Who says we are not attracting the best and brightest? Teacher selection and the aspirations of Australian school students
Internationally, the quality of teachers is a growing focus of educational reform, with new policies attempting to ensure that only the ‘best and brightest’ are selected for the teaching profession. This article tests the assumption underpinning these developments that prospective teachers lack the desired academic and personal qualities. Drawing on data on the career aspirations of 6492 Australian school students in Years 3–12, we investigated who, among these students, expressed interest in teaching and their reasons for doing so. Using logistic regression, we found that interest in teaching was widespread and prior academic achievement was not a significant predictor. Thematic analysis of reasons expressed for interest in teaching indicated that working with children and/or in specific subject areas, altruism, and perceptions of personal suitability for the job dominated student responses. These data provide a counter-narrative to the primacy, in policies for teacher recruitment and selection, of needing to attract ‘better’ students. We argue that policies for improving teacher quality should also capitalise on the widespread interest in teaching among school students. Without such a discursive broadening, we caution that current attempts to attract the ‘best and brightest’ risk undermining the very goals espoused.
KeywordsAspirations Motivations Teacher selection
- Acker, S. (1983). Women and teaching: A semi-detached sociology of a semi-profession. In S. Walker & L. Barton (Eds.), Gender, class and education (pp. 99–162). Sussex: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
- Auguste, B., Kihn, P., & Miller, M. (2010). Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching. New York, NY: McKinsey.Google Scholar
- Australian Government Department of Education and Training. (2015). Teacher quality. https://www.studentsfirst.gov.au/teacher-quality. Accessed 30 April 2016.
- Australian Government Department of Education and Training. (2016). uCube. http://www.highereducationstatistics.education.gov.au. Accessed 30 April 2016.
- Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). (2011). Accreditation of initial teacher education programs in Australia: Standards and procedures. Melbourne: Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs.Google Scholar
- Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). (2012). Accreditation of initial teacher education programs in Australia: Guide to the accreditation process. Melbourne: Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs.Google Scholar
- Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). (2015). Accreditation of initial teacher education programs in Australia: Standards and procedures. Melbourne: AITSL.Google Scholar
- Bagshaw, E. (2016, January 22). Teaching students to face personality assessments. The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/teaching-students-to-face-personality-assessments-20160118-gm8qse.html. Accessed 30 Jan 2016.
- Barber, M., & Mourshed, M. (2007). How the world’s best-performing schools come out on top. http://www.mckinseyonsociety.com/downloads/reports/Education/Worlds_School_Systems_Final.pdf. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
- Bireda, S., & Chait, R. (2011). Increasing teacher diversity: Strategies to improve the teacher workforce. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.Google Scholar
- Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. E. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). New York, NY: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
- Bradley, D., Noonan, P., Nugent, H., & Scales, B. (2008). Review of Australian higher education: Final report. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.Google Scholar
- Burke, P. J., & McManus, J. (2009). Art for a few: Exclusion and misrecognition in art and design higher education admissions. London: National Arts Learning Network.Google Scholar
- Byrne, E. (2013, July 24). Entry standards for teachers are too low. The Age. http://www.theage.com.au/comment/entry-standards-for-teachers-are-too-low-20130723-2qhf5.html. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
- Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation. (2014). Workforce profile of the NSW teaching profession 2014. http://www.cese.nsw.gov.au/images/stories/PDF/Workforce_Profile_NSW_Teaching_Profession_2014.pdf. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
- Commonwealth Department of Education. (2014). 2013 National early childhood education and care workforce census (Report). Melbourne: The Social Research Centre. https://www.docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/nwc_national_report_final_0.pdf.
- Devlin, M. (2016). ATAR is a university marketing tool: 4 reasons to stop obsessing about it. EduResearch Matters. http://www.aare.edu.au/blog/?p=1511. Accessed 20 April 2016.
- Dinham, S. (2008). How to get your school moving and improving: An evidence-based approach. Camberwell: ACER Press.Google Scholar
- Dinham, S., Ingvarson, L., & Kleinhenz, E. (2008). Teaching talent: The best teachers for Australia’s classrooms. Melbourne: The Business Council of Australia.Google Scholar
- Epstein, D., & Miller, R. T. (2011). Slow off the mark: Elementary school teachers and the crisis in science, technology, engineering, and math education. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.Google Scholar
- Ferrari, J. (2015, February 20). Smart choice: Top kids make the best teachers. The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/education/smart-choice-top-kids-make-the-best-teachers/story-fn59nlz9-1227226255449. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
- Goldstein, H. (2011a). Multilevel statistical models. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Gore, J., Holmes, K., Smith, M., Southgate, E., & Albright, J. (2015). Socioeconomic status and the career aspirations of Australian school students: Testing enduring assumptions. Australian Educational Researcher, 42(2), 155–177. doi:10.1007/s13384-015-0172-5.
