Beginning the journey, becoming a teacher: exploring the transition into the profession 

Year: 2013

Author: Howell, Jennifer

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The transition from pre-service to beginning teacher is an area that has attracted much research. The relatively high attrition rates for beginning teachers has driven this research. It is a concern of teacher educators across the globe and whilst there are many influencing factors that may have a direct impact on the decision to leave the profession, such as salary scales, disillusionment or working conditions, conclusions have been sought that are essentially based on the premise that ‘something is wrong’. It has largely sought an answer to the question ‘why do they leave?’ But is it actually solvable? This paper proposes that a new lens is needed to interpret the attrition rates for beginning teachers. The current generation of beginning teachers are a distinctly different cohort to their predecessors. This paper will suggest that unlike previous generations, beginning teachers do not perceive their classroom-based teaching career as the culmination of a period of preparation, but as the starting point for a career that merely begins in schools. The concept of being based in a classroom for twenty plus years is not one commonly articulated by current beginning teachers, they are keen to try different pathways three to five years into their teaching career. This paper will present the initial data from the first phase of a small longitudinal study. Twelve beginning teachers working in secondary schools within Queensland and Western Australia are participating in a five-year longitudinal study and the project has adopted a multiple explanatory case-study research design. It is hoped that the mapping of experiences and the exploration of professional hopes and plans during the first five years of their teaching careers will clarify the actual lived experiences of beginning teachers. It is anticipated that it will offer an alternative viewpoint on attrition rates and assist in the understanding of the needs and aspirations of beginning teachers. This paper will present the data from the first year of the project. The theoretical frame underpinning this paper is largely interpretivist as it seeks to allow the answers to emerge from the data and case studies rather than starting a priori. This project seeks to focus the lived experiences of the beginning teachers themselves and to develop a new lens to interpret attrition rates. This will assist the profession as a whole in understanding the changing nature of beginning teachers, their needs and professional plans.