filling positions in schools, particularly those designated as
‘hard to staff’. The report stated that while many non government schools
paid above award salaries to attract teaching staff, in regional areas they
experienced difficulties attracting suitable candidates since many teachers
were reluctant to relocate to rural areas. In the year that this research project
began, data provided by the Teacher Recruitment Census for 2006 indicated
that 90 out of 151 schools in Gippsland responded that they had vacancies
for the start of the school year, equating to 263 full Time equivalent (FTE)
Teaching Service staff or an approximate shortfall of 20 percent (Howell,
2006). The situation had not improved by the final year of this project, with
2009 Census data reporting an even higher shortfall with 100 of the 149
responding schools having vacancies at the beginning of the 2009 school
year, equating to 269 full time equivalent (FTE) vacancies for Teaching
Service staff (Nieuwenhuizen, 2010). This ongoing shortage was occurring
despite a yearly graduating population of approximately 100 primary
teachers from the rural Gippsland campus of Monash University.
Within rural Australia there appears to be ongoing concerns about
the current methods of attracting and retaining staff and with future
predictions of projected national teacher shortages in many rural schools
(Tomazin, 2010), it is timely to seek feedback from new graduates about
how they perceive the teaching profession as a career choice in both the
long and short term.
The survey instrument was specially designed to obtain descriptive
data and some richer qualitative data using a range of open-ended questions.
Graduating students of the Graduate Diploma of Education (Primary) or
Bachelor of Education (Primary) in 2006, 2007 and 2008, who had left
contact details, were sent a survey by mail with a return envelope.
Approximately 310 students graduated over this 3 year period, not all of
whom were contactable after graduation. Of the 250 surveys distributed,
102 valid responses were received, representing a 41% return rate. A further
16 responses were not used as they did not meet the criteria – either the
graduate was not working as a teacher (7) or the survey was incomplete (9).
Each year a sample of graduates were also invited to participate in an in-
depth interview, resulting in approximately 30 interviews over the 3 year
period. This paper concentrates on the open-ended survey responses as the
interview data has already formed the basis of another publication
(Somerville et al., 2010).
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
The 101 survey responses resulted in a large amount of data, with
surprisingly detailed written responses to the open-ended questions. This
data was transcribed and then coded for analysis using the qualitative data
analysis program NVivo7 and following guidelines proposed by Guba
(1981) and then later Guba and Lincoln (1982) for meeting the criteria of
trustworthiness as measures for validity and reliability. To ensure
credibility, multiple analytical perspectives were utilised by the researchers
with international colleagues acting as critical friends to confirm the
accuracy of the conclusions drawn (Yin, 1994). Purposive sampling was
employed to ensure the “context-relevant” nature of the sample (Guba,
1981, p. 86). Finally, steps were taken to increase the level of confirmability
through multiple data collections over a three year period and the
involvement of researchers and critical friends with different backgrounds
and perspectives.
The initial analysis involved the establishment of general tree nodes
and then more specific child nodes emerged as responses were further
analysed and reclassified. This process was developed with the initial data
set from 2006 graduates and then refined for the larger data set including
the 2007 and 2008 cohorts. Despite the refinement, the themes generally
remained constant as first outlined in Somerville et al., (2010). Themes
emerged as mainly categorical, using content analysis, which according to
Berg (2007), involves “a careful, detailed, systematic examination and
interpretation of a particular body of material in an effort to identify
patterns, themes, biases, and meanings” (pp. 303 -304). After initial
categories were chosen, the data set was sent to two colleagues for their
input, with those categories that overlapped then forming the basis for
thematic development. A similar process was conducted in relation to the
quotes that were chosen as representative of each theme. A body of quotes
for each category or theme were selected and then ranked according to a set
of criteria, with the top five quotes for each theme highlighted for inclusion
in publications. The criteria included a range of variables such as gender,
age, locale and terminology used to ensure that quotes were as
representative as possible of the range of respondents across the 3 years of
the project. These processes which were developed in consultation with
colleagues acting as critical friends helped to establish credibility and
trustworthiness in the analysis of the data.
