Early career teacher attrition: A case study of independent Catholic girls' schools in Queensland

Hall, Kathleen Mary (2013) Early career teacher attrition: A case study of independent Catholic girls' schools in Queensland. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

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This research study sought to understand why so many early career teachers in an Australian Religious Institute education sector were leaving teaching. Previous studies on early career teacher attrition across all sectors were based on supply and demand theory, as well as contemporary career theory, and identified various factors such as remuneration, student behaviour and school resourcing as influencing factors. These Australian Religious Institute education sector schools take pride in their good standing. The schools in this sector have worked at addressing many of the factors associated with early career teacher attrition yet despite their efforts they are also experiencing attrition of their early career teachers.

A case study of the Queensland independent Catholic girls' school sector explored firstly, the construct of being a teacher in these schools, and secondly, the sociocultural discourses giving rise to unique situations contributing to early career teachers making the decision to leave teaching. Eight early career teachers who had left the profession for which they had recently trained, and eight long standing teachers who were still employed in the sector were interviewed to yield a rich data set. The interviews were conducted within a theoretical framework of what it means to be a teacher by Graham and Phelps (2003) and pedagogic identity and pedagogic practice as noted by Bernstein (2000).

The distributive rules and the evaluative rules (Bernstein, 2000) provided the analytical framework to confirm that particular discourses, together with the ways in which the early career teachers realised being a teacher, were important factors in the decision not to remain in teaching. It emerged that being a teacher in the Queensland independent Catholic girls' school sector was complex and demanding. Being a teacher required long hours of personal time to realise the demands of teaching, a situation which did not fare well with the early career teachers who struggled to balance the requirements of teaching with their own personal time. Furthermore, evidence was found that the schools had multifaceted sociocultural discourses that the early career teacher research participants struggled to understand. In contrast, long standing teachers had, through time, experience and observation, developed skills that allowed them to navigate these complex discourses and thus remain long term in the sector.

Another finding revealed the considerable dichotomy in how the charism of the schools (the unique way Catholic institutions transmit the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church) unfolded for students and staff. While these schools transmit their charism effectively to the students, it is ineffectively transmitted to early career teachers.

In contemporary times when a majority of teachers in Australia are moving into their 50s and large numbers are retiring or resigning, (Australian Government, 2011; Australian Government Department of Education, 2007b) it is important for the long term viability of the independent Catholic school sector to retain a stable staff. This study demonstrates that if Catholic schools want to retain their unique identity in the education community and sustain their unique charisms, then they must adopt positive practices to support early career teachers.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 63286
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Lidstone, John & Exley, Beryl
Additional Information:

Recipient of 2013 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award.

The Faculty has requested an embargo of 5 years for this thesis.

Keywords: being a teacher, career theory, charism, distributive rule, early career teachers, early career teacher attrition, evaluative rule, pedagogic identity, religious sector schools, teachers’ personal time, ODTA
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 11 Oct 2013 00:15
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2015 07:01

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