Book aims to slow graduate teacher exodus

November 8, 2012

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Murdoch University education researchers have co-authored a book which they hope will help to improve early career teacher resilience.

The book, entitled Early Career Teachers: Stories of Resilience, identifies five key conditions which can influence the pathways taken by teachers starting out in their careers and features the accounts and experiences of new graduates in their first teaching roles.

Dr Jane Pearce and Professor Barry Down from Murdoch’s School of Education were among the seven authors of the book, which they anticipate will become a fixture in every school in Australia.

“We see the book as a resource for schools and teachers to use and we are confident it will help to improve early career teacher resilience,” said Dr Pearce.

“Currently 25 to 40 per cent of teachers leave the profession in the first five years which is a big concern. It’s a worldwide issue.

“We deliberately did not make the book a ‘how to’ manual because we don’t have the definitive answers to this issue. But we have some ideas about how to improve the rate of early career teacher attrition and we hope that the book will provoke discussion and thought within schools about how to best tackle the issue.”

The book has resulted from interviews with 60 early career teachers and 40 school principals or the school leaders responsible for mentoring at schools in Western Australia and South Australia.

“We found that early career teacher resilience and wellbeing were enhanced when policies and practices in schools showed a strong commitment to social justice, teacher agency and voice, community engagement and respect for local knowledge,” said Dr Pearce.

“We also found resilience improved when the complex and unpredictable nature of teacher’s work was understood and acknowledged.

“When a school promotes collaborative relationships, professional learning communities, educative forms of leadership and democratic decision-making, resilience flourishes.

“And when an early career teacher has good social and professional networks, we found resilience benefitted.

“Finally we found that early career teachers tended to stay in their jobs when they developed a robust teacher identity which balanced the demands of the role with their idealistic notions of what it would be like.”

The book will be launched at an event at Murdoch University on Thursday, November 8. It is available to download from the project website.

It is part of a four year ARC Linkage grant-funded project to find out what makes teachers stay in the profession and what their experiences are.

Three universities were involved in the research – Murdoch, Edith Cowan and the University of South Australia and it was supported by the Department of Education and Children’s Services South Australia, the Department of Education and Training WA, the Australian Education Union SA Branch, the State School Teachers Union WA, the Association of Independent Schools WA and SA, and the Catholic Education offices in SA and WA.

Dr Pearce said the next stage in the project was to produce a scholarly book on the research containing more theoretical ideas on early career teaching resilience.

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