Results & Discussion
Altogether 102 graduating teachers responded to the survey, 33 from
the 2006 cohort, 36 from the 2007 cohort and 33 from the 2008 cohort.
Eighty four percent of respondents were female, which is representative of
the student cohort undertaking primary education courses at the campus and
the primary school teaching population within Australia (ABS, 2009). The
majority were young graduates, with 71% in the 20-29 years age bracket,
while 18% were between 30-39 and 11% between 40-49 years of age.
Just over half of respondents (51%) indicated they had been born in the
Gippsland region, with 87% indicating they were living in Gippsland and
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
72% were teaching in Gippsland schools at the time of being surveyed.
While this represents a substantial gain in terms of drawing people into the
region for both residency and teaching, it is not clear how long they remain
in the area, without reference to longitudinal data. The next stage for this
project is to conduct follow-up research with the 102 participants to find out
where they are in 2011.
Results for the next sections are presented utilising tables to provide a
general picture of the frequency with which themes were mentioned but
interspersed with commentary to highlight the nature of the responses
within the emergent themes.
Choosing and remaining at first school
Participants were asked why they had chosen to apply for their
current positions and about their desire to remain there. According to
Guarino et al., (2006), the reasons for choosing to enter the teaching
profession in the first place balance the practicalities with the esoteric and
this was certainly evidenced in employment choices made by participants in
the current study. Reasons provided were numerous and varied with many
respondents listing more than one. Generally these fell into two main
categories - the more pragmatic or logistical reasons such as locale or
established connections with the school; or philosophical reasons such as
the ethos/culture of the school. Interestingly it was the latter that made up
the majority of responses (76%) to this question, as outlined in Table 1.
Themes: Why did you apply for this job?
No. of
Community focus
Size of school
Ethos religious/special needs/culture
Already established a relationship with
the school
Positive relationships with community
School had a good reputation
Close to home
Had contacts there
The position was advertised and a
vacancy existed
Table 1: Reasons for applying for position
The following comments are illustrative of reasons graduates
provided for applying for their current positions:
Because I live in the area and have had a lot of contact & involvement
with the school, its staff members and students and felt that it was a very
promising position” (Ann, 2006).
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
I was in the right place at the right time. The job was not advertised. It
was more about who I knew, not what I knew” (James, 2007).
I wanted a job in a Catholic primary school. It was an ongoing position
and I felt like I needed to teach somewhere new and different from what I
have experienced and am comfortable with in my home town” (Claire,
Because it’s a small school in a country town with a big community focus.
During prac I did placements in a small school and a large school and
found a small school much more desirable” (Ian, 2008).
I really liked the emphasis that was placed on acceptance or tolerance of
difference – often this is missing in rural schools, or at least that’s what I’d
previously thought” (Jan, 2007).
In response to the question relating to how long they intended to stay
in their current school, more than two thirds (69%) of the sample indicated
that they would like to stay for at least 3 years and 44% of those for 5 years
or more. Figure 1 illustrates the results which suggest that the majority of
this cohort of graduates were looking for at least a reasonable period of
stability in their initial years in the field, with only 18% indicating they
intended to stay for 2 years or less in their current position and a further
13% unsure.
Figure 1: Respondents intentions about length of stay in current school
While these figures appear to support other Australian and
international research suggesting teachers are not looking at teaching as a
long term profession (APPA 2006, 2007; AEU 2006), it needs to be
reiterated that this response only related to remaining in current positions,
not to remaining in the profession, which is discussed later in this paper.