- Gore, J., Holmes, K., Smith, M., Fray, L., McElduff, P., Weaver, N., & Wallington, C. (2016). Unpacking the career aspirations of Australian school students: Towards an evidence base for university equity initiatives in schools (submitted).Google Scholar
- Gottfredson, L. S. (1996). Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription and compromise. In D. Brown & L. Brooks (Eds.), Career choice and development: Applying contemporary approaches to practice (3rd ed., pp. 179–232). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Graham, L. (2015). Lay off blaming new teachers for ‘falling’ standards. EduResearch Matters. http://www.aare.edu.au/blog/?p=964. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
- Hobson, A. J., Ashby, P., McIntyre, J., & Malderez, A. (2010). International approaches to teacher selection and recruitment (OECD Education Working Paper No. 47). doi:10.1787/5kmbphhh6qmx-en.
- Ingvarson, L., Reid, K., Buckley, S., Kleinhenz, E., & Masters, G. N. (2014). Best practice teacher education programs and Australia’s own programs. Canberra: Department of Education.Google Scholar
- James, R., Bexley, E., Anderson, A., Devlin, M., Garnett, R., Marginson, S., & Maxwell, L. (2008). Participation and equity: A review of the participation in higher education of people from low socioeconomic backgrounds and indigenous people (Report). Melbourne: Centre for the Study of Higher Education. https://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/ArticleDocuments/210/Participation%20and%20equity.pdf.aspx. Accessed 7 Oct 2016.
- Lovett, S. (2007). ‘Teachers of promise’: Is teaching their first career choice? New Zealand Annual Review of Education, 16, 29–53. http://www.nzcer.org.nz/research/publications/teachers-promise-teaching-their-first-career-choice-0. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
- McDougall, B. (2014, December 18). Principals demand radical overhaul of student teacher selection to improve academic outcomes. The Daily Telegraph. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/principals-demand-radical-overhaul-of-student-teacher-selection-to-improve-academic-outcomes/story-fni0cx12-1227160381062. Accessed 13 Oct 2016.
- McNeilage, A. (2014, January 21). Adrian Piccoli says teacher selection criteria should be more strict. The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/adrian-piccoli-says-teacher-selection-criteria-should-be-more-strict-20140120-314vn.html. Accessed 22 Jan 2014.
- More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative. (MATSITI). (2015). About MATSITI. http://www.matsiti.edu.au/about/. Accessed 10 March 2016.
- NSW Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards. (NSW BOSTES). (2015a). Raising university entry standards for future teachers. http://www.nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/future-returning-teachers/become-a-teacher/raising-university-entry-standards/. Accessed 10 March 2016.
- NSW Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards. (NSW BOSTES). (2015b). Understanding HSC results. http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/hsc-results/understanding.html. Accessed 10 March 2016.
- Pyne, C. (2014, February 18). A quality education begins with the best teachers, says Christopher Pyne. The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/a-quality-education-begins-with-the-best-teachers-says-christopher-pyne-20140218-32z61.html. Accessed 18 Feb 2014.
- Queensland College of Teachers. (2015). Teacher profile: 2013 Queensland graduate teachers. https://www.qct.edu.au/PDF/Research/Teacher%20Profile%202013%20QLD%20Grad.PDF. Accessed 10 March 2016.
- Southgate, E., & Bennett, A. (2014). Excavating widening participation policy in Australian higher education: Subject positions, representational effects, emotion. Creative Approaches to Research, 7(1), 21–45.Google Scholar
- Southgate, E., Douglas, H., Scevak, J., Macqueen, S., Rubin, M., & Lindell, C. (2014). The academic outcomes of first-in-family in an Australian University: An exploratory study. International Studies in Widening Participation, 1(2), 31–45.Google Scholar
- Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group. (TEMAG). (2014). Action now: Classroom ready teachers. Canberra: Department of Education and Training. https://www.docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/action_now_classroom_ready_teachers_print.pdf. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
- Trounson, A. (2016, March 2). Finding a way through the policy maze. Pursuit. https://www.pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/finding-a-way-through-the-policy-maze. Accessed 10 March 2016.
- University of New England. (UNE). (n.d.). Response to AITSL’s 2010 national system for the accreditation of preservice teacher education programs: Proposal for consultation. http://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/university_of_new_england. Accessed 22 March 2016.
- Ure, C. (2015, October 15). Why scrap teaching degrees? There is no crisis in teacher education. The Conversation. http://www.theconversation.com/why-scrap-teaching-degrees-there-is-no-crisis-in-teacher-education-49059. Accessed 10 March 2016.
- Weldon, P. R. (2015). The teacher workforce in Australia: Supply, demand and data issues. Policy Insights (Issue 2). Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
- Wilson, R., Dalton, B., & Baumann, C. (2015, March 16). Six ways Australia’s education system is failing our kids. The Conversation. https://www.theconversation.com/six-ways-australias-education-system-is-failing-our-kids-32958. Accessed 18 March 2015.