Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 37, (January, 2014), p. 108-118.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study aims to investigate the perceptions held by new teachers in Taiwan concerning the factors conducive to or impeding their decisions to stay in teaching and the process of deliberation on intrinsic and extrinsic factors influencing their retentions.
The participants were 232 beginning teachers from across the country with sufficient variation in personal characteristics, namely, gender, teaching subjects and years of teaching (from 1 to 5 years); and in school attributes, namely, type of school (public vs. private), level of schooling (middle, academic high and vocational high school) and school location )metropolitan vs. rural area).
Data were collected through a survey questionnaire was focused on factors considered important to respondents’ decisions to stay in teaching, and individual interviews were conducted with a group of 21 teachers recruited from the survey respondents.
The authors have found that the decisions to stay of the participants were influenced by both intrinsic factors (positive feedback from students, a sense of achievement from guiding students to grow, and a sense of contributing to society) and favorable extrinsic factors (a conducive school environment for learning, generous compensation and benefits packages, parental support, and cultural respect for teachers).
Moreover, their perceptions of highly competitive entry into teaching tended to prevent them from easily giving up on teaching.
To overcome the unfavorable extrinsic factors, they managed to develop coping strategies.
The authors present the following four recommendations are presented as ways to increase retention of beginning teachers.
1. Reconceptualization of induction of beginning teachers
This study found that although Taiwanese beginning teachers suffered from pressuring administrative burdens, stiffening routinized school practices and competitive exam-driven culture, they were able to survive the negative environment on their own and remained in teaching.
It is found that beginning teachers were usually socialized by veteran teachers from a more idealistic and creative approach to teaching to a more traditional and routinized one.
Such socialization process may negatively impact new teachers’ enthusiasm for teaching and may also hinder school improvement without mobilizing their passions and ambitions for change.
The study found that some Taiwanese beginning teachers were able to resist the long-lasting exam-driven culture and routinized inertia and persist in embracing a more reformist spirit for educational change.
Such a perspective alters the traditional view of inducing new teachers to fit into existing school culture to a counter perspective that recognizes the strengths of beginning teachers by empowering them as the catalysts for school change.
In addition to providing and re-conceptualizing induction at school level, it is also important to adopt favorable government policies and cultural practices beyond the school realm in order to create an overall conducive environment to retain beginning teachers.
2. Raise the salary, but do not consider that sufficient
The study found that the Taiwanese government provides handsome compensation for teachers to attract and retain high quality teachers.
This has proved to have a positive impact on beginning teachers’ retention.
In addition to offering high salaries as an incentive, some countries also establish selective teacher certification and selection processes to ensure high teacher quality.
3. Build a centralized school system with flexibility
This study also demonstrates that the Taiwanese centralized school system, which has managed to devolve power to schools and teachers, may help to maintain high teacher retention.
However, what frequently accompanies a centralized structure is over-centralization and excessive central planning, both of which can rob schools and teachers of their autonomy in teaching, with resultant reductions in teachers’ job satisfaction and morale.
Thus, a centralized school system where substantial autonomy is provided may be more successful in producing better performance in education and higher teacher retention.
4. Raise the prestige of the teaching profession
Despite the fact that the high social status of a teacher in East Asian countries is rooted in the specific socio-cultural context, scholars have suggested that regardless of culture, the status of teachers can be promoted through deliberate policies within a relatively short period.
The smaller number of vacancies and higher rewards would naturally attract a larger pool of qualified applicants and thereby raise the social status of the teacher.
The study concludes that the results indicate that both intrinsic and extrinsic factors are important in beginning teachers’ decisions.
While a variety of measures may promote teacher retention, this study recommends three actions to improve teacher retention: providing competitive remuneration, establishing a centralized system with flexibility, and fostering higher teacher social prestige.