Interestingly, although the majority of respondents indicated a
preference for remaining in current positions, it appears that the high level
of ‘contract employment’ experienced was a disrupting factor in the process
of becoming a teacher and the concomitant attachment to schools and
communities in which these graduates began teaching. As outlined in the
literature review, the sentiments expressed by both the AEU (2007) and
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
more specifically AEU spokesperson Mary Bluett (2007) in relation to fixed
term contracts were echoed by the new teachers in this study. The impact of
the contractual system was raised in each of the three cohorts, with almost
half (45%) of respondents making specific reference to the associated
negative aspects, including;
“I feel it is very important to be connected to school but I feel
contract works scares us into distancing ourselves in case we do
not receive further employment there” (Pauline, 2006)
It would be so much easier to make longer term plans about the
direction I want to take in my teaching if I knew I was going to be
here for more than 1 year” (Mary, 2006)
“Currently it is not possible to outline any long term career
plans beyond each contract. This is an issue that requires further
attention” (John, 2007)
The issue of contracts is always there – I feel I can’t really make
any solid plans as there are no guarantees. I try to not let this
impact on my teaching as I absolutely love my class/school etc but
it must have some influence in the long run” (Pam, 2008)
There is so much I want to do .. so many ideas....but I don’t
know where I will even be in 6 months if they don’t renew {the
contract} so I just take it day by day....what else can I do? At least
a lot of others are also in the same position so it is not just me ... I
know that sounds harsh but it makes me feel better” (Paulo, 2008)
Future Directions: Short and long term goals
Respondents were very forthcoming in their answers to this section
and listed a number of goals for both the short and longer term. From the
large list of responses, a number of themes emerged and these are outlined
in Tables 2 & 3. Following each table is a representative sample of the
associated comments made by respondents. Not surprisingly there was a
degree of crossover between the long and short term goals of some
respondents, while others were quite divergent. However, there was a
definite pattern of an initial focus on consolidation rather than career
building in the shorter term. This may help to explain the strong focus on
short term contracts as the expectation may have been that it would not be
as problematic in the longer term. This has potential repercussions because
the opportunities for developing the positives associated with relationship
building and connectedness that result from stable employment conditions
(Pfeffer, 1995; Barnes & O’Hara, 1999), may still be undermined in the
long term as contract employment is not solely restricted to new teachers.
Interestingly there was only one reference made to changing careers
in the short term and that was by a student who had been unsure about their
suitability for teaching but had decided to complete the course anyway,
stating, “I sort of knew after my first prac, that I didn’t really want to be a
teacher – it’s funny because I’ve worked with kids so much in my career, so
I knew what it was about and now I am wondering why I even
contemplated going into a classroom” (Sam, 2008). Although they did
teach for a very short period of time, the return to their previous occupation
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
was seen to be enhanced by the knowledge and skills gained through the
attainment of a teaching qualification, It will never go to waste [the
teaching qualification] – I am definitely a lot more confident in my dealings
with kids so while it cost me time and money, I gained a lot of other things
that will help me so much in the future”.
Themes: Short term goals
No. of times
Remain at current school
Gain VIT accreditation
Gain ongoing position
Professional development
Further study
Different type of setting
Leadership positions
Career building
Change career
Travel within Australia
(related to teaching)
Travel overseas
Start a family or add to
Table 2: Short term goals of participants
Many comments articulated a desire to stay in the one school for a period of
time (at least 3 years) in order to build up skills and confidence – i.e. to help
in the journey of becoming a teacher,
“Get my teaching under control. When I'm more confident in
this area start to experiment with ways of teaching that I am
passionate about” (Rae, 2008)
To stay at my current school and develop my skills to the
highest level whilst providing the students the best education
possible” (Mike, 2007)
“I want to make a difference in my student’ lives. I want to
make them happy and keen to learn in the environment that I
create for them at school” (Jan, 2007)
Perhaps one of the most interesting comments was, “to become a
teacher however I feel that this goal is still a long way off perhaps it
should be in my long term list (Lisa, 2006). It is of interest to note from
these comments that these beginning teachers did not appear to see
themselves as complete in their role of teacher at this early stage in their
career. A number indicated the need for further growth and development in
order to hone their skills so that they could become the kind of teacher they
aspired to be. This is consistent with research by Dyson and Hutchinson
(2008) who found,
Despite the positive effect that powerful pre service teacher
education programs can have on in-service teaching and
subsequently quality education, no teacher education program can
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
equip a beginning teacher with everything they need to ‘know’,
learn and ‘be’ in their role as a professional teacher (p. 47).
