Teacher Roles with Student Aspirations in Uncertain Times

Year: 2021

Author: Walker, Amy

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Aspirations are important in an educational context, having links with both secondary school completion and further education. Yet, despite the abundance of research into student aspirations, studies into teacher perceptions of their roles in relation to student aspirations are uncommon. Research has tended to focus on student or parent perspectives, with limited insight into teacher understandings. In increasingly uncertain times due to the global pandemic, along with social and economic inequality, the role of teachers to assist students with their future aspirations is vitally important. Teachers often assist students negotiate their interests with relevant curriculum and pathways, a task becoming more challenging with disruptions to school settings.This paper is drawn from the author’s doctoral study into the perceptions of a sample of teachers in a Foundation to Year 12 school in Victoria, Australia about the role they played, both formally and informally, in engaging with and supporting student aspirations. Data were collected from the teachers who participated in the study (N=57) via an online survey and interview (N=14), and a document analysis.  The data informed a qualitative case study involving one school located in a peri-urban area. A theoretical bricolage taking in aspirations research, teacher roles and career theory, underpins the arguments in this presentation. The data was analysed using a triangulated qualitative coding and had ethics approval from Federation University.This paper provides an insight into how the teachers perceived the processes they had developed over time as part of their classroom practice in relation to engaging with student aspirations. The research shows that in the absence of formal roles with student aspirations at the school, the teachers were poised to respond situationally, relying on their expertise as practitioners and developing personal practices over time to assist students with their aspirations. The findings from this research highlight the boundaries that teachers perceived they navigated while balancing school, personal and student concerns. Implications are discussed in relation to teacher education and recognition of teacher ability to guide student aspirations in challenging times. Connections to the complicated issues teachers face navigating student aspirations during the current pandemic will also be drawn.