The role of school culture in early career teacher resilience

Year: 2012

Author: Peters, Judy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Western countries are facing the loss of between 25% and 40% of early career teachers within 5 years of entering the profession leading to serious concerns around the sustainability of teaching (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Vocational Training, 2007, Moon, 2007). This research aimed to investigate the dynamic and complex interplay among individual, relational and contextual conditions that operate over time to promote early career teacher resilience. It comprises a collaborative qualitative research project between three universities and eight stakeholder organisations including employer groups and unions in South Australia and Western Australia. The methodology for the study was a critical enquiry drawing on the traditions of narrative enquiry and critical ethnography. Data were collected via interviews with 59 beginning teachers from the two states and their school leaders. NVivo8 was used to manage a thematic approach to data analysis. The findings take the form of a Framework of Conditions Supporting Early Career Teacher Resilience based on five themes: (a) relationships, (b) school culture, (c) teacher identity, (d) teachers' work, and (e) policies and practices (Johnson, Down, Le Cornu, Peters, Sullivan, Pearce & Hunter, 2010).

This paper explores the findings about the theme of "school culture". It focuses on the stories of two participants, supplemented by data from the wider cohort, to identify the features of school cultures that supported and constrained early career teachers' resilience in their first year of teaching. One of the greatest challenges early career teachers faced was that of responding to the disparate needs of their students. The findings revealed that they felt best supported to respond to these challenges within school cultures that: promoted a sense of belonging and social connectedness; developed educative, democratic and empowering processes; provided formal and informal transition/induction processes; and developed a professional learning community. The paper will present some of the strategies used in schools to create such cultures.

*This research was supported under Australian Research Council's Linkage Projects funding scheme (LP0883672).