Study shows teachers underappreciated, overworked in classroom
Monash University is calling on Australians to #ThankYourTeacher, on the back of a new report that reveals nearly three-quarters of teachers feel underappreciated in the classroom and struggle with workload.
A new report led by Dr Amanda Heffernan, Lecturer in Leadership in Monash University’s Faculty of Education, shows 71 per cent of Australia’s teachers feel underappreciated in their profession, and are burdened by administrative tasks outside classroom hours that take up precious family time.
The report found that a large majority of teachers (76 per cent) did not find their current workload manageable. Only 42 teachers – under 2 per cent of those surveyed – strongly agreed that they could manage their workload.
Despite feeling underappreciated and overworked in their vocation, more than half of teachers (56 per cent) said they were satisfied in their role, while 34 per cent said they were unhappy.
When asked if they intended to leave the profession, 58 per cent of teacher participants indicated they would. Of those respondents, 10 per cent cited feeling underappreciated as the reason for quitting teaching.
These negative sentiments were felt by Australian teachers despite 93 per cent of the public saying they trusted teachers to do a good job in the classroom.
The report, titled Perceptions of Teachers and Teaching in Australia, examined the experiences and work satisfaction of 2444 members of the teaching profession – one of the largest studies of teacher perceptions in Australia. More than 1000 members of the public were also interviewed as part of this report.
Dr Heffernan said teachers who took part in the study sought greater clarity on their working hours and administrative duties as teacher workloads increased, and student behaviour and counselling became more time-consuming. As a result, she said teachers expressed feeling a loss of professional trust, judgement and autonomy in their roles.
“One of the clearest outcomes of this report is that the administrative burden on teachers needs to decrease significantly so they can spend more time in the classroom with students, and less time feeling stressed and overwhelmed,” Dr Heffernan said.
“The importance of teachers having a clear voice in contributing to policy cannot be understated. Teachers are highly skilled, respected and trusted professionals, and should have a greater say in the policymaking decisions that affect their working and, in many cases, personal, lives.”
Due to recurring issues such as excessive workload and hours in the office, ongoing cases of extreme stress and burnout, workforce casualisation, and an increased focus on testing that has narrowed the focus of curriculum, 53 per cent of teachers said they wouldn’t recommend teaching as a career.
“Concerns have long been raised in Australia about a forthcoming teaching shortage as a result of an ageing workforce and higher attrition rates of early-career teachers. The Australian education system can’t afford to lose this experience and knowledge,” Dr Heffernan said.
“We know that the majority of teachers enter the profession because they want to make a difference. These are caring, hardworking and committed professionals who deserve our support.
“We hope this report and appreciation campaign can inform more positive and productive discussions about teaching in Australia. We need to address urgently these issues for the sake of the profession and the future of our country.”
Interim Dean of the Faculty of Education at Monash University, Professor Lucas Walsh, said the report was eye-opening for the teaching profession and government policymakers across Australia.
He says the #ThankYourTeacher campaign, orchestrated by the University’s Faculty of Education, helped to drive community acknowledgement for Australia’s teachers, and encourage people from all walks of life to say “thanks” for the significant contribution teachers make to society.
“The work of educators should be acknowledged and celebrated. Behind every medical professional, accountant, human rights ambassador and climate scientist is a teacher that was committed to educating young minds for the future,” Professor Walsh said.
“Targeted efforts should be made to recognise and demonstrate appreciation for teachers’ work to address concerns that the majority of teachers report feeling underappreciated in the classroom and in the public eye.”
There are approximately 270,000 teachers working with close to four million students in 9500 schools across Australia.
Bank First provided funding for this report.