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SA Early Career Teacher Development program participant and teacher at Naracoorte High School, Sarah Edwards.
Image © Frank Monger and SA Department for Education

Supporting early career teachers

Research 4 minute read

The South Australian Department of Education engaged ACER to evaluate the effectiveness of its two-year Early Career Teacher Development program.

The Early Career Teacher Development program aims to support beginning teachers to progress from provisional to full teacher registration within the first two years of their employment, rather than the three years permitted by the Teachers Registration Board of South Australia.

ACER’s evaluation focused on the first cohort of early career teachers to go through the program, who commenced teaching in Term 1 of 2017, as well as those who commenced later in the 2017 calendar year.

The analysis sought to compare the views of teachers with provisional registration to those who achieved full registration, rather than comparing the views of those who had engaged with program to those who had not. This approach provided the opportunity to focus on the potential impact of the program and the two-year journey on the main outcome of gaining full registration.

Between February and May 2019, ACER researchers gathered data through observations of program workshops, de-briefings, focus-group interviews, Teachers Registration Board records and an online survey.

Analysis of Teacher Registration Board records revealed that 43 per cent of the 947 teachers who commenced the Early Career Teacher Development program in 2017 had achieved full registration by April 2019. Of those that had achieved full registration, 79 per cent started the program in Term 1, while just 5 per cent started in Term 4. Survey responses received from 371 of these teachers reported a similar outcome, with 45 per cent reporting that they held full registration. While the average time it took from graduation to full registration was two years, some did it in one year and others reported that it took up to three years (noting that some participants had graduated in 2016).

While the Early Career Teacher Development program aims to accelerate teachers to move to full registration after two years, the reality is that many teachers will wait knowing they have a full three years, equipped with the resources and best practice strategies for building their confidence and capabilities gained from the program. Moreover, the nature of their employment also had an impact. Those in ongoing roles and the consistent support of colleagues were more likely to build their portfolio, as opposed to those in and out of contract and temporary teaching roles.

Most elements of the program were rated as having a strong impact on early career teacher development. Mentoring and professional networking were seen as the most effective elements of the program, followed by a reduced teaching load and planned meetings and/or supervision with the principal/director or experienced teachers. Moreover, teachers who had completed at least one online learning module or attended a workshop were more likely to have gained full registration than those who had not participated.

Given that this was the first cohort through a new program still in development, it was too soon to determine if the program definitively had increased completion rates. Importantly, however, opportunities were identified to strengthen the program around communication, capacity to participate, support for temporary relief teachers, portfolios, induction, and follow-up, in order to ensure improved outcomes for future cohorts. Accordingly, the main recommendation was that the broad structure, processes and resources of the Early Career Teacher Development program be maintained as the basis for inducting early career teachers into the profession in government South Australian schools and preschools.

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