Academic targets deal a double blow to teachers

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Academic targets deal a double blow to teachers

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12 June 2019

Teachers in Australia are working hard to balance academic achievement targets with declining student wellbeing, a new study from the University of the Sunshine Coast has found.

Lead researcher Dr Alison Willis, along with USC’s Professor Merv Hyde and Dr Ali Black, surveyed 177 primary and secondary school teachers, mostly from Queensland, for the study published in the American Educational Research Journal.

They found that academic targets were causing a two-fold workload for teachers, increasing expectations for teachers to raise student achievement, then manage the stress caused by the added pressure.

The findings led the resarchers to establish the Teachers of Australia social media platforms to celebrate the work of Australia's teachers and offer a support network.

"Good teachers are experts in the curriculum and great at looking after their students but the two are not mutually exclusive," Dr Willis said.

"It's a tension they have to manage as part of their job, but what we've found is that it's getting harder."

Dr Willis said the study highlighted the need in some schools for more support services, including access to counsellors and psychologists.

"Within the same hour, a teacher can be expected to attend to a student wellbeing crisis and then help prepare that student for upcoming assessment.“

Many teachers said they monitored how students were coping, even though it was not a formalised part of their job role.

“Teachers are checking in on their students' mental health out of their own concerns. They are increasingly feeling they have to tend to their students' emotional and social needs," Dr Willis said.

“This raises concern over teacher wellbeing and feelings of whether they have enough time and resources to address students’ emotional and social needs."

In response to the findings, the USC researchers launched the Teachers of Australia social media accounts to champion the great work that teachers do.

Teachers of Australia is available on Twitter @TeachersofAust1, Instagram @teachersofaustralia and Facebook @teachersofaustralia.

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