Perceptions of Teachers and Teaching

Publication Details

The project responds to the need for research that clarifies the nature and influence of current attitudes towards teachers and teaching and identifies priorities for action with respect to recruitment and retention of quality teachers.

Author(s): Professor R. Kane, College of Education, Massey University and Professor M. Mallon, Department of Human Resources Management, Massey University.

Date Published: January 2006

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Executive Summary

The Perceptions of Teachers and Teaching research project (originally named Teacher Status Stage Two) was commissioned by the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Teachers Council to examine the relationships between key groups’ perceptions of teachers and teachers’ work in early childhood and school sectors, and the recruitment, retention, performance and capability, and professional status of teachers.

This research report addresses the following two research questions:

What do key groups identify as the major factors that affect decisions of recruitment, retention, capability and performance of teachers?

In particular, what if any is the impact of perceptions of teachers, teachers’ work and the status of teachers and the teaching profession on behaviours of key groups?

The project was conducted in two phases: the first, a pilot project completed with the purpose of clarifying the key groups and refining the research instruments. The key groups chosen represent those currently engaged in teaching and administration of schools or centres (teachers, principals and head teachers), those involved in governance of schools and recruitment of teachers (board of trustees and centre management committee members), those currently preparing for teaching (student teachers), and those who are making choices about their future work and careers (senior secondary students).

This report focuses on Phase Two, which involved key group participants from three regional clusters of schools and centres in Christchurch, Taranaki and South Auckland. Two clusters of schools and early childhood centres were selected in each region: in the first cluster, schools and centres were visited by research assistants from Massey University, questionnaires administered and interviews conducted; in the second, schools and centres were approached by mail and invited to complete questionnaires. The first cluster included one secondary school, one intermediate school, two primary schools, one kindergarten and one early childhood centre from each region, twelve schools and six centres in total. The second cluster was selected to reflect a spread of sectors, deciles, school types and sizes. Student teachers from two teacher education providers completed questionnaires and participated in focus groups. In total, questionnaires were completed by 790 teachers and principals/head teachers, 182 board/committee members, 598 senior students and 410 student teachers. Interviews were held with 16 principals, 48 teachers, 15 board/committee members, 11 focus groups of senior students and 5 focus groups of student teachers. Participants reflected a range of decile ratings and sectors.

In seeking to identify key factors that influence recruitment, retention and performance decisions, this study provides evidence of: why teachers, principals and student teachers choose a career in teaching and what would attract (and conversely repel) senior students to teaching as a career; what are the triggers that cause teachers to leave teaching; to what degree are teachers satisfied with teaching; and the ways in which key groups perceive teachers, teaching and the status of teachers. The data set is tremendously complex and it is difficult to capture all the nuances within one report. There is definitely potential for further analysis of the data. This summary presents findings and implications organised according to the key sections of the report.


  1. See, for example, Kerr, R. (1992). Stand and Deliver. Metro, March, 111–115, and Education Forum (1993). Teaching Teachers to Teach. Wellington: Education Forum; and recently Morris, J. (2004)., supporting direct instruction of boys rather than the “child-centred voyages of discovery so much loved and espoused by the doctrinaire teachers’ colleges”. NZ Herald, 13 July 2004.

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