Attrition of Recent Queensland Graduate Teachers, Queensland College of Teachers
Induction session 3
Deanne Cummins – Queensland College of Teachers
For today’s event, you’ve been provided with a summary of, the executive summary in your papers, however the full report is available on the Queensland College of Teachers’ website. Primarily the presentation will focus on the research and findings of the attrition study however I will be making links where appropriate to other related QCT research and projects that are also recently being undertaken. This includes a targeted online survey that was conducted by the QCT with Queensland principals to determine their perceptions of graduate teacher preparedness and this was not to garner general perceptions but actually to comment on specific graduates that were employed in their schools. And finally I’ll make reference to the work of the University of Southern Queensland researchers—Dr Nick Kelly, Shirley Reushle, Sayan Chakrabarty and the QCT’s Anna Kinnane—on the commencement of a project that’s designed to look at online communities to augment current support for beginning teachers. So that article appears in the current volume of the Australian Journal of Teacher Education and also appears on our QCT website.
The attrition of Queensland teachers within the first few years of teaching is a national issue and although literature suggests that there does not appear to be higher teacher attrition rates than other professions, what is likely is that talented teachers and teachers in specific disciplines and some in geographic locations are proportionally higher in representation in that group. In considering the research or the context of the research, the College recognised that it was the only agency that holds data on current and past registered teachers in Queensland across all sectors and therefore there was an opportunity to determine approximate attrition rates of Queensland graduate teachers. This was to consider also what could be learned from their opinions and experiences as to why they leave the profession and also identify any possible issues or trends that could provide some insight into offerings and recommendations for the future.
The methodology was determined by a reference group to include a review of recent literature, an interrogation of registration data between 2006 and 2012 and then following this, an email invitation was sent to over 2,500 people that had come off the register of which 386 responses were received and then 5 teacher interviews were conducted.
Currently there’s over 98,000 teachers or registered teachers in Queensland with an average of 3,500 graduate teachers joining that community every year. And for the purpose of this study, the 2006 to 2012 cohort, we were looking at about 25,000 graduate teachers and they became the focus of the study. So of that group, 24% of graduate teachers were male and 80% of teachers in this group were under the age of 35 years, 75% had transitioned from provisional registration to full registration within four years and 13% of graduate teachers came off the register and therefore became the focus of the survey and the subsequent work of this research. It’s interesting to note that of this group, 30% had already progressed from provisional to full registration.
The survey was designed to target individuals who were no longer on the registration database and then seek responses as to why. 386 responses were received and subsequently 5 interviews were conducted to obtain in-depth information about what had been helpful in supporting the individuals as beginning teachers but what also could be done more effectively. 75% of graduates had taught in schools in some capacity after qualifying as a teacher and for the 25% who hadn’t, more than half had actually actively sought employment during that period. 63% of the individuals who […] off the register and participated in the survey were male teachers who had qualified as secondary teachers with significantly higher proportions in the areas of ICTs, maths, chemistry and physics. 30% had gained permanent employment in a schooling sector in Queensland and teachers who held registration for at least four years, 5% had taught for all four of those years whereas half had taught for less than a year.
When asked why they had become teachers, respondents demonstrated fairly altruistic motivations and displayed passion for the profession, identifying that they had wanted to make a difference and thought they would be a great teacher. When looking at the literature review, the research suggested that the profession was losing the best and brightest and they were losing those who often had high expectations of what they could do or achieve as a teacher and also those in particular specialist areas. The results of the survey weren’t dissimilar in that respect.
So of the 238 survey respondents who’d taught in Queensland schools and were no longer teaching, 28% indicated that this was due to the lack of continued employment. So obviously there’s impacts related to some of those conversations around the GFC that occurred just in the previous session. But the reasons identified by the remaining participants can be grouped into key categories such as inadequate professional support, heavy workload and, to a lesser extent, student behaviour. Similar results about inadequate support for beginning teachers are highlighted in the Kelly et al paper that I referred to earlier around online communities where the Staff in Australia’s Schools survey from McKenzie et al is also cited. That supports the hypothesis that around 1 in 5 beginning teachers are not receiving either mentoring or induction support. Then in conducting their own survey, Kelly et al have looked at the types of support that beginning teachers are currently using and beyond the opportunities that are there for them in school based situations, graduates rank other teachers as their greatest source. These teachers are mostly family members or peers that they’ve interacted or that they interact with on either email or through Facebook and they’re from personal connections that have been established in the first instance from university.
If we refer here too to the graduate survey conducted by the QCT, key challenges for beginning teachers, sorry, for beginning teachers identified by principals link directly to some of those other points around student behaviour and the challenging complexities of the role in balancing priorities and workload and so forth. Key success factors to contribute to the successful transition to the new school are often identified by principals as things like targeted induction, mentoring and feedback and networking and professional communities.
