Principals causing teachers stress

Teachers under stress (Bigstock Photo)

Principals need to be aware that when they assign teachers to positions outside their qualifications, it can lead to stress, burnout, and hinder student achievement, a leading researcher warns, reports The Australian.

Anna Du Plessis, a research fellow at the Australian Catholic University’s Learning Sciences Institute Australia, said a shortage of teaching specialists in maths, science, information technology and languages other than English was leading to teachers being assigned to so-called “out-of-field” positions.

This can involve, for example, a physical education teacher taking a science class.

About one-third of Year 7-10 maths classes are estimated to be taught by teachers without maths qualifications.

“At the same time as we debate why so many teachers leave the profession within the first five years — some research estimates as many as 30 or 40 per cent — we must recognise that entry-level teachers are often those most vulnerable to being assigned to out-of-field positions, adding to the stress and anxiety they may feel as newcomers,” Dr Du Plessis said.

Dr Du Plessis, whose book on the subject is out later this year, said raising awareness of principals about the implications of assigning teachers outside their qualifications was the first step in minimising the impacts.

The issue of out-of-field teaching was highlighted by unions and experts after The Australian reported this week on a worldwide survey of principals that was done as part of the triennial Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

An in-depth report into Australia’s results in PISA 2015 by the Australian Council for Education Research, released last month, found “principals in Australia perceived that teacher-related behaviours were more likely to hinder student learning in their schools than student-related behaviours”.

This included teachers failing to meet the needs of their students, resisting change or being unprepared for lessons.


Out-of-field postings for teachers ‘drag on student achievement’ (The Australian)

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