Age shall not weary them: Long serving teachers and the case of teacher retention

Year: 2012

Author: Kerby, Martin, Baguley, Margaret

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


It is evident that teacher turnover is a complex phenomenon which offers particular challenges for any educational institution. Though teacher movement is often associated, at least anecdotally, with dissatisfaction with either the profession generally, or site specific issues such as promotional opportunities, it is simplistic to see a high retention rate as necessarily a positive indicator of staff satisfaction or the provision of a quality education. Nevertheless, as Australia's population ages, with the teaching profession reflecting this, it becomes vital to understand why some teachers display remarkable career longevity.  

This paper investigates the phenomenon of experienced teacher retention through one school site drawing on participants of at least twenty years' experience across a range of subject areas and positions of responsibility. Semi structured interviews were utilised to provide consistency across the range of responses. Thematic analysis was utilised to reveal emergent themes in the data which were contextualised against relevant literature.

The findings of this paper reveal that the participants possess a clear devotion to pedagogy which is not always informed by a more narrow commitment to a discipline area. It would also appear that the participants reinvented themselves by moving into different discipline areas, grade levels, pursuing further study or by assuming positions of added responsibility. Just as often, however, this process of reinvention involved a conscious alteration in pedagogy that sometimes occurred quite separate from institutional alterations in circumstances.

This paper will provide important insights into teacher retention by making a case for institutional guidance for teachers seeking to reinvigorate their practice. Such a commitment to reflective practice is at the core of any personal and institutional growth and as such an educational institution must seek to foster this type of self-renewal.