Teacher commitment and engagement: The dimensions of ideology and practice associated with teacher commitment and engagement within an Australian perspective

Year: 2002

Author: Elliott, Bob, Crosswell, Leanne

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Teacher commitment and engagement has been identified as one of the most critical factors in the success and future of education (Huberman, 1997, Nais, 1981). It contributes to teachers' work performance, absenteeism, burnout and turnover, as well as having an important influence on students' achievement in, and attitudes toward school (Firestone, 1996; Graham, 1996; Louis, 1998; Tsui & Cheng, 1999). This paper will investigate the traditional view of teacher commitment as it refers to external referents and propose that the personal value systems of the teachers is more significant than currently recognised by the literature.

This paper will report on an investigation into teacher commitment and engagement in Australia. The analysis indicates that commitment is best conceived in terms of two dimensions- an ideological dimension and a practice dimension. The significant point about these two dimensions is that while the particular characteristics of the ideological dimension are modified across the career span (in response to person and professional experiences) levels of commitment to particular practices vary (cf. Fraser, Draper & Taylor, 1998; Huberman, 1993). It appears that one of the critical contextual factors that influence this commitment to practice is the extent to which leadership (both at the school and system level) is perceived to understand the teachers' ideological commitment and to express change directions in terms of these. The findings have particular significance for leadership in terms of future change directions.