Fostering Resilience: A Necessary Skill for Teacher Retention

Jun. 01, 2013

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Vol. 24, Issue 4, June 2013, p. 645-664.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this research was to examine the resilience building process in four novice secondary science teachers in order to understand how and why some novice science teachers remain in the profession while others choose to leave.
This research study focused on two primary questions:
(a) How resilience is developed in novice secondary science teachers and
(b) does resilience affect novice teacher retention.

To achieve the research goal, a resilience framework was established.
Three factors were instrumental in creating the framework.
The first focused on stressors and protective factors in the lives of novice secondary science teachers and provided direction and goals for the research.
Second, a case study was developed for each of the four teachers participating in the research in order to emphasize the detailed analysis of factors linked to resilience.
Finally, cross-case analysis was employed to identify similarities and differences and provide insight into issues concerning the resilience process.

An in-depth 2-year investigation took place in the real-life context of four teachers with a focus on human interpretations and meaning.
Data collected during the first 2 years of teaching consisted of six interviews conducted after school; a response to a written prompt on a resilience in nature; classroom observations; relational maps developed by each participant for each year of the research; and
work shadowing for one full day for each participant. 

The participants in this study included four females.
Each had recently completed a secondary science teacher education program at a large state university in the southeastern United States.

Discussion and Conclusion

The results of this study suggest that the interaction between stressors and protective factors constitute the primary force of the resilience process and stimulate responses to help counteract negative effects of stress.

This research posits that stressors and protective factors not only facilitate the process that builds resilience, but also is necessary for the process to take place.
The four participants encountered personal, contextual, and professional stressors that changed between their first and second year of teaching.
Therefore, stressors associated with those changing circumstances also change in both type and degree of resulting stress for the participants.

Underlying the success of the four novice teachers in this study is the notion that their resilience stems from their ability to revise protective factors in order to address changing stressors.
The analysis revealed that resilience in the four participants was flexible, ongoing and recurrent, and the cycle of stressors, protective factors, and the building of resilience were closely allied with the participant’s recovery of strength in the face of adversity.
This strength which stemmed from repeated interactions between stressors and protective factors led to an increased ability to use problem-solving strategies as well as maintain self-efficacy and a sense of humor.

It can, therefore, be concluded that each of the four cases studied in this research indicates that using individual skills to recover from adversity and building strong and varied relationships were a motivating force in overcoming stressors encountered by the novice teachers and contributed to building resilience.
Finally, it can be reasoned that resilience can be fostered in novice teachers as a means to encourage teacher retention.

Implications for Novice Teachers and Science Teacher Education

The findings imply that:
The learning environment should encourage pre-service teachers to form support systems that are comprised of reciprocal learning relationships both inside and outside of school, early in their career.
Pre-service teachers should also be made aware of possible risk factors they may encounter as novice teachers and encouraged to construct protective factors to counteract those risks.

School schedules can be organized in a way that would promote protective factors such as the formation of support systems and the promotion of individual skills that counteract exposure to adversities.
Induction programs should offer professional development opportunities that highlight the process framework for building resilience.

Updated: Jul. 15, 2014