As expected there was an increased focus on career building in the
articulation of the long term goals, with indications of a greater desire to
specialise and take on leadership roles, although surprisingly only twelve
participants (8 of them males) mentioned specifically working towards
becoming a principal. Table 3 outlines the themes that emerged in relation
to long term goals and is followed by some representative comments on
those themes.
Themes: Long term goals
No. of times
Reduce to part time or CRT
Career modifications
Change career
Professional development
Further study/specialisation
Leadership positions
Career building
Travel within Australia
(related to teaching)
Travel overseas
Start a family or add to family
Table 3: Long term goals of participants
A number of comments indicated a desire to remain in the
At the moment I think I will remain teaching in LV for many
years to come, buying a house, having kids etc. I think teaching
will definitely be a career I will stick with” (Jenny, 2006)
I will return to work after children when the time is right. I
love being a classroom teacher and I plan to do it forever.
Can't see myself changing roles” (Mary, 2008)
Others indicated a desire to return to study after a period of
Further postgraduate studies I definitely have academic
aspirations” (Paul, 2006)
“Maybe one day I'd love to study again. As long as it didn't take
over from the children I teach” (Meg, 2008)
“I plan on teaching for the rest of my working life. I am
considering going back to uni to complete my Honours degree”
(Karen, 2007)
Interestingly, only 4 references were made to career change,
suggesting an overall intention to remain in the profession in the longer
term. This is not surprising due to the small amount of time respondents had
spent in the profession and perhaps it could be viewed as concerning if
many were already discussing career change alternatives at such an early
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 36, 1, January 2011
stage. However, this contrasts with much of the Gen Y literature suggesting
that career change is high on the agenda (McCrindle, 2006).
One of the more interesting comments on this topic was from a male
in the 2008 cohort who stated he wanted to stay in the profession as long
as I am still enthusiastic and doing a good job for my kids. Work at a
university doing teacher training or work with future teachers and then
become Premier of Victoria”
Other interesting comments included;
“Following this (period in Melbourne), I will probably eventually end
up back in Gippsland (you can take the girl out of the country but you
can't take the country out of the girl)” (Jill, 2008)
“My long term goals are non-existent because I don't know if I will
still be enjoying what I am doing. If not I will leave teaching. I prefer
to take a short term view in relation to my career and just enjoy the
moment. (Ben, 2008)
“I have no idea until I have grown closer to the future” (Con, 2007)
These comments illustrate the range of perspectives held by the
participants, with each beginning teacher experiencing their entry to the
profession from an individual lens, which makes it important to exercise
caution with regard to broad generalisations. Nonetheless there were some
commonalities particularly in relation to commitment to the profession in
both the short and longer term, which have not always been evident in the
research literature. Obviously the large emphasis placed on the contractual
employment situation in Victoria indicated the level of concern for this
practice, which has not previously been identified as a mitigating factor in
teacher retention.
Teacher retention is an issue that has been receiving more press both
nationally and internationally and appears to be particularly problematic for
rural areas, at least in the Australian context. While a level of attrition
within the profession is both necessary and healthy, losing new teachers
early in their career is neither desirable nor sustainable. In rural Victoria,
Monash University’s Gippsland campus graduates approximately 100 new
primary teachers each year, most of whom choose to remain and teach in
the area. In a three year study of new teachers, these graduates reported that
they were not only keen to establish themselves in the profession, but to
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Australian Journal of Teacher Education
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... Inconsistent results have been reported when looking at stress within the teaching population. For example, several studies indicate that early career teachers are at high risk of experiencing stress and burnout and that this is rising both within Australia and internationally (De Nobile & McCormick, 2010;Lau et al., 2005;Plunkett & Dyson, 2011). However other researchers argue that the risk for burnout does not differ according to experience (Chan et al., 2010;Chang, 2013). ...
... High stress and burnout are common in the teaching profession generally, however early career teachers appear to be the most affected, as shown in this and many other studies (e.g., Goddard & Goddard, 2006;Plunkett & Dyson, 2011). This high rate of stress in early career teachers is driving their attrition from the profession at alarming rates. ...
