Career decisions and destinations of beginning teachers : what factors contribute to decisions to move, leave or stay in teaching?

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Supervisor

Bill Louden


Recognition of high rates of teachers leaving the profession at the start of their careers has become a focus of considerable attention in recent times. This is due to the combination of low levels of teacher retention, particularly beginning teachers and the presence of a large proportion of the teaching population approaching retirement. These two trends have been interpreted as the sign of an imminent and severe teacher shortage. This research investigates beginning teacher career decisions in the Australian context to obtain a detailed understanding of why some teachers stay teaching (Stayers), why others move (Movers) and some leave teaching as a career (Leavers).

Participants in their first five years of teaching (n=402) contributed to the study as Movers, Leavers or Stayers. They came from the teacher population working in Western Australian public and private school sectors and from a range of metropolitan, rural and remote locations. The study used qualitative and quantitative research methods. Initially, information was collected from 31 interviewees to develop a listing of key issues and ideas that impacted on their career decisions. This information was used in the construction of the survey questionnaire producing written responses from 371 participants.

Results revealed the need to distinguish between Movers and Leavers. Without this distinction, many Movers can be regarded as Leavers which inflates the numbers of teachers reported to be leaving the teaching profession. Results also showed that job continuity, workload and work relationships with school administrators were the most important issues that contributed to teachers’ decisions to move or leave the teaching profession and were major obstacles for Stayers. Key support factors identified were support from experienced teachers and family.

Satisfaction with a range of teaching experiences was investigated using Rasch analysis which allowed the location of items and participants on the same scale. Two satisfaction-with teaching- experiences scales were developed: a Mover and Leaver scale and a Stayer scale. Items linked to the personal environment were generally located towards the high satisfaction end of each scale. Items linked to the organizational environment were generally located towards the low satisfaction end of each scale. More Movers showed lower levels of satisfaction with their teaching experiences than their Leaver counterparts, including those leaving teaching permanently. On the Stayer scale, more career-change Stayer participants showed lower levels of satisfaction compared with Stayer participants entering teaching as their first career. These findings expose the complexity beginning teacher decisions and aspects challenge previous insights of what contributes to decisions to move, leave or stay in the teaching profession.

LCSH Subject Headings

Teacher turnover.

Teacher transfer.

Teachers -- Attitudes.

First year teachers -- Attitudes.

Teachers -- Vocational guidance.

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