Early career teachers and the Discourses of quality: Reflexive agency in the pursuit of quality.

Year: 2019

Author: Churchward, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Improving teacher quality will improve student outcomes, so the argument goes. Policy solutions directed toward programs of teacher education, induction, mentoring, accreditation and certification are predicated on assumed understandings of teacher quality. However, quality is an ineffable term, most often understood through observation and discursive interpretation of teacher pedagogic behaviours. As early career teachers (ECTs) feature in the policy solution, they must make sense of the quality teacher discourse. Their reflexive consideration on the Discourses of quality is the subject of this paper, which explores how quality teaching is understood and experienced by early career teachers. Three research questions are posed:

1. How do Early Career Teachers see themselves as quality teachers?
2. How do ECTs navigate the quality teacher Discourse?
3. How do ECTs enact the ideal of quality teaching?

These questions conceive of ECTs as active agents reflexively deliberating on what it is to be a quality teacher, based on Margaret Archer’s work on the use of reflexivity to mediate between structure and agency.

As part of a doctoral research program, 13 ECTs in two Australian states participated in stimulated recall interviews, with Interviewees given artefacts to stimulate their recall of their lived experiences of the pursuit of quality during their first five years of teaching. Each was deemed a quality teacher as they had been selected to a teacher education course of excellence in the final year of their initial teacher education program. Using James Gee’s approach to critical discourse analysis, the data was analysed to identify how ECTs expressed their views regarding practical conceptualisations of quality and their development as quality teachers. Using critical discourse analysis to focus on how ECTs constructed their professional identities as quality teachers highlighted the difference between the theory of quality, as seen in the Discourses of quality, and the practice of quality teaching, as reflexively understood by its practitioners. This paper presents the reflexive deliberations of ECTs in the pursuit of quality. The ECTs in this study were keen to assume responsibility for their students’ learning and found the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers useful when used as a guide to development. They embraced the pursuit of quality. This paper explores how teacher quality also raises questions of education for social justice.