... With regard to geographic location, the present study found that urban-based teachers experienced significantly lower levels of stress and burnout. Heightened stress in rural and remote areas may be the consequence of under-staffing and, by extension reduced access to resources and support (Plunkett & Dyson, 2011). Teachers outside of urban areas may experience personal and professional isolation, may be expected to fill more diverse roles due to under-staffing, and may have less access to professional development and other resources-all of which are likely to increase stress (Plunkett & Dyson, 2011). ...
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Concerns regarding high rates of teacher stress and burnout are present globally. Yet there is limited current data regarding the severity of stress, or the role of intrapersonal and environmental factors in relation to teacher stress and burnout within the Australian context. The present study, conducted over an 18-month period, prior to the COVID pandemic, surveyed 749 Australian teachers to explore their experience of work-related stress and burnout; differences in stress and burnout across different demographic groups within the profession; as well as the contributing role of intrapersonal and environmental factors, particularly, emotion regulation, subjective well-being, and workload. Results showed over half of the sample reported being very or extremely stressed and were considering leaving the profession, with early career teachers, primary teachers, and teachers working in rural and remote areas reporting the highest stress and burnout levels. Conditional process analyses highlighted the importance of emotion regulation, workload and subjective well-being in the development of teacher stress and some forms of burnout. Implications for educational practice are discussed.
... Unfortunately, it might be difficult to meet the demand for highly trained music teachers. In certain countries, recurring school vacancies are a result of teachers' working conditions or new instructors' short-term obligations (Plunkett & Dyson, 2011). Vacancies in schools arise in other nations due to a scarcity of teachers entering teacher training programs (Ost & Schiman, 2015). ...
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This study is a transcendental phenomenology that explores the lived experiences of the out-of-field junior high school music teachers in the online teaching of music amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The out- of-field teaching phenomenon simply refers to teaching outside one’s qualifications and expertise. Through purposive sampling, nine participants from public junior high schools in Tacloban City, Philippines with out-of-field music teachers provided significant responses relative to their lived experience which was then treated with thematic analysis. The results suggest that the success in teaching music online based on the lived experiences of the out-of-field music teachers primarily depends on the issues of teacher qualification, support for adequate resources, and professional development training. Moreover, factors such as internet connectivity and the teacher’s competence are directly affecting the students’ interest to learn and the teachers’ morale towards their profession. Efficiency in teaching music online, on the other hand, as experienced by the out-of- field music teachers is attainable with their best practices in online music teaching. Therefore, out-of-field teaching must be alleviated since teaching music online entails a holistic approach to content mastery, support for online teaching, equipment, and training for professional development.
... Just as Burton and Johnson (2010) revealed, rural teachers, in fact, desire to develop personal relationships with local members to obtain a sense of belonging. It is true that teachers often consider pragmatic reasons (e.g., location, salary) before coming to rural areas; however, education policymakers should also encourage teachers to build community relationships (Plunkett & Dyson, 2011) and contribute to local wellbeing. ...
... Reflections from pre-service teachers were analyzed using content analysis based on an interpretive approach (Berg & Lune, 2012). This involved carefully and systematically examining and interpreting particular texts from the reflections to identify patterns, themes, biases, and meanings (Plunkett & Dyson, 2011). Although the researcher's main intention was teaching practicum, the analysis of data was based on the principle of grounded theory. ...
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The objective of this study was to explore pre-service teachers’ school-based experiences through their reflective practices. A qualitative research approach was employed based on the multiple case study design. Data was collected from 20 pre-service teachers who were purposively sampled. The data was in the form of personal reflective accounts as well as open-ended questions. Seven themes were generated under 3 broad categories after the triangulation of data. The categories were organizational culture, instructional, and shared leadership as well as community engagement in extra-mural activities. The results indicate that there were varied school-based experiences by pre-service teachers based on the kind of organizational culture that existed in their host schools. These challenges could be addressed if university departments responsible for teacher training embark on community engagements on the supportive role those pre-service teachers play in their host schools as well as the responsibilities of the schools towards them.
