Putting the Teacher Back into Teaching

Year: 2017

Author: Kett, Natasha

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The academic achievement of students needs to be improved upon in Australian schools (AGPC, 2012, Thomson et al., 2013). To do this Australia must aspire to have a schooling system that is among the best in the world for its quality (Gonski et al., 2011). What can be termed as the 'quality teaching movement' has been building. Policy makers have been inundating schools with reforms focused on improving the quality of teaching.

Analogies are being made between quality teaching and student achievement, but with a reductive, almost non-teacher centred perspective that reduces the importance of both teacher well-being and work life. To improve the quality of teaching that is being delivered, the complexities of the working environment where teachers are called to serve, need to be addressed.

This study reconceptualises teacher job satisfaction as a generative metaphor, for educational research based on improving student outcomes. The aim was to undertake a causal analysis of the relationship between teacher job satisfaction & student achievement. Secondary aims were (i) to benchmark teacher satisfaction levels and ascertain what aspects of their working lives do teachers find satisfying and dissatisfying (2) determine what factors are related to teachers' level of satisfaction and if teachers' level of satisfaction can change during their teaching career.

Data were gathered through questionnaires and student achievement results obtained from NAPLAN. A causal model was developed allowing teacher job satisfaction effects to be analysed by testing hypothetical cause and effect relationships between constructs. Valid constructs were developed using SPSS, one-factor congeneric measurement models and a substantively meaningful interpretation of the literature. Multi-level analyses were used to investigate the school, class and individual effects.

Class effects accounted for 30% of the variance in student achievement, with 10% of this explained by the teacher background and job satisfaction variables. Of all the factors that teachers found satisfying/dissatisfying it was the 'core business' of teaching i.e. facilitating student learning and their professional self-growth, which made a difference to student achievement. Interestingly, teacher background and job satisfaction were found to effect between 18% to 95%, of the variance in student motivation.

There is a portion of student achievement that can be changed through efforts made to improve teacher job satisfaction and the working lives of teachers. It is important to determine how teachers feel about teaching, as this may have implications for meeting the demand for 'quality education'.