Author Identifiers

Sarah Jefferson
ORCID: 0000-0002-3038-1399

Date of Award

2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

First Advisor

Dr Geoffrey Lowe

Second Advisor

Dr Christina Gray

Abstract

Australian teachers will be expected to remain in the profession for longer as the retirement age is extended. However, teacher career trajectory studies indicate increasing disenchantment and high attrition rates among many older (veteran) teachers. There is limited research into veteran teachers who remain enthusiastic and committed (positive veteran teachers) and little research into the role of social support inside and outside school in enabling positive veteran teachers to maintain their commitment to teaching. This study aimed to identify the shared characteristics of positive veteran teachers in Western Australia (WA). These were experimentation and challenge acceptance, and leadership and comfort in the role, as drawn from the relevant teacher career trajectory literature.

The study then examined the role of social support in sustaining positive veteran teachers’ commitment to teaching. A mixed-methods design was used to empirically identify positive veteran WA teachers within a larger veteran teaching cohort of 145 teachers completing the survey. From this cohort, I interviewed five positive veteran teachers about the role of social support inside and outside school and its contribution to their commitment to teaching.

The study found positive veteran teachers continually engage in self-renewal through updating their teaching resources and pedagogy, as well as taking on lattice-based leadership roles to maintain vocational vitality throughout their careers. Participants deliberately sought egalitarian, positive and professional working relationships with colleagues where practical support was highly valued. Passive support from school leadership, through autonomy and appropriate intervention, was also important. In addition, the study found positive veteran teachers enjoyed social support outside school, with participants reporting their partners, families, friends and physical recreation networks play a central role in maintaining their ongoing commitment to teaching.

The implications of this study are important as veteran teachers represent a substantial proportion of the WA teaching population. The findings may encourage curriculum organisations and executive school leadership to retain and capitalise on the skills of their positive veteran teachers. With the appropriate autonomy and support, positive veteran teachers may be better utilised as valuable advocates and leaders in their school communities. They may help to support less experienced or disengaged colleagues.

Available for download on Tuesday, January 11, 2022

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