If we return then to the attrition report and focus on the subset of graduates who had been permanently employed, it was identified that 21% had not been provided with any type of induction program, half had not been observed by another teacher, and only 34% had had their own teaching observed, 40% had not participated in professional networks or communities of practice. It’s not surprising then that the subset of casual or contract teachers had even less access to support. So you’ll see that significant numbers of graduate teachers in this group did not participate in induction programs, observations or professional networks. The results support the premise suggested in Kelly et al’s paper on online communities that casual, short term teachers and teachers in remote locations are two groups of beginning teachers that are often disadvantaged in terms of relying on school based practices only or school based support mechanisms only for induction to the profession. The article cites Ingersoll and Strong’s 2011 work, work that looks at the impact of induction and mentoring for beginning teachers and notes that a comprehensive program of significant length and depth of support can assist teacher retention. It’s difficult for a school however to provide equality induction or mentoring program for casual and short term employees. Therefore we can probably see some connection there in terms of the measure of effectiveness of the induction programs that were there with increased numbers of teachers that are entering the profession through casual and temporary employment. So we need to start looking beyond and looking at other ways in which these teachers can be supported.
Another interesting point to note is of those that responded to the survey, 85% of the graduates that had observed other teachers’ work actually found that activity effective but only 37% of respondents were afforded the opportunity to observe other teachers. And two thirds of graduates rated professional networks and communities of practice as effective.
Some attrition of beginning teachers from the teaching profession is normal and is positive. For example, it might be preferable that people identify early that they’re not suited and therefore exit or if they’re not coping with the demands of teaching despite being provided adequate support and guidance. However, noting the high proportion of teachers through this survey who had gained full registration prior to leaving the profession and some of the negative experience expressed by those responding to the survey, it provides us with some insight into our future thinking. The points that are considered here look at some of the broader suggestions that could be made for us to consider as a profession and that looks at providing adequate support, avoiding appointing them to more difficult to staff schools, matching graduates with demand and giving them manageable classes. But, of course, those sorts of things require that cultural shift in our thinking about the profession and thinking away, thinking about how schools operate and the culture of some schools in order for those things to change. So they’re some broader ideas that could be learned from this report.
However it’s important for us at the QCT, or the Queensland College of Teachers, to also consider how we can contribute to some of these ideas as well. So the recommendations within the report are also specific to the QCT in what our role is to play in all of this. So part of it is about providing the research methodology to other Australian teacher regulatory authorities and this is already being done through their report but also has been disseminated directly through the Australasian Teacher Regulators Association, so through ATRA that’s already occurred and is occurring. Also to look at developing new and promoting existing online PD services for mentors and beginning teachers. It’s interesting when you look at the survey data, a lot of the things that young or beginning—I shouldn’t say young—beginning teachers identify is they’re quite overwhelmed by resourcing or where they find resources and planning, and all of us here would know that there is a plethora of resources for teaching out there. So it’s looking at perhaps is there a role for the QCT in terms of being like a one point of truth for Queensland teachers and offering those links to the great illustrations of practice, to the Skoodle communities through ESA and so forth. So is there an opportunity for the Queensland College of Teachers to have a greater role in this space?
Another suggestion here is, or a recommendation of the report is about facilitating online communities of practice through the use of digital technologies. So this might work hand in hand with the idea of the casualisation of the workforce. So I’ve referred a couple of times to the online communities paper that Dr Nick Kelly and associates currently have and in it, it highlights a pilot project that the QCT is also contributing to, in which it’s looking at drawing from the IT community where they have something that’s called, it’s called Stack Overflow and it’s an online space where IT professionals can ask questions to fix software problems and technical problems associated with IT and it’s become a place where those that contribute to that community actually get points and recognised. So when IT professionals are working or applying for new jobs, they can actually note that on their CV in terms of what their rating is. And so for this project, Nick Kelly and associates are looking at creating a similar one and they’re piloting this through some students at USQ and another university during this year in which there’s a question and answer space for students in their final year of teaching and they will be able to extend that next year into their first year of teaching as beginning teachers. So it creates an opportunity to ask questions I guess in a safer environment where it’s through an online space and there’s also experienced teachers that can feed into that. So this is some interesting work that will be very good to watch.
There’s also a role for us to talk to key stakeholders about support for beginning teachers so obviously today is an opportunity to do that, and the report has also been disseminated and shared with all the key stakeholders in Queensland so that these conversations can occur.
And finally, there’s the opportunity to conduct regular surveys to follow trends in attrition rates.
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