Early Career Teacher Attrition: New Thoughts on an Intractable Problem*

Sep. 01, 2014

Source: Teacher Development, Vol. 18, No. 4, 562–580, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to discover what novice teachers required to remain in the classroom.

The participants were nine new teachers who left classroom teaching within five years of entering and within three years of exit. The participants entered a wide variety of schools. Four went into schools with long histories and stable staff structures. Four entered schools that also had long histories, but without stable leadership. One entered a newly merged school on a greenfield site.

The authors used a phenomenological approach.
Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and completed leaving stories, written without any prompts.


The authors identified four key elements that describe the process of teachers' attrition: entry, early experiences, pre-exit and exit.
When the participants entered teaching, they were confident about what they would contribute. However, their early experiences reflected that their progress prevented.
The participants were disappointed by leadership and/or veteran colleagues at pre-exit phase of leaving.

The authors conceptualized the process between the participants' initial optimism, disappointment and exit as arrested development. This finding that the essence of the stories was arrested development is based on lack of emotional support, and school cultures that impede growth.

All participants reported on lack of adequate emotional support during times of professional or personal challenge. The lack of emotional support led to feelings of isolation.
Furthermore, the participants noted not feeling welcome. They also reported on lack of sharing of veterans’ expertise and practice, which adding to feelings of inadequacy and exclusion. They reported that they found themselves in conflict with other staff, sometimes without knowing how or why this had occurred. The participants identified school culture as negative. They felt that the school emphasized the need of further improving test results, which prevented time for other educative experiences. This suggests that the entry ideals were difficult to translate into daily actions.


The authors conclude that the participants enjoyed engaging with ideas and teaching practice during their preservice education. However, they reported that the schools they entered did not foster their growth as teachers or as individuals. They felt that this led to a sense of disillusionment, which led to their decision to leave school.

Updated: Nov. 15, 2017