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“Things are always changing” : investigating Tasmanian early childhood teachers’ perceptions of teaching

Yost, HF 2012 , '“Things are always changing” : investigating Tasmanian early childhood teachers’ perceptions of teaching', EdD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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World-wide societal, economic, and technological changes, as well as government policy and educational reforms, have transformed Australian education. The effects of these changes have impacted upon school-community relationships, school organisation, curricula and, importantly, teachers and their work. In this rapidly changing world all levels of education, including the early years, have been affected. In this context, it was deemed appropriate to investigate EC teachers‟ perceptions of teaching in contemporary Tasmanian classrooms.
Since the 1960s, innovative programmes such as Head Start (USA), Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project (UK) and, in Australia, the National Early Years Workforce Strategy have contributed to an increased awareness of the significance of education in the early years. This has been reflected in the range and quality of literature reporting on aspects of ECE. These aspects have included topics such as: student development, learning, pedagogical practices, and teacher-related issues. A review of the literature revealed that, in contrast to studies related to secondary and primary teachers‟ work lives, literature relating to early years‟ teachers‟ work lives was limited. A study to examine Tasmanian EC teachers‟ perceptions of teaching was seen as important in relation to addressing a gap in the literature, and as well informing policy makers and employers as they seek to address issues arising in the frequently changing national and international educational contexts.
The study was conducted in two stages and used a questionnaire and focus group interviews to generate data. Stage One involved the distribution of questionnaires to EC teachers (n=165) who had consented to participate in the study working in the Northern, North-Western and Southern regions of Tasmania. Following questionnaire returns (n=65), initial data analysis was completed. In Stage Two, focus group interviews (n=6) were conducted with self-nominating ECE teachers (n=15). In terms of demographic data, questionnaire participants were mostly female (96.9%) who reported that they held an EC teaching qualification, and had greater than 16 years teaching experience. Moreover, 83.4% of interviewees (n=12) had between 18 and 31 years teaching experience.
Almost all (98.5%) of these highly experienced EC teachers reported that they were intrinsically motivated to help students to learn. Yet, they also reported being challenged by issues which the teachers perceived were outside their control. Respondents cited changing family structures, greater student diversity, the integration of “included” students, resources, and a lack of funding as some of the challenges which added to teachers‟ work and impacted negatively upon teachers‟ health and well-being.
The findings from this study provide a starting point for further discussion and research into Tasmanian EC teachers‟ work perceptions. The data are used to argue for improved consultation between DoE, educational policymakers, government and EC teachers, specifically in relation to strategies and procedures which might best support teachers working in EC classrooms. In particular, effective working partnerships may help to identify practices which assist in reducing some of the negative aspects reported by participants, the implementation of which may improve work place satisfaction, and, over time, improve the status of the EC teaching profession.

Item Type: Thesis - EdD
Authors/Creators:Yost, HF
Keywords: Early Childhood teachers, change
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Copyright 2012 the author.

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