23 SES 14 B, Teacher Retention and Attrition: An International Inquiry
Research Background: Throughout the western world, the development of teachers and their retention is an escalating problem. This theme appears repeatedly in literature originating in The Netherlands (Stokking, Leenders & Van Tartwyk, 2003), Canada (Fantilli & McDougall, 2009), the United States (Ingersoll, 2004) and Israel (Orland-Barak, 2010), among other nations. Even Finland with its enviable Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores and “trust through [teacher] professionalism” focus experiences retention and attrition issues (Heikkinen, Jokinen, & Tynjälä, 2012). According to an Australian Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) report, “…teaching is becoming…a career of ‘movement in and out’ and the ‘out’ may be permanent. There is a need for further, more detailed study on the movement in and out of teaching, particularly in the younger age cohort” (Skilbeck & Connell, 2003, pp. 32-33).
Session Description: Growing concerns about teacher retention and attrition, along with the severity of its effects, prompted a team of international researchers to investigate the identified phenomena nationally and internationally. In this symposium, researchers from four countries will present papers. A discussant from a fifth nation will respond.
Research Questions: (1) What is the status of national teacher attrition and retention in literature and policy documents? (2) What do national case studies on teacher attrition and retention reveal about the circumstances leading to teachers leaving the profession? (3) What can be done about teacher retention and attrition nationally and internationally?
Objectives: (1) to examine national literature bases and policy documents; (2) to identify factors surrounding teacher attrition and retention; (3) to humanize statistical accounts; (4) to outline complexities underlying lived phenomena; (5) to see if reasons for leaving can be addressed through preventative measures; (6) to argue that the problem warrants international investigation.
Methods/Methodology: This inquiry follows a mixed method research design. Quantitative methods are employed to determine national/international trends; qualitative approaches are used to interpret interview data presented in the symposium. The national research findings result from “serial interpretation” (Schwab, 1954/1978) of multiple sources of data across different participants/sources of literature. Next steps include analyses across participants as units of study and across countries as units of study to ascertain similarities and differences. Recommendations and actions will be suggested to abate the teacher attrition and retention phenomena both nationally and internationally.
Strengths of the Collaborative Research Approach: Working collaboratively, the group of international researchers is stronger than the sum of its individual researcher parts. The academic knowledge created and mobilized through this collaborative research project serves social and practical purposes and addresses national and international goals. The shared inquiry addresses grave teaching and teacher education concerns that exist in westernized nations, albeit in different forms and at different rates.
Outcomes/Results: Early study reveals much data that has been hidden from, or ignored by, policymakers. Certain themes repeat themselves across national/international data sets. Countries with advanced states of teacher attrition can assist others concerning what does/does not work. Common international terms are urgently needed to capture attrition at various junctures of teachers’ careers.
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