‘I left Australia out of curiosity': teachers in an international school talk about their work

Year: 2013

Author: Bailey, Lucy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Extensive studies have been conducted on the effects of policy changes on teachers' work, and evolving conceptions of professionalism in response to government-led reforms in organisational structure and management, curriculum and accountability (e.g. Comber and Nixon 2009; Smyth 2001; Hargreaves 1994; Connell 1985). However, far less research has been carried out on teachers who actively seek out change, rather than those who are reacting to policy mandates. The resilience of conceptions of professionalism and professional practice in the face of unforeseen consequences of such choices therefore remain unexplored. This paper begins to address this research gap, by examining the experiences of teachers seeking to continue their career in an international context. Whilst there has been some study of teachers in international schools (e.g. Joslin 2002; Chandler 2010), research on the careers and professional identity of teachers in international schools remains little theorised.
The paper draws on a study of expatriate teachers working in an international school in South-East Asia. It examines the reasons why these teachers left their education system of origin and seek work overseas, alongside the practical, cultural and professional challenges they experienced as they transitioned to an international school setting. Through in-depth, semi-structured interviews, and discourse analysis of the interview transcripts, their experiences of curricular, organisational and cultural change are explored, and the impact of these on their conceptions of their work is analysed. Teachers' accounts of changes in their teaching styles in response to a new cultural setting are described. The importance of a professional community with shared norms to maintaining a continued identity in the face of change is examined.