What can be done to support new teachers?

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

While many students in the Northern Hemisphere are starting a new school year, this is also the first day of school for thousands of new teachers around the world. Walking into a new classroom – “your own” classroom – for the first time can be exciting and daunting. The pressures on a new teacher are many: administrative tasks, classroom management issues, dealing with potentially intimidating parents, challenges of developing lessons and marking homework and more. Most importantly, though, new teachers need to take what they learned in the weeks or months of teacher preparation, as well as their knowledge of the subject area, and put that to practice in shaping and motivating the learning of the 25, 50 or 150 students in their classes.

It’s no wonder that on average nearly 10% of teachers leave the profession within the first 1-3 years of teaching. But as our new Teaching in Focus brief shows, there are many practices that schools and countries can put in place that might help new teachers stay teaching.

Many media reports attribute the high attrition rate of new teachers to the fact that they are placed in difficult classrooms in challenging or underresourced or otherwise hard-to-staff schools. Data from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) refutes that claim. On average, new teachers surveyed in TALIS (those with two years of teaching experience or less) reported classrooms and school situations similar to those of their more experience colleagues, with nearly no differences in language or socio-economic status of their students, for example. So if these challenges don’t exist, what is making new teachers leave?

At the root of the issue seems to be a new teacher’s level of confidence in his or her own teaching ability. TALIS asks teachers to report on their own feelings of self-efficacy. Not surprisingly, new teachers report significantly lower levels of self-efficacy than their more experienced colleagues. The TALIS report The Experience of New Teachers discusses research on how self-efficacy can relate to a teacher’s instructional practices as well as student achievement. It can thus be rather important for a teacher to feel good about his or her on abilities as a teacher.

As the TALIS data shows, and the Teaching in Focus brief enumerates, there are programmes and policies that schools and governments can put in place to help new teachers. Activities like mentoring and induction programmes, when combined with feedback on a new teacher’s practice, can help provide support and additional professional development to new teachers.

To learn more about this topic, check out this month’s Teaching in Focus brief. Look for further Teaching in Focus briefs @ www.oecd.org/edu/talis on topics relevant to the experience of teachers in the coming months.

Follow TALIS and Kristen Weatherby @Kristen_Talis
Photo credit: Back to School sign / Shutterstock

1 Comment

  1. A great piece on "What can be done to support new teachers?" and one on a topic very close to my personal interests.

    With a teaching career of 32 years including leadership roles in the UK may I give you a little practical background on some of the issues?

    In many schools today the focus from day one is results. This is sometimes an overburdening responsibility, especially for established teachers who are expected to make sure targets are achieved.
    This responsibility comes first and can be exclusive, time consuming and vision limiting. This is especially so after the first few weeks of a new year.
    Few schools have mentoring programmes that do not add to the existing load of teaching staff. Timetables ensure people are in place for teaching and often other meetings are either' as and when' or outside of the school day at a time when both parties are tired or stressed. This, in my opinion, does little to emphasise the importance of meetings and dialogue with new teachers. This would be a great opportunity to use retiring or retired teachers because of availability and experience.

    With an emphasis on results and meeting targets the importance of building relationships with learners gets lost sometimes. With a new teacher this is a very important aspect of developing their professional capability, to understand the learning needs of their students should come before everything else because it leads to everything else! Unfortunately, once again in my experience, this focus has been lost and so the environment into which the new teacher is inducted is somewhat hostile. It becomes more about process than the person. By enlarge teachers who make this connection with the learner stay in the profession, often against all the odds and sometimes working in the most toxic of environments.

    So to sum up:

    Welcome to teaching. I am down the hall, if you need anything just ask (but not when I am teaching/marking/in a meeting/planning/sorting out behaviour/writing reports).
    Here are your targets for this year, good luck.

    Currently I am trying to pull together research, add a little common sense and a dose of reality to produce support materials for teachers aimed at refocusing on the basics. Not the 3R's, PISA findings or anything else – just understanding learning needs. If you are interested I can provide a link to the first e-book on this subject.

    Director at Advocating Creativity

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