... The second theme, 3.2 Employment conditions, structure and pathways, encompasses areas of concern such as job insecurity ( Buchanan, 2009 ;Frid, Smith, Sparrow & Trinidad, 2008 ;Handal et al., 2013 ;Plunkett & Dyson, 2011 ), salary, and cost of living ( Ashiedu & Scott-Ladd, 2012 ;Buchanan, 2009 ;. Aligned with United States research, increasing responsibilities and decreasing salary and benefits have been influential in early-career teachers' decisions to pursue more balanced or lucrative alternatives ( Adamson & Darling-Hammond, 2012 ;Feng, 2014 ;Sutcher et al., 2016 ). ...
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Decades of research have reinforced teacher attrition as a complex phenomenon. To capture the intricate nature of teacher attrition, Mason and Poyatos Matas (2015) proposed a theoretical framework comprised of four interacting theories: human capital, social capital, structural capital, and positive psychological capital. Using Mason and Poyatos Matas’ (2015) model, this qualitative phenomenological inquiry illuminates the essential meanings of attrition and retention phenomena as they are lived in the everyday lives of five former public school practitioners. Specifically, practitioners who worked in primary and secondary schools across urban, rural, and suburban contexts in the United States for five years or less. Together, findings from 20 interviews—four in-depth interviews with each participant—suggest that issues surrounding preservice education, practitioner autonomy, administrative accountability, shifting demographics, and unsustainable lifestyles were among salient factors of teacher exodus. In addition, an expansion to positive psychological capital theory is proposed to better understand how internal variables influence practitioners’ career trajectories.
With the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic in March 2020, primary and secondary schools were closed abruptly, and pre-service teachers had to attend virtual practicum through online platforms. The present study investigates the implementation of emergency remote teaching in a practicum. The study aims at providing an insight into regular observation tasks submitted by pre-service teachers so as to explore the effects of the pandemic and virtual practicum on their professional growth. The study was conducted with 23 pre-service English language teachers taking virtual practicum at two state universities in Turkey. The study employs a qualitative content analysis on observation reports submitted by participants during the School Experience Course, conducted as the first part of the practicum in the fall semester of 2020. The findings indicate that the virtualisation of courses at schools and the practicum at faculties of education has brought about serious problems in equity and the intended learning goals. The digital divide poses a serious problem, especially for the economically disadvantaged. Although mentor teachers in practicum schools appear to improve on how to teach online, in-service training and governmental or institutional support about materials and learning management systems are still needed. Based on the findings of the study, the authors suggested that all stakeholders should make the best out of the emergency remote teaching experience and learn how to cope with it rather than view it as a temporary situation, as the COVID-19 pandemic might not be the last pandemic the world might encounter.
Driven by the internationally observed phenomenon that poorer children perform worse on standardised tests than their more affluent counterparts, this study attempts to understand the key links between household income and educational outcomes at a system level, through the development of the Parental Income and Child Academic Achievement (PICAA) microsimulation model. This model was developed with the goal of being used by policymakers to test the magnitude of expected outcomes of educational and welfare interventions for student outcomes. To do so, this study develops and employs a novel targeted review method to identify key pathways in existing education literature. Following this, it shows how this information can be mapped into a systems diagram, which can then be quantified and operationalised as a microsimulation model based on academic literature and aggregate national data. Finally, it outlines how this model can be validated with de-identified individual data from nationally representative samples, and finally how it can generate results when applied to policy questions. This study represents one of the first applications of modelling to investigate educational inequality as a function of income in an Australian context, one of the first applications of microsimulation to the question of income and educational outcomes, and the first application to the Australian education system. The completion of the validated PICAA model represents the key contribution of this work. This model has high potential to be used for the evaluation of education policy interventions, which is illustrated through a series of income-based policy intervention scenarios. However, the development process of the PICAA microsimulation model has also resulted in a number of key findings and contributions. This study reinforces the importance of the early years as a period of significant developmental growth and a time period in which income-based interventions may provide the best value-for-money for policymakers looking to increase achievement scores or reduce inequality in achievement. This study has also identified an increasing correlation between income and achievement with increasing time between measurements, first identified using the PICAA model but also identified