Mid-career teacher expectations of leaders

There are many studies about beginning teachers leaving the profession but fewer about the reasons for mid-career teacher attrition, even though they comprise the majority of school staff. Teacher attrition is a complex construct that includes the effects of leadership practices on work commitment. This presentation reports on findings from a mix-methods study that included qualitative interviews with five leaders and five teachers who had recently left teaching mid-career, and a survey of Australian primary school teachers’ (n=142) perspectives on leadership practices that impact on mid-career teachers’ work commitment. While both leaders and teachers in interviews indicated that relational leadership practices were the strongest influence on teacher work commitment, there were differences in the type of leadership practices that were valued. Principals emphasised the ways that they provided opportunities for leadership, professional development and mentoring, managed change and communicated positively with staff. Interviews with ex-teachers and survey results with current teachers found teachers placed greatest importance on how principals interact with school staff. This included “having interpersonal skills” (46.8%), “demonstrating respect for staff” (44.6%), “valuing staff views” (41.7%), “acting in an ethical manner” (38.1%), “being trustworthy” (33.1%), “having consistent interactions with staff” (33.0%), and “being approachable to staff” (30.9%).). These teacher responses focused on the emotional attachment and relationships as significant in addressing mid-career teacher attrition. This presentation explores the differences in expectations between teachers and leaders and how these expectations have been shaped by policy. Education Queensland policy and programs influenced all the school leaders expectations. These included, supporting aspiring leader sand providing coaching and mentoring for staff as well as Education Queensland’s Developing Performance Framework (2013). The presentation concludes by recommending that listening to teachers, and interpreting leadership practices through ways of increasing teacher agency, may strengthen the policy framework and professional learning for leaders.