Early-career teacher burnout in Australia is astonishingly high, with studies finding that as many as 50 per cent of teachers leave the profession in their first five years.
A major contributor to this is a lack of self-efficacy, or professional confidence.
This lack of self-efficacy affects job satisfaction, student engagement and workplace achievement – but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Teachers experience a significant rise in self-efficacy after five years on the job, and this holds true whether they are male or female, primary or secondary teachers and whether they work in the public or private sector.
Monash University’s Dr Sindu George, the study’s lead author, says that her findings have important implications for teachers’ professional development.
“Teachers who hold high self-efficacy are likely to adopt more student-centred than teacher-centred approaches, to develop new approaches and strategies for teaching, promote student autonomy, and cater to students’ individual differences,” she said.
“Given that the initial years seem critical for the development of teachers’ self-efficacies, professional development programs need to be implemented early. Once self-efficacy is consolidated, it could be resistant to change, even if teachers are exposed to workshops and new teaching methods.”
An earlier study by Dr George’s co-authors, Professor Helen Watt and Professor Paul Richardson, found that self-efficacy changed differently for different types of teachers.
In particular, more positive, idealistic teachers experienced declines in all measured areas of self-efficacy, attributed by the authors to “the high idealistic motivations this group of teachers held at the outset of their career, which may have been difficult to achieve during early years”.