Generalist primary school teachers' preferences for becoming subject matter specialists

James Russo, Ellen Corovic, Jane Hubbard, Janette Bobis, Ann Downton, Sharyn Livy, Peter Sullivan

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Traditionally Australian primary school teachers have been viewed as generalists responsible for instruction across all content areas. Adopting self-determination theory as a lens, the aim of the study was to explore the extent to which generalist primary school teachers are interested in becoming subject matter specialists. Questionnaire data were collected from 104 early years primary school teachers. Findings suggest that two-thirds of these generalist teachers expressed an interest in specialising in either English, mathematics, and to a far lesser extent, science, such that they would be responsible for exclusively teaching this subject. Preferences for specialisation were based on teachers' self-perceived content and pedagogical expertise and/or their enjoyment of teaching in this content area. By contrast, the one-third of teachers who would choose to remain generalists referred to the value in a variety of teaching experiences, teaching from a whole child perspective and content integration. Implications for educational policy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-57
Number of pages20
JournalAustralian Journal of Teacher Education
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • primary education
  • primary teachers
  • teacher perspectives
  • teacher roles
  • specialisation

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