Who Should Teach? Discourses Of Teacher Selection And The Aspirations Of School Students Interested In Becoming Teachers

Year: 2015

Author: Gore, Jenny, Joy Barron, Rosie, Holmes, Kathryn, Smith, Max

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There is an enduring narrative in Australian education, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, that our teachers and their teaching are not good enough. This view is apparent in many media representations as well as in a great deal of educational policy. The most recent high-level articulation of this narrative, in the 2014 Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (2014) report, calls for an overhaul of teacher education, including processes of selection into teacher education programs. We argue that this narrative implies that teaching is in a state of crisis (Arendt, 1958; Dinham, 2013) and that ‘responses’ to this crisis are overwhelmingly regulatory, often manifesting in debates about who should teach, and increasingly emphasising the ‘academic ability’ of applicants. We argue that discourses and policies relating to this narrative imply that if you are not a ‘high achiever’, teaching is not ‘for you’. In this paper, we explore the ways in which this narrative interacts with the views of those who express an interest in pursuing teaching as a career. We draw on data from our study of aspirations, in which students from Year 3 to Year 12 were asked to indicate their occupational preferences and give reasons for their choices. A large-scale mixed method longitudinal study of more than 6000 students from New South Wales public schools and focus groups involving more than 500 students are used to identify those students who expressed a desire to teach as their first preference, as well as the reasons they provided for doing so. Analysis of these data enable us to interrogate assumptions enmeshed within the dominant narrative about who should teach, instead providing evidence of who, by gender, SES, and prior school achievement, signals interest in teaching as a career. By exploring the motivations and views on teachers and teaching provided by these young people, which contain both traces of and challenges to the dominant narrative, we provide an alternative angle from which to think about how it functions, and raise questions about how it positions teachers and would-be teachers.

Arendt, H. (1958). Crisis in education. Partisan Review, 25, 493-513.
Dinham, S. (2013). The quality teaching movement in Australia encounters difficult terrain: A personal perspective. Australian Journal of Education. 57(2), 91-106. doi: 10.1177/004944113485840
Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group. (2014). Action now: Classroom ready teachers. Canberra, Australia: Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www.studentsfirst.gov.au/teacher-education-ministerial-advisory-group