Abstract||The focus of this study is the phenomenon of beginning teacher competence. In Queensland, the context for the research presented here, the competence of beginning teachers is appraised by their supervisor (usually the principal) at the end of their first year of full-time employment. This appraisal is conducted on behalf of the Queensland Board of Teacher Registration and a positive outcome enables beginning teachers to achieve full teacher registration. Although there exists research suggesting that principals bring to the appraisal process their conceptions of competence, there is a dearth of knowledge about beginning teachers' conceptions of their own teaching competence. The research presented here adds to the debate about competence by including the voice of the beginning teacher. This focus, located within the context of local issues, is used to explore important themes that are relevant to other systems of beginning teacher appraisal.
The selection of phenomenography as the research approach adopted for this study is based on its appropriateness to the investigation of a phenomenon such as competence. Phenomenography aims to describe, analyse and understand the ways in which people experience aspects of the world around them. The point of departure that sets apart this approach from many others, is the principle that phenomenography seeks to investigate neither the phenomenon, nor the people who experience the phenomenon, but the relation between the two. The results of a phenomenographic study are presented as a description of all of the possible conceptions that a specific group can have about a particular phenomenon.
For the research presented here, eighteen beginning teachers were interviewed individually in order to identify and describe the variation in their conceptions of competence. Research participants representing State, Catholic and Independent school systems were drawn from preschools, special, primary and secondary schools of one provincial city, in one regional area of South East Queensland.
Two major outcomes emerged from the research presented here. Firstly, beginning teachers were identified as experiencing competence in a number of ways. Although these conceptions were varied, their number was quite limited. Six distinct conceptions of beginning teacher competence were identified, with a further finding that individual beginning teachers were not limited to one conception, but conceived of competence in multiple ways.
Because the relational nature of competence demands that it be investigated within the context in which it is experienced, this study also identified five different approaches to competence appraisal, as understood by the beginning teachers who had undergone the appraisal process. Comparisons of both conceptions of competence and approaches to appraisal were then compared to existing research in this area.
This thesis presents an alternative view of competence and appraisal that may be used to further develop the process of appraisal and indeed, the professional development of beginning teachers.