The Importance of Teachers in Our Society

Year: 2019

Author: Kett, Natasha

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A socially just world is about hope and transforming communities where resources, rights and power are equitable. Not only are schools ‘spheres of opportunities’ but they are also places where social determinism starts. That said, teachers are under pressure to justify their existence, be more accessible and to find ways to be more inclusive of different knowledge and experiences. Schools have been inundated with the implementation of a range of reforms focused on improving education for all, however few reform efforts have taken into consideration how teachers are coping with their work. Despite the common assumption that teacher job satisfaction and student results are associated, there is limited evidence available regarding how they are related. Minimal research has been conducted investigating these relationships at the organisational level of analysis. Similarly, the mechanisms through which this effect operates has received minor empirical attention. The primary aim of this study was to examine the association between teacher job satisfaction and student achievement. Quantitative data were gathered by questionnaires administered to 56 teachers and their 605 Year 5 students and achievement results obtained from the Australian National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy. A causal model was developed which allowed teacher job satisfaction effects to be analysed by testing hypothetical cause and effect relationships between constructs. The specification and estimation of school, class and individual effects were measured by a multilevel decomposition of variance. Class effects accounted for approximately 30 per cent of the variance in student achievement, with 10 per cent of this explained by the teacher background and job satisfaction variables. Of particular interest is that out of all the factors that teachers found satisfying and dissatisfying it was the ‘core business’ of teaching i.e. facilitating student learning and their professional self-growth that helped improve student outcomes. Emerging in educational literature has been analogies between education equality and student achievement, but with a reductive, almost non-teacher centred perspective that reduces the importance of both teacher well-being and performance. This study reconceptualises teacher job satisfaction as a generative metaphor, for educational research based on improving student outcomes. If educators are to point the way to a more socially just world in conjunction with changes to state and national policy, curriculum and conditions of accountability then there is a need to address the complexities of the working environment where teachers are called to serve.