Remember when former Morrison authorities minister Stuart Robert lashed out at “dud” lecturers? In March, the then-acting training minister mentioned the “bottom 10%” of lecturers “can’t read and write” and blamed them for declining educational outcomes.
This is extra than simply a sensational headline or politician attempting to get consideration. My analysis argues the best way lecturers are talked about within the media has a flow-on impact to how individuals really feel about changing into a trainer, and the way present lecturers see their place locally.
So, once we speak in regards to the scarcity of lecturers in Australia, we additionally want to take a look at media protection of lecturers in Australia.
My new book examines how lecturers have been represented within the print media for the previous 25 years. When you take a look at the cruel criticism and blame positioned on lecturers, it’s no marvel we aren’t attracting sufficient new individuals to the occupation and struggling to retain those we’ve got.
In a world-first examine, I explored how college lecturers have been portrayed in Australian print media from 1996 to 2020. I checked out greater than 65,000 media articles from all 12 nationwide and capital metropolis each day newspapers, together with all articles that talked about trainer and/or lecturers thrice or extra.
With a median of fifty articles per week for 25 years, and a complete phrase rely of greater than 43 million, my evaluation is without doubt one of the largest of its type.
While a lot has been written about lecturers within the media over time, that is the primary examine to systematically analyse such a giant variety of articles, representing such a full assortment of tales about lecturers in newspapers, revealed over such a very long time.
So what did I discover? So much. But listed below are three key findings which might be crucial when it comes to the best way we expect and speak about lecturers and their work.
We are fixated on ‘teacher quality’
First, my analysis charts the rise and rise of consideration to “teacher quality”, particularly between 2006 and 2019. This interval covers the beginning of the Rudd-Gillard “education revolution”, which reframed education in Australia as all about “quality”. It ends with the beginning of COVID, when reporting on lecturers and training quickly focused on dwelling education.
My evaluation discovered the concentrate on “quality” was much more on lecturers than, say, educating approaches, colleges, education, training techniques or the rest.
The graph under reveals my monitoring of the three most typical makes use of of “quality”.
Why is that this a difficulty? It places the emphasis on the purported deficiencies of particular person lecturers quite than on collective capability to enhance educating.
It detracts from system high quality – the systemic issues inside our training system. “Teacher quality” is a method for politicians to place the blame elsewhere when they need to be committing to addressing the basis trigger of those issues: insufficient and inequitable funding, extreme trainer workload, unreasonable administrative hundreds, or lecturers being required to work out of their subject of experience.
Teachers’ work is made out to be easy (it’s not)
The second key factor I discovered is media reporting on lecturers persistently talks about their work as easy and commonsense, as if all selections made by lecturers are between two choices: a proper one and a unsuitable one.
The phrase “teachers should” seems about 2,300 occasions in my database. Examples embrace, “teachers should be paid according to how their students succeed”, “teachers should not adopt a cookie-cutter approach to learning”, “teachers should arrive in classes prepared” and “teachers should not be spending time organising sausage sizzles”.
Research conducted in the 1990s, and nonetheless extensively referred to by students, discovered lecturers make roughly 1,500 selections in the midst of each college day.
Recent analysis, together with some I’m currently doing with colleagues, suggests lecturers’ work has tremendously intensified and accelerated over the previous 30 years. So it’s possible 1,500 selections per college day is now a very conservative estimate.
These selections embrace all the things from “what texts will we focus on in English next term?” to “should I ditch what I’d planned for this lesson so we can keep having this conversation because the students are absorbed by it?”.
It additionally contains social selections, comparable to “do I intervene right now and potentially escalate what’s going on at the back of the classroom or just keep a close eye on it for now?”.
Every single a type of selections is advanced. And but, in media protection, claims of what “all teachers” or “every teacher” can, ought to or may do come thick and quick.
Teaching is relentlessly troublesome, and whereas not everybody wants to perceive that – in the identical method not everybody wants to perceive precisely how to conduct mind surgical procedure – we do want to pay some respect to the 300,000 or so Australian teachers who navigate the occupation every single day. Just as a result of the complexity could not have been evident to us in our 13 years as college college students doesn’t imply it wasn’t there.
Teacher-bashing is the norm
Finally, I discovered tales about lecturers had been disproportionately destructive of their representations. I did discover “good news” tales in my analysis however they had been outnumbered by articles that targeted on how lecturers, collectively and individually, don’t measure up.
This included the linking of “crises” to “poor quality” lecturers. Take, for instance, former training minister Christopher Pyne’s comment that:
[…] the primary concern, by way of the outcomes for college kids, is trainer high quality, in actual fact [the OECD] mentioned eight out of ten the explanation why a pupil does effectively in Australia or badly is the classroom to which they’re allotted. In different phrases, the trainer to whom they’re allotted.
In different phrases, “teacher-bashing” is the norm when it comes to tales about lecturers within the Australian information media.
The PR round educating wants to change
As we think about what to do to enhance trainer numbers in Australia, we’d like to take into consideration the best way we speak about educating and lecturers within the media.
If all individuals hear is that lecturers are to “blame” for poor requirements and they need to be discovering their demanding, advanced jobs simple, that is hardly possible to encourage individuals into the occupation. Nor does it give these already there the assist and respect they want to keep.