10 SES 07 D, The Role of Pre-service and Beginning Teachers in Diverse Contexts
This paper addresses the rural staffing shortage by exploring the motivations and barriers faced by pre-service teachers in an Australian urban university as they explore the prospect of teaching in a rural school. The paper examines two hypotheses prevalent in the research literature on rural school staffing. Firstly, that introducing pre-service teachers to rural placement experiences enhances their desire to seek teaching positions in a rural school (Halsey 2009, Sharplin 2009) upon completion of their training. Secondly, that pre-service teachers from regional or rural backgrounds are more likely to seek a teaching position in rural settings than their urban counterparts (Campbell & Yates 2011, Sommerville et al. 2010). For the purpose of examining these ideas, eight pre-service teachers completing their initial-teacher education in an urban university were interviewed three times each (before, during and after their rural placement experience) over a period of 18 months.
Research focussed on the staffing of rural schools in Australia and internationally arguably presents a consistent yet concerning reality with many rural schools experiencing difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff, especially at secondary school level (Azano & Stewart 2015, Baeck 2016, Commonwealth of Australia 2013, OECD 2004, Symeonidis 2015). It has been extensively asserted that the difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff has a direct impact on the quality of rural students’ educational experiences and outcomes; on the continuity and success of school policies and curriculum implementation; and on the development of a supportive professional community (Baeck 2010, Commonwealth of Australia 2013, OECD 2004, Symeonidis 2015). A lack of incentives associated with poor employment conditions (e.g. work overload, additional responsibilities, poor pay), compounded by issues of personal and professional isolation make rural schools problematic to staff. Employment uncertainty also plays a significant role. In Australia, studies have found that teachers who remained in the school for less than three years mentioned ‘contract employment’ as the main reason for this decision (Productivity Commission 2012). Furthermore, teacher graduates, in Australia and internationally, are more likely to start their careers on short fixed term or casual contracts, which carry less benefits and entitlements, including lack of access to professional development and mentoring which is crucial for them so early in their careers (Commonwealth of Australia 2013, Symeonidis 2015).
Against these challenges, some studies have suggested two important factors to redress this issue. Firstly, that any success in recruiting and retaining staff in rural schools begins with their initial teacher preparation, which increases teachers’ professionalization, autonomy and positive sense of their status (Burns & Darling-Hammond 2014, MacBeath 2012, White et al. 2011). Thus, as per our first hypothesis, researchers have affirmed that initial-teacher education teaching placements in rural schools play a critical role in in influencing pre-service teachers’ decisions to continue in the profession and to take up a rural post (Kline et al. 2013, White et al. 2011). An Australian national study has found that more than 60% of pre-service teachers who undertake a rural teaching placement have ‘reinforced’ or ‘confirmed’ through the experience the decision to take a rural appointment (Halsey 2009). Furthermore, our second hypothesis, based on previous research, states that recent graduate teachers from rural places were more likely to choose to work in rural schools (Lyons 2009, Sommerville et al. 2010). Thus, contrary to the idea that government incentives (e.g. rent subsidies, travel allowances) are a major factor to entice new recruits into rural schools, it is in fact teachers’ familiarity and knowledge of rural settings that motivates them to stay in a rural town or to leave the city to take up jobs in non-metropolitan schools.
Azano, A., & Stewart, T. (2015). Exploring Place and Practicing Justice: Preparing Pre-Service Teachers for Success in Rural Schools. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 30(9), 1-12. Baeck, U. D. (2010). "We" Are the Professionals": A Study of Teachers' Views on Parental Involvement in School. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 31(3), 323-335. Burns, D. and Darling-Hammond, L. (2014). Teaching Around the World: What Can TALIS Tell Us? Stanford, CA: Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. Campbell, A., & Yates, G. (2011). Want to be a country teacher? No, I am too metrocentric. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 26(4), 1-12. Commonwealth of Australia (2013). Teaching and learning: maximising our investment in Australian schools. Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Canberra. Halsey, J., (2009). “Teaching in the country would not be so bad”: How much does it cost to find out? International Symposium for Innovation in Rural Education, Armidale, NSW. Kline, J., White, S., & Lock, G. (2013). The Rural Practicum: Preparing a Quality Teacher Workforce for Rural and Regional Australia. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 28(3), 1-13. Lyons, T. (2009). Teachers’ motivations for working in rural schools. International Symposium for Innovation in Rural Education, Armidale, NSW. MacBeath, J. (2012).The Future of the Teaching Profession. Brussels: Education International. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2004). Place-based policies for rural development: Basque County, Spain (case study). Paris: OECD. Productivity Commission (2012). Schools Workforce. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra. Sharplin, E. (2009). Getting Them Out There: A Rural Education Field Trip. International Symposium for Innovation in Rural Education, Armidale, NSW. Somerville, M., Plunkett, M., & Dyson, M. (2010). New teachers learning in rural and regional Australia. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 38(1), 39-55. Symeonidis, V. (2015). The Status of Teachers and the Teaching Profession. Educational International, Stockholm. White, S., Lock, G., Hastings, W., Cooper, M., & Reid, J. (2011). Investing in sustainable and resilient rural social space: Lessons for teacher education. Education in Rural Australia, 21(1), 67-78.
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