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Invisible teachers, visible problems : perspectives on relief teaching

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posted on 2023-05-27, 15:07 authored by Webb, Penelope Christina,
As a result of staff shortages, relief or substitute teachers are playing an increasing role in many schools, yet they are largely invisible in policies, practices and research. In contrast, the problems surrounding relief teaching are highly visible: senior administrators worry about costs and timetables; regular teachers complain that no work is done; students become noisier; and relief teachers adopt strategies for 'survival'. Paradoxically, while there is a recurring theme in the literature to improve relief teaching effectiveness, relief teaching remains a low priority within the education system. This investigation evolved from a personal search to make sense of the recurring problems and paradoxes surrounding relief teaching. Its purpose was: to gather data on relief teaching which reflected the 'reality' of personal experience from a number of viewpoints; to determine the main issues from student, teaching and administrative perspectives, using a constant comparative method of analysis; and to find deeper links to illuminate the multidimensional relationships between relief teaching and its problems. Research was conducted in a core of eight secondary schools where the researcher worked as a relief teacher. Over a period of three years, through a synthesis of interviews, observations, anecdotal evidence, and reflection based on a naturalistic paradigm, the researcher developed strategies which enabled her to remain closely attuned to the varying settings. Using an inductive approach, data were gathered from over 300 participants, mostly administrators, teachers and students. In all, 85 hours of interviews were transcribed in addition to her written observations and reflections as a practitioner. The findings showed that the lack of consistent information, feedback and accountability caused many interview respondents to adopt a pragmatic, short-term approach to the management and practice of relief teaching. They based their decisions on divergent assumptions which were rarely challenged, causing problems to recur and intensify. The investigation concluded that the problems surrounding relief teaching were linked by three underlying factors: the context of relief teaching is largely invisible; relief teaching is different from regular teaching; and that there is no official recognition that problems exist. The process of making relief teaching visible as a phenomenon illuminated many inconsistencies within varying contexts and perspectives. Evidence strongly suggests that the context of relief teaching is central to the teaching and learning settings in schools. It shows, also, that the present approach to relief teaching is highly ineffective and gives rise to serious problems with far-reaching professional, economical, and legal implications. The thesis provides recommendations for future initiatives. Extensive appendices and the thematic structures underpinning the thesis enable the selection of material for a variety of purposes.

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Copyright 1999 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Spine title: Perspectives on relief teaching. Thesis (Ph.D)--University of Tasmania, 1999. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 200-210)

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