Graduate Teacher Conferences

The challenge

The first years of teaching are a critical time of adjustment and learning. Studies have shown that while many newly qualified teachers describe ‘successful beginnings’ into the teaching profession, there are a large number who report ‘praxis shock’, which refers to the disjuncture between their expectations and the classroom realities. These contradictions often challenge their beliefs about their ability to teach and about themselves as teachers. Early career teachers are also more susceptible to burn out and attrition especially if they are faced with challenging student behaviour, isolation, a lack of collegiality and engagement with professional networks, and being overloaded with responsibilities. Many studies have shown that excessive workload, managing relationships with parents and colleagues, as well as dissatisfaction with their job cause early career teachers to leave the profession.

Two large, and important studies conducted by Deakin researchers: SETE (Studying the effectiveness of teacher education – funded by the Australian Research Council) and LTEWS (Longitudinal teacher education workforce study – funded by the former Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations) have indicated that graduate teachers in their first year of teaching need stronger programs of professional support. Teachers play a pivotal role in improving student outcomes and graduate teachers need to be nurtured to develop their knowledge and skills. Effective induction programs can support graduate teachers to develop strong relationships with students and colleagues while building their pedagogical knowledge and experience.

Project overview

In 2018, the Department of Education and Training (DET) partnered with Deakin University through a tender process, to design and develop the Graduate Teacher Conference (GTC) program to address the needs of graduate teachers on their journey towards becoming proficient. 

The GTC is an induction event designed for graduate teachers across Victorian public primary, secondary, and special school settings to develop their competency, knowledge, and professional learning in the areas of:  

  • Professional identity  
  • Professional practice  
  • Personal wellbeing  
  • Professional networking   

From 2018 to 2021 the GTCs were delivered to graduate teachers in their first and second year of teaching. The one-day GTCs provided graduates with an opportunity to share and reflect on their professional identity, professional practice, wellbeing, and to develop connections with other graduates.  

The conferences in 2018 and 2019 were delivered face-to-face in each of the four Victorian school regions. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic meant unprecedented change to education in the state of Victoria. Teaching and learning remotely dominated Terms 2 and 3 and involved a significant shift to online platforms. The GTC likewise adapted to this shift and were redesigned for a wholly online delivery in 2020 and 2021. 

In 2021, additional funds were provided through the Career Start program pilot to support the expansion of the GTCs to include conferences for graduate teachers in their second year of teaching. These conferences were designed as half-day events to explore additional areas of professional practice, to reflect more deeply on their professional identity, and how to work on their own wellbeing. A key to these conferences was to acknowledge their progress in two years, and to create connections with their colleagues as additional supports.  

The GTCs have represented a considerable investment by DET over four years to actively support teachers early in their career. This support is a key contributor to positive student outcomes and excellence in education. 

Outcomes

Across the four years, the program was embraced enthusiastically by beginning teachers. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive:

Participants were satisfied or very satisfied with the conference design and delivery

 

2018 88.16% I’m the only graduate in my school and all the other staff are very experienced. I’ve reconnected with two colleagues from university and sat next to another Foundation teacher on my table. She and I intend to keep in contact and support each other. I feel less isolated now.
2019 86.22% I have found myself quite directed by others actions and plans and this has inspired me to trust in my own decisions and assert my ideas a little clearer.
2020 86% This was really fantastic to revisit ideas etc from uni that have been pushed to the background with the chaos of logistically juggling teaching. Very, very valuable, helpful and timely reminder.
2021 GT C1 94% Amazing array of resources shared. We can learn so much from teachers in different settings, from resources to simple strategies for every day.
2021 GT C2 95% It was just really great to connect with other graduates and realise we are all in the same boat, and to be reminded that we are still doing a great job even if it feels overwhelming.

Funding

Victorian Department of Education and Training 

More information

https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/profdev/Pages/gradteacherconferences.aspx

Keywords

teacher education, graduate teacher induction, online professional learning and development, Victoria, Australia