Mapping the messiness: Documenting the experiences of graduate teachers

Year: 2018

Author: Fitzgerald, Ange

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Research suggests that up to 40% of graduate teachers in Australia are leaving the profession in their first five years (Bahr & Ferreira, 2018). While some of the factors impacting on graduate retention are largely understood, there is little research from the perspective of graduates’ lived experiences. In understanding this gap, a collaboration was formed with a filmmaker to work alongside five graduate teachers in documenting their early career experiences over a year. The research question driving this project was what characterises the experiences of Australian Education graduates as they continue in their learning to teach journey post-tertiary study?
The participants were five graduate teachers (four female and one male) with a variety of education backgrounds (e.g. Bachelor of Education, Master of Teaching, primary, secondary, international student) and experiences (e.g. teaching in urban/rural setting, different sectors, casual relief teaching), embarking on their first or second year following the completion of an Education degree from Victorian-based university.
The data collection processes can be summarised as follows:

In-depth interview (1 hour) at start and end of project with each participant (2 over the year, 10 interviews in total);
Each interview was audio-recorded and video-recorded;
Video journals were kept by each graduate teacher using a GoPro camera and tripod;
Graduates recorded a video entry every 1 to 3 weeks spanning 2 to 10 minutes in length; and
There were 100+ video journal entries logged in total.

The data analysis process is in its early stages with all video and audio files having been viewed and notes developed. Using the methodology of portraiture (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Hoffman Davis, 1997), a writing process has evolved from the immersing in the data sets in the development of case notes that start to bring together the key features of their graduate experience for each individual. With a focus on the critical incidents that shaping their lived experiences, the paper presentation will draw on footage to highlight the key themes emerging from this research.
This research matters as it has further highlighted the flaws in our education systems and the dire need for better approaches if we are to slow the flow of quality graduates lost to the teaching profession. It also has the potential to have an influence at macro and micro levels nationally in terms of the support mechanisms put in place to support graduate teachers to flourish in the classroom, their schools and wider community.