How can principals enhance teacher job satisfaction and work commitment?

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Conference publication

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Teachers leave the teaching profession at different stages throughout their careers. When mid-career teachers leave the profession, there is a potential loss of experienced, quality staff. Increasingly principals have the responsibility for recruiting and keeping quality staff, which translates to responsibility for arresting the attrition rate. This paper reports on an ongoing study that investigates how school leadership may affect teacher job satisfaction in order to understand how principals can enhance teacher work commitment. This paper uses the domains of leadership identified in Education Queensland’s Leadership Matters Framework (2008) to compare school leaders’ and teachers’ perceptions about mid-career teachers’ leaving the profession. Five current principals and five ex-teachers participated in semi-structured, qualitative, individual interviews about which leadership practices impact on teacher work commitment. The ideas identified by each cohort were coded through a content analysis. The five domains of leadership (i.e., personal, relational, intellectual, organisational and educational leadership) provided an analytical framework. Both participant groups indicated relational leadership practices as the strongest influence on teacher work commitment. The relational skills, such as valuing staff, being approachable, being consistent with staff interactions, having good interpersonal skills and developing staff strengths, were noted to have specific impacts on teachers’ work commitment. There were significant differences between the groups, with the ex-teachers rating the personal leadership practices as the second most important practice that can influence teacher work commitment. In contrast, the principals felt that the organisational and education leadership practices were of next importance for teacher work commitment. The findings have implications for principal leadership professional learning. Improving relational skills may help school leaders to increase teacher work. Teacher attrition is a serious concern to many education jurisdictions and by understanding reasons for decline in commitment, jurisdictions can redress the negative impact of leadership practices and keep teachers committed and in the profession. However, further research needs to incorporate more participants through a quantitative study to validate connections with the qualitative findings presented in this current study.