in analysis of NAPLAN achievement data. This newly identified trend has implications for both the interpretation of results of policy analysis and for the importance of longitudinal studies in the study of inequality. Additionally, this study has identified a likely rise in formal care costs in real terms within the Australian context over the past twenty years. This increase has made formal care as much as three times more expensive in real terms, after accounting for inflation and allowing for increases in real wages and hours of use. Quantifying the scale of the cost increase over this period is a further contribution of this study, especially in relation to potential policy interventions to address income and educational inequality. The key recommendations for policy arising from this study include that: there is likely to be greater potential to reduce inequalities in educational outcomes through interventions implemented earlier in life; sustained income interventions (for example, increases to welfare payments for low-income households with young children) are more likely to have impact than one-off income interventions (e.g. cash injections); and that interventions that reduce the negative effects of poverty in early childhood are likely to have significant positive effects on later educational inequalities. In summary, this study has illustrated the value of modelling as an interdisciplinary synthesis tool, and specifically the value in the application of microsimulation to the modelling of education systems, with a particular emphasis on the generation of policy-relevant insights.
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Teacher mobility represents a serious problem due to the instability of the teaching force that has persisted over time in many countries. Therefore, retaining qualified teachers represents a challenge given the difficulty of having the necessary workforce to face the educational challenges of each year. Our objective was trying to identify how mobility is understood and measured, that is, teacher turnover and attrition, and to identify the results of the related factors according to the different perspectives. The PRISMA-Scr protocol was used, which establishes the information that should be included in a systematic review. The following key phrases were used: “teacher rotation” or “teacher mobility” or “teacher desertion” or teacher leavers or teacher stayers. The databases used were Web of Science, Scielo Citation Index and Google Scholar, which yielded an initial total of 760 documents published between 2008 and 2018, that after identification, screening, eligibility, and inclusion processes, were reduced to 213. The selection of articles was carried out independently by two researchers using a structured and recursive hierarchical strategy. The existence of multiple ways of defining and measuring teacher mobility was identified and a definition based on two perspectives was proposed that summarizes the conceptual and operational findings, which are indirect and direct mobility. The first refers to the intention to leave and the second to leave. We have identified more evidence related to direct studies of a quantitative approach and focused on teachers with medium or short experience. The factors associated with mobility were identified based on the approaches used and a key element was identified when distinguishing teacher mobility, which is voluntary and involuntary mobility. We identified multiple factors associated with teacher mobility, among which the precarious working environment, poor organizational conditions such as lack of leadership and support among colleagues, excessive workload and low self-efficacy stand out. The limitations of this study are discussed. The findings of this study are highly relevant since they allow proposing medium or short-term policies, such as improving the organizational conditions of the school to promote the retention of the teaching workforce.
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This paper reports on a longitudinal ethnographic study of beginning primary school teachers in rural and regional Victoria, Australia. The study uses a conceptual framework of place and workplace learning to ask: How do new teachers learn to do their work and how do they learn about the places and communities in which they begin teaching? In this paper, we focus on data from the first year of the three-year longitudinal study, using a place-based survey and ethnographic interviews. We found that the space of the classroom was the dominant site of learning to become a teacher for the new teachers in this study. This learning was understood through the discourse of classroom management. Analysis of these storylines reveals the ways in which the community and classroom are not separate but intertwined, and the process of learning about their communities began through the children in their classes.
In recent years, researchers and policymakers have told us again and again that severe teacher shortages confront schools. They point to a dramatic increase in the demand for new teachers resulting from two converging demographic trends: increasing student enrollments and increasing numbers of teachers reaching retirement age. Shortfalls of teachers, they say, are forcing many school systems to lower their standards for teacher quality (National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1997).
Guided by information from their interviews with 50 first-and second-year teachers in Massachusetts, the authors propose a mixed model for the teaching career - one that would be responsive to the needs of both teachers who envision long-term careers and those who envision short-term stays in teaching.
