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Why the research is important

Significance

This research is significant because:

  • there is a current teacher shortage crisis in Western Australia and parts of South Australia (Hiatt, 2007).
  • between 25% and 40% of beginning teachers in countries in the Western World are ‘burnt-out’ and are likely to leave the teaching profession in the first 5 years (Ewing and Smith, 2003).
  • there is an upward trend in early career teacher resignations in Australia (Ramsay, 2000).
  • these are tough times to be a teacher.
  • many Western nations are experiencing difficulties attracting new teachers and in keeping them once they are in the profession (Moon, 2007).
  • the problems around teacher retention are exacerbated by the age profile of the teaching population.
  • there is a growing body of literature which indicates that there are real differences in the orientations to work and life held by various generations (e.g. Jurkiewicz, 2000; Dwyer, Smith, Tyler & Wyn, 2003).

This research is innovative because:

  1. The project brings together policy, research and practice. We are not just investigating the phenomenon but are part of the solution in that we aim to produce Professional Development modules for use by various education systems on the Conditions that Support Teacher Resilience and Retention.
  2. The project employs an innovative research methodology – the use of Roundtables. These Roundtables bring together various stakeholders – teachers, school leaders, education administrators, union representatives, academics – and involves them all in the research process. Roundtables create a space where various stakeholders can develop shared understandings and common language about the resilience and retention of early career teachers. This is particularly significant given that we will be involving eight major educational partners in two Australian states.
  3. The research will embrace an ethnographic approach rather than a quantitative approach which has been a feature of many previous studies in this area. This approach will allow us to foreground the experiences of early career teachers and help build a rich and detailed understanding of the reasons why they stay, rather than why they leave.
  4. This is a cross-institutional and cross-state project which will have major implications for other states in Australia and influence policy and program development nationally.
  5. The project is innovative at the theoretical level. It challenges past applications of the construct of resilience by developing new, more nuanced, and more comprehensive notions that incorporate individual and contextual elements.