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New realities of teachers' work lives : the impact of educational change on Australian teachers


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Churchill, Rick 1998 , 'New realities of teachers' work lives : the impact of educational change on Australian teachers', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The study reported in this thesis was an investigation into the work lives of Australian
primary and secondary school teachers employed in the state education systems of South
Australia and Tasmania. While the educational authorities of South Australia and Tasmania
were the smallest of Australia's six state education systems, they remained sizeable
organisations, controlling a total of almost 1000 schools. The study involved data which
were collected through the application of an interview schedule and twin teacher and
principal versions of a detailed survey to a sample of 100 teachers and 87 school principals.
These three research instruments were designed specifically for use in this study and were
the products of an extensive process of trial and development. The period investigated in
the study, the first half of the 1990s, was perceived by the participating teachers and
principals to be a time of turbulence in schools and education systems as these
organisations, and the people who worked within them, were confronted with escalating
expectations for profound educational change. The study found that the educational
changes which were such a defining feature of the early 1990s affected these teachers'
work lives significantly at a number of levels: first, the sheer number of different changes
to which teachers were expected to respond was important; second, the overwhelming
majority of the educational changes of the time were seen by these teachers as having been
imposed on them from and by sources outside their work context of the school; third, these
teachers perceived that half of the change initiatives of the time were intended to meet the
needs of education systems as organisations, rather than to improve teaching or learning in
schools; and fourth, the overall impact on their work lives which these teachers attributed to
their involvement with educational changes was seen as negative by an overwhelming
majority of the participating teachers. These teachers were, nevertheless, found to be
highly satisfied with three key elements of their work lives: with the nature and quality of
the working relationship between teacher and principal; with the working relationships they
shared with their teacher colleagues; and with the nature of their interactions with students
at school. On the other hand, the participating teachers were particularly, dissatisfied with
the policy directions adopted and pursued by their own respective education systems and
with the inordinate amount of effort they saw as required for them to meet all of the
expectations of the teacher's role. These teachers' experiences with recent educational
changes had significant implications for their self-predicted responses to future changes in
education. A more complete picture of the multi-faceted nature of contemporary teachers'
work was the most significant finding to have emerged from the study, with this picture
being characterised by ten new realities of teachers' work lives: a myriad of change
expectations; intensification; politicisation; competition between two kinds of collaboration;
resourcing pressures; mis-matches between expectations, needs and access in professional
development; dissatisfaction with education systems; conflict between organisational and
professional goals; dissonance associated with a paradox between professional expertise
and external control; and ironic options for distance and immunity. Five recommendations
relating to future educational change efforts are drawn from the study: first, the number of
simultaneous innovations should be kept to a level which is manageable by teacher
implementers; second, proposed innovations should be connected directly to teachers' core
tasks of teaching and learning; third, the level of resourcing provided should be adequate
for both implementation and institutionalisation; fourth, local ownership of innovations
should be promoted to enhance teacher commitment; and fifth, teachers should have access
to positive experiences with a prior change before being expected to engage further

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Churchill, Rick
Keywords: Teachers, educational change, Australian teachers
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1998 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D)--University of Tasmania, 1998. Includes bibliographical references

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