What the resource is:
This resource is a report outlining an initial literature review for a project on Teacher Status, prepared for the New Zealand Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Teachers Council by Marie Cameron.
The aims of the resource:
The aim of the report is to explore:
- status in the context of teaching
- what the literature says about public perceptions and teachers' own perceptions of teacher status
- relationships between status and teacher recruitment, retention, capability and performance
- recent overseas central agency initiatives in the area of teacher status
The report is a discussion document intended to stimulate debate and inform future research directions.
Key findings or focus:
The report is the first phase of an initiative being developed by the New Zealand Teachers Council and the Ministry of Education to raise the status of teaching and improve the capability of teachers. It has found that there is very little empirical New Zealand research in the area of teacher status, or on teachers and their work, and identifies future possibilities for research. It does however make some conclusions pertaining to teacher status by suggesting the need for a common commitment to:
- attracting capable candidates to apply for teacher education
- ensuring that all programmes of teacher education are of high quality
- well designed teacher induction programmes
- informed school leadership; and to a professional working environment in schools that is focussed on teacher and student learning
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
This is a very thorough report on an issue which is relevant across the globe, not just in New Zealand; much can be learned from this research which is relevant to other countries. The literature base on which it draws is from the range of English speaking countries - Canada, Australia, the UK, the USA - affording useful similarities with, and comparisons between, the approaches to the same questions of teacher professionalism and teacher status. The report starts from the premise that quality teaching matters enormously to children's futures and looks to promote ways in which to attract and retain quality teachers to provide that service. The investigation into the construction of professional status touches a nerve common to all concerned with the teaching ‘profession' and there is a list of characteristics drawn from the literature which can form the basis of intense debate.
There are no surprises when it comes to looking at motivation for entering teaching:
- wanting to work with children
- the need for intellectual fulfilment
- making an important contribution to society
- a sense of vocation
- salary not seen as most important
The perceptions of teacher status from a variety of sources, including the public at large, students, the Maori, the media and teachers themselves, paint a varied picture, which tends towards the negative:
- teaching perceived as low paid ‘women's work'
- teachers who go out with "high hopes but come back gob-smacked with the reality"
- everyone has been to school themselves and there is therefore an impression that teaching must be easy
- low levels of remuneration compared with other professions and jobs requiring much lesser qualifications
However the research discovered factors which suggest a more positive future for teacher status. For example, policy makers are beginning to espouse teaching as complex (even though their policies "might not be congruent with their rhetoric"
) and there is evidence to suggest that improvements in teacher capability are likely to increase teacher status rather than the reverse proposition.
The recommendations and conclusions of the report are authoritative, enthusiastic and transferable to other countries' contexts, as is the rest of the report. The importance of ITE (Initial Teacher Education) is stressed as is the need for teachers to be engaged with the construction of their own professional identity. One of the major conclusions which will hearten teachers everywhere is that teacher status is itself an indirect measure of the health of the educational system.The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
All those involved in the preparation of the next generation of teachers will find this report fascinating. Every line of the report offers food for thought and areas for discussion and it is recommended that it be used selectively with student teachers. Teacher professionalism, as the report itself acknowledges, defies definition, but lies at the heart of recruitment, successful teacher training and successful retention of committed teachers. As a text for ITE tutors and mentors, this report is invaluable to refresh ideas on teacher professionalism and status, to revisit the difficulties teachers face in ‘proving their worth' to society, to compare and contrast other countries' progress towards teacher professionalism and to re-affirm the importance of the fundamental need for a convinced and convincing professional identity for teachers that cannot be taken for granted. The messages of the report - particularly the interesting table (2, page 25) which sums up what teaching might look like if it were to be a high status profession, as well as the recommendations and conclusions of the report - could well be used as a basis for discussions with student teachers in the latter half of their course, with the aim of enhancing their own sense of professional status.The relevance to ITE students:
As the report suggests, the need for teachers to engage with their own professional identity is paramount to encouraging them to remain in teaching beyond the first few years, and to enable them to gain long term satisfaction from their chosen career. This report is relevant to ITE students as a text from which they can learn of the difficulties inherent in the struggle for professional identity and status from the point of view of a country which sees its teacher education to be at a ‘critical juncture' and which is looking to other experiences to inform its direction. The research is relatable to all student teachers and gives important starting places for the individual to consider the definition of their own professionalism.Reviewed by:Alison JacksonRelated Resources
The following might be useful to read in conjunction with this resource:
Mahony, P. and Hextall, I. (2000) Reconstructing Teaching,
London and New York, Routledge Falmer