Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 64(4) 338–355, September/October 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
In this study, the authors examined the direct effects of preservice preparation quality and early career support as well as potential moderating effects of early career support on the career intentions and decisions of novice teachers.
This article draws upon a combination of survey and archived state employment records.
The participants were 1,159 teachers, who completed four-year undergraduate teaching degree completers from 12 public higher education institutions during 2003-2004.
They were also were employed in their first year after graduation as a full-time public school teacher in the state.
The findings confirm and extend prior research related to the effects of early career support alone and in conjunction with varying levels of satisfaction with preservice preparation.
The authors show a direct association between new teachers’ perceptions of preservice preparation quality and their intentions to remain in their current school and in the profession. More importantly, they extend their findings to show that the association carries over to teachers’ actual decisions following their first and second years of teaching, at least with regard to teachers remaining in the profession.
Specifically, teachers in this study who were less satisfied with the quality of their preservice preparation were significantly more likely to intend to change schools or leave and more likely to actually leave teaching than those who were more satisfied.
This study demonstrates that those perceptions differed across individuals within and across different preparation programs and were significantly associated with teachers’ subsequent career decisions.
Moreover, the authors find the quality and comprehensiveness of mentoring and induction to be related to teachers’ intentions and decisions.
The findings of direct associations between the quality and comprehensiveness of early career support and teachers’ intentions and decisions, even when controlling for perceived preparation program quality, provide further evidence of the importance of mentoring and induction quality, rather than simply availability.
Moreover, these results indicate that matching new teachers with mentors from the same subject area provides more benefit than mentoring by teachers from different subject areas or no mentoring at all.
The very strong correlation that the authors found in the survey between teachers’ perceptions of helpfulness of the mentor and the frequency of mentoring received also points to the importance of providing novice teachers and their mentors with opportunities to interact on a regular basis.
Together, these findings regarding the type of mentoring that makes a difference suggest more specific guidelines for districts and schools regarding the development of mentoring programs whereby subject matches, the nature of interactions, and the duration of interactions frame mentor training and mentor/mentee programmatic expectations.
In addition, the findings about induction quality in combination with the interaction findings suggest a need for better coordination and collaboration across traditional organizational boundaries.
Given the expectations that are increasingly being placed on teacher preparation programs for their graduates’ outcomes, it appears that teacher education programs would benefit from becoming involved in pathways to new teacher success that extend beyond program graduation.
Collaborative efforts, such as those found in professional development school partnerships, that connect teacher preparation programs and school districts to form a pathway of support from training through mentoring and induction during teachers’ early years would recognize the interrelationships revealed in this study and situate the development of teachers as a continuing and shared responsibility.
Finally, the findings shed needed light on the relationship between self-reported intentions and the actual movements by teachers in their first two years of teaching.
Specifically, the authors show significant and meaningful differences between new teachers’ intentions to stay in their initial school, change schools, or leave the profession and their documented behaviors within the first couple of years in the profession.
They view the decisions of intended movers in this study to be more concerning than those of intended leavers because a notable percentage ended up leaving public school teaching in the state rather than moving to new schools.
Notwithstanding this data limitation, such movements would have the same negative consequences as teacher attrition, namely, human capital loss and financial and educational costs, for the affected schools, districts, and the State’s public school system as a whole.
For certain, these results reveal for researchers in this field a limitation of relying on teachers’ career intentions as a proxy for the labor market decisions of teachers early in their careers.
In conclusion, this study provides a first and important step in filling a gap in the teacher attrition literature by examining whether mentoring and induction support differentially influences beginning teachers’ career intentions and decisions depending on their level of preservice preparation.
The findings suggest that more targeted approaches to mentoring and induction support based on teachers’ level of preparation may be needed to address new teacher attrition, though more research is needed to understand better the interactions that they found among these factors.
The authors recommend three ways future research might extend this work.
First, future research should incorporate multiple indicators to assess differences in preparation, including measures of student learning that reflect teachers’ actual effectiveness in the classroom, if available.
Second, supervisors in the graduates’ initial teaching positions should be queried to provide their perceptions of the new teacher’s preparation as a means of triangulating individual teacher perceptions of program preparation.
And third, the authors propose a longitudinal qualitative study that would capture more fully the complex interplay that our study revealed between preservice preparation and mentoring and induction support on new teachers’ career decisions.