Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Education)

First Supervisor

Shane Lavery

Second Supervisor

Gregory Hine


The focus of this research was Early Career Teachers (ECTs) in Western Australian Catholic primary schools, their experiences and self-perceptions that led them to remain in the profession. The review of literature highlighted four aspects that were pertinent to ECTs’ decisions to remain in the profession. These four areas were: motivation to join the teaching profession; likes and dislikes of teaching; challenges faced as a teacher; and, strategies used for coping with challenges faced that maintained motivation to remain in the teaching profession.

The study focused on an instrumental case study, the conduct of which was located predominantly in the paradigm of qualitative research. It was situated within the epistemology of constructivism, and the chosen theoretical perspective was interpretivism with a lens of symbolic interactionism. The data were gathered through a quantitative self-report survey, qualitative individual semi-structured interviewing, and researcher reflective journaling. Miles and Huberman’s (1994) interactive model of data management and analysis was used to display and interpret the data.

The study findings provided answers to the five specific research questions derived from the review of the literature. The ECTs in the present study expressed feeling motivated to join the teaching profession mainly due to personal enjoyment of working with children. The ECTs identified five factors that they liked about teaching: student learning and growth, relationships, variety, personal challenge, and holidays. The two main dislikes of the profession were workload and parental behaviour. The challenges that ECTs faced were closely aligned to their dislikes of teaching.

Early Career Teachers across all three cohorts raised the notion of obtaining support as the main strategy to cope with the challenges they faced. Other factors that helped them cope with challenges and contributed to their remaining in the profession included: personal and professional growth, students, resilience, CEWA ECT program, holidays and, personal responsibilities. Overall, the factors most likely to keep ECTs in the profession were those that linked to their initial motivations to join teaching.

Workload, lack of support and difficult parental behaviours were strong disincentives for ECTs to remain in teaching.

As a result of the research, a Goodness-of-Fit Framework was proposed to explain potential pathways contributing to ECT retention and attrition. The research also presented recommendations and areas for future research.

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