Degree Name

Doctor of Education


School of Education


This Australian study investigates the motivations and concerns of mid-career teachers in NSW Department of Education (NSW DoE)i primary schools. Although existing literature relating to notions of mid-career and worker motivation is extensive and cross-disciplinary, literature specifically related to teachers in mid-career has, until recently, been limited. The three areas of mid-career, teachers and the organisational context of the NSW DoE, underpin this research and contribute to developing conceptualisations of the professional lives of mid-career teachers. This study builds upon the broad themes identified in my recent Delphi study (Lusty 2013). As there is little literature specific to mid-career teachers in the Australian context, this study will contribute to new conceptualisations of mid-career teachers as a group, and fill the gap in knowledge about the working lives of mid-career teachers in NSW DoE primary schools.

Underpinning this qualitative study is a constructivist philosophy employing an interpretive, naturalistic approach. The trustworthiness and authenticity of this research has been established through the use of methodological tools based on the conceptualisations of Guba and Lincoln (1999; 1985). Strategies to enhance the credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability were used, including peer debriefing, member checking, the use of thick description (Geertz 1973; Ryle 1971), auditing processes and on-going reflexive practice. A single case, bounded by Sydney Region within the NSW DoE, was studied. Fifteen participants meeting the criteria for mid-career teachers, defined as having 8–15 years teaching experience, were purposefully chosen from a variety of locations and situations. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken using an interview guide and resultant data was thematically analysed. A coding manual was developed and was used to enhance the management, analysis and interpretation of the data collected. Dedoose, an online data management tool, was employed to support this process. Using an inductive approach, the analysis process was iterative, rigorous and documented in a reflexive journal. Ethical principles and practices were maintained at every stage of the research study.

Analysis and synthesis of data resulted in three unique outcomes: the development of a Typology of mid-career teachers, a Framework for school leaders and a related Mid-career leadership tool, designed for implementation in professional practice. The Typology of mid-career teachers provides a new way to differentiate teachers in the mid-career stage of professional life. The Framework for school leaders clarifies specific knowledge, attitudes and actions effective school leaders employ to maximise the potential of mid-career teachers. By synthesising the typology and the leadership framework, the Mid-career leadership tool was developed, enabling school leaders to correctly identify mid-career teachers and appropriately differentiate their support. In this way, the effective development of mid-career teachers, through their preferred focus of quality classroom teaching or leadership aspirations, can be achieved. Mid-career teachers are a valuable human resource with half their career still ahead of them. An informed understanding of the motivations and concerns of mid-career teachers and an investment in their development is an investment in the future sustainability of the teaching profession.