New study to highlight teacher needs in non-traditional education

Investigating the work of teachers in Australia’s flexible and non-traditional schools is the focus of a new Griffith University study.

Chief investigator Dr Glenda McGregor from the School of Education and Professional Studies says the research project is the first of its kind to concentrate exclusively on the working conditions and needs of teachers in the sector.

“These teachers show great resilience as their students have a complex mix of challenging behavioural and learning needs. Their education needs can be fragmented and their life experience can be quite confronting.

“What they’re doing for students is enabling life changing contexts and processes, but there is very little research into how these teachers do their work, the classroom challenges they encounter and how they cope day-to-day.”

Dr McGregor said more than 400 flexible and non-traditional schools in Australia cater to about 70,000 students who left the mainstream education system early or were excluded for behavioural issues.

Working with partner organisations in the sector, the research team aims to build a comprehensive body of data through surveys, qualitative interviews and detailed case studies based on class materials and reflective photo journals from teachers.

Supporting teachers in flexible and non-traditional schools

Co-researcher Dr Aspa Baroutsis from the Griffith Institute for Educational Research says the data will be collected from across Australia.

“We will work across three states looking at metropolitan, rural and remote schools. The survey will give us a big picture look that we will refine along each step of the project to understand the working environment.”

She said there were social and economic benefits form supporting teachers in these schools.

“There is research estimating that for every dollar invested in this sector, Australian society is likely to accrue between $6 and $18 in return through gains associated with decreased crime offending or reliance on public health and other social systems.

“Supporting this sector’s workforce, so they have the capacity to cope and work with young people who are often disenfranchised by prior schooling experiences is vital. No one would want a situation where this sector has a shortage of qualified and experienced teachers.”

The project team for, Supporting teachers and teaching in flexible and non-traditional schools includes Dr Glenda McGrergor, Dr Aspa Baroutsis and Professor Martin Mills (University College London) and is funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Project grant in partnership with Edmund Rice Education Australia, YouthInc. SA and Community Learning Ltd (Jabiru College) Qld.