Sustainable competitive advantage has proved elusive for companies in the 1990s. While making enormous investments in technology, research, and state-of-the-art marketing, many of today's managers continue to ignore the single most important factor in achieving and maintaining competitive success: people. Yet all evidence indicates that the source of competitive advantage is shifting from technology, patents, or strategic position to how a company manages its employees. In this excerpt from his newly published book, Competitive Advantage through People, Jeffrey Pfeffer describes how successful companies have overcome the barriers to change and offers a solid framework—with specific actions—for implementing these changes in any industry.
A Cox regression model was used to examine the career paths of 2,327 elementary teachers. The teachers were 1st-year teachers hired by a large Texas school district between August 1985 and November 1991. Five variables were investigated to determine their relationship with teacher survival: sex, age, ethnicity, education, and certification route (traditionally or alternatively certified). Little research has been done comparing attrition rates of alternatively and traditionally certified teachers. The methods used in the analysis are discussed as well as why these methods are more appropriate than traditional methods for examining teacher survival.
Contemporary educational theory holds that one of the pivotal causes of inadequate school performance is the inability of schools to adequately staff classrooms with qualified teachers. Contemporary theory also holds that these staffing problems are primarily due to shortages of teachers, which, in turn, are primarily due to recent increases in teacher retirements and student enrollments. This analysis investigates the possibility that there are other factors that might have an impact on teacher turnover levels, and, in turn, the staffing problems of schools, factors rooted in the organizational characteristics and conditions of schools. The data utilized in this investigation are from the Schools and Staffing Survey and its supplement, the Teacher Followup Survey, a large, comprehensive, nationally representative survey of teachers and schools conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. The results of this analysis show that, net of teacher effects, there are significant effects of school characteristics and organizational conditions on teacher turnover which have largely been overlooked by previous research. For example, the data show that while high-poverty public schools have moderately higher rates, contrary to conventional wisdom, neither larger schools, nor public schools in large school districts, nor urban public schools have especially high rates of teacher turnover. In contrast, small private schools stand out for their high rates of turnover. Moreover, the data show, again contrary to popular wisdom, that the amount of turnover accounted for by retirement is relatively minor, especially when compared to that resulting from two related causes – teacher job dissatisfaction and teachers pursuing other jobs. The data show that, in particular, low salaries, inadequate support from the school administration, student discipline problems, and limited faculty input into school decision-making all contribute to higher rates of turnover, after controlling for the characteristics of both teachers and schools. The results of this investigation suggest that school staffing problems are neither synonymous with, nor primarily due to, teacher shortages in the conventional sense of a deficit in the supply of teachers. Rather, this study suggests that school staffing problems are primarily due to excess demand resulting from a "revolving door" – where large numbers of teachers depart their jobs for reasons other than retirement. This study also suggests that popular education initiatives, such as teacher recruitment programs, will not solve the staffing problems of such schools if they do not also address the organizational sources of low teacher retention.
The author explored whether 3 workplace conditions were related to teacher mobility decisions. The modeling strategy incorporated a series of binomial and multinomial logistic models to estimate the effects of administrative support, classroom control, and behavioral climate on teachers' decisions to quit teaching or switch schools. The results indicate that 2 of the 3 workplace conditions were strongly related to the mobility decisions of 1st-year teachers, whereas experienced teachers were not strongly influenced by workplace conditions. Results also show that the workplace conditions had differential effects on movers and leavers, suggesting the importance of modeling these 2 groups separately.
This article critically reviews the recent empirical literature on teacher recruitment and retention published in the United States. It examines the characteristics of individuals who enter and remain in the teaching profession, the characteristics of schools and districts that successfully recruit and retain teachers, and the types of policies that show evidence of efficacy in recruiting and retaining teachers. The goal of the article is to provide researchers and policymakers with a review that is comprehensive, evaluative, and up to date. The review of the empirical studies selected for discussion is intended to serve not only as a compendium of available recent research on teacher recruitment and retention but also as a guide to the merit and importance of these studies.