How do we keep new teachers teaching?

by Kristen Weatherby
Senior Analyst, Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)

In many countries, we read stories in the media about large numbers of teachers – up to half in some countries – leaving the teaching profession before their first five years of teaching are finished. This statistic, exaggerated or not, is often followed by questions such as these:

  • Why are new teachers leaving the profession – seemingly in droves?
  • Does this mean that the government is wasting money training new teachers who leave before five years?
  • What happens to the consistency and institutional knowledge and experience in schools if teachers are constantly leaving and more new teachers are arriving?

And finally

  • What kind of support can be provided to new teachers to prevent them from leaving the profession?

The Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) at the OECD looked at the responses of new teachers (those with two years or less of teaching experience) from the TALIS 2008 survey and has produced a new report The Experience of New Teachers: Results from TALIS 2008. Teachers and their principals reported on the teaching and learning environment of their schools and classrooms, focusing on issues such as classroom climate, the amount of time spent on classroom management as compared to actual teaching and learning, the kinds of early support new teachers receive, as well as the ongoing professional development opportunities offered.

One of the issues that is often cited as a reason for new teachers leaving the profession before five years is that new teachers are placed in more difficult schools than their more experienced colleagues. The TALIS report found that this is simply not true. Despite research that has led to a widespread belief that new teachers work in harder conditions (or harder-to-staff schools), on average across TALIS 2008 countries, new teachers report that their students have similar language and socioeconomic backgrounds to the students of more experienced teachers.New teachers also work in schools with similar material and personnel resources, measured by their impact on teaching and learning.

Although new teachers may not be in more challenging schools, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have challenges in the area of classroom management. The report finds that new teachers spend less time on teaching and learning of any kind and more time than experienced teachers on keeping order in the classroom. This is a worrying trend for both the students of these teachers, who are not getting the same quality learning experience as their peers might be, and for the teachers themselves, who report significantly lower levels of self-efficacy than their more experienced colleagues.

I won’t give away all of the intriguing results here; the Experience of New Teachers report is available online and we will be talking about it further on Twitter in the coming weeks . For those lucky few who are attending the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New York City this week, there will be printed copies on hand. One of the topics that will be discussed at the Summit is the preparation of new teachers, and we will see examples of countries that are doing this well, and at scale. Stay tuned for more blog posts and Tweets (#ISTP2012) from the Summit this week.

For more on the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey:
The Experience of New Teachers: Results from TALIS 2008
Follow TALIS and Kristen Weatherby @Kristen_Talis
Photo credit: © oliveromg / Shutterstock

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