Understanding teacher commitment in times of change

Crosswell, Leanne (2006) Understanding teacher commitment in times of change. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Teacher commitment is one of the key elements in education and is arguably becoming an increasingly important factor. The work teachers engage in on a daily basis is complex and demanding and requires a level of personal engagement and commitment. With the escalating demands and new challenges inherent in the current educational climate, what it means to be a committed teacher is also changing. It has become imperative to gain further insight into teacher commitment due to its close association with concepts such as quality of teaching, teacher adaptability, teacher attendance, teacher burnout, teacher retention, organisational "health" of the school, and student attitudes and learning outcomes.

This multi-method study examined the phenomenon of teacher commitment as it is perceived by the teachers themselves. The research used a multi-method enquiry approach that employed two rarely connected qualitative methods of phenomenography and case study. It combined the two methods in an effort to extrapolate and enhance the results from one method (phenomenography) with the results from another method (case study). The combined methodology was considered to be appropriate to investigate the complex phenomenon of teacher commitment, specifically the multi-dimensional nature of teacher commitment, which is an area that had not previously been fully explored.

In the phenomenographic investigation of this study, 30 experienced classroom teachers were interviewed. Participants worked in schools that represent the diverse education settings and contexts of Queensland. Geographically the range included teachers from suburban (Brisbane), regional (Rockhampton) and remote (Longreach) settings. Schools that participated in the research included special schools, primary schools, high schools and schools of distance education. This interview data were analysed to identify categories of description and develop a conceptual "map" of teacher commitment.

The school site of Willowbark State School, a small inner city school was then investigated as a case study. The case study elaborated on the phenomenographic categories of teacher commitment identified by this study. Case study data were collected from a range of sources that included the school website, school documents, anecdotal evidence collected from observations and informal discussions and formal interviews with five educators with extended teaching experience.

One of the significant outcomes of the study was an informed conceptualised Model of Contemporary Teacher Commitment that illustrates the relationship between the key categories of description and as such demonstrates the "collective mind" of the teachers in the study. The study identified six categories of description of teacher commitment. These categories included teacher commitment as a passion, investment of "extra" time, a focus on the students, maintaining professional knowledge, engagement with the school community and transmitting knowledge and values. These categories are integrated into the model by the use of two summarising dimensions, a "personal dimension" and a professional "enactment dimension."

Another key finding that emerges from the study was the centrality of passion within teacher commitment. This finding challenges the position that teacher commitment can be discussed merely in terms of external factors such as students and subject areas. What the findings of this study do indicate is that a passionate connection to teaching is fundamental to any discussion about teacher commitment and this has implications for school and system leaders.

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ID Code: 16238
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Elliot, Robert
Keywords: teacher commitment, passion, values and beliefs, mixed-method approach, phenomenography, case study
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Leanne Crosswell
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:59
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:45

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