10 SES 14 E, Research on Teacher Induction and Early Career Teachers
Attracting top candidates to the teaching profession and retaining qualified teachers is one of the critical issues in Kazakhstani educational context and top priorities of the State Program of Education Development (SPED) 2011-2020.
The existing literature describes the experience that novice teachers undergo as the most challenging period in their career (Eldar, Nabel, Schechter, Talmor & Mazin, 2003; Gavish and Friedman, 2010; Kagan, 1992; Veenman, 1984). The first impressions of being a novice teacher is characterized in the research literature as “an emotional roller coaster filled with nerves, exhilaration, and uncertainty” (Clark, 2012, p. 197), “sink or swim” period (Lawson, 1992, p. 163), along with the transition period being featured as “reality shock” (McCormack & Thomas, 2003, p. 125) and “transfer shock” by Cejda (1997, p. 280) when fourth-year graduate students move from comfortable and familiar environment of university where they were responsible for their own learning to more unfamiliar and strange setting of school where they must be responsible for learning and well-being of others.
Ingersoll and Smith (2003; 2004), researchers who contributed a great deal in research of beginning teachers’ induction and mentoring, state that 15 per cent of novice teachers leave the profession after their first year of teaching. One of the reasons for this shortage is related to teachers’ leaving their profession, which is partly attributed to “the mismatch between their beliefs and the way they behave professionally” as the first workplace is vital in shaping vision and professional behaviour (Flores, 2001, p. 140).
The research conducted by Liston, Whitcomb and Borko (2006) suggests that three critical issues to hinder novice teachers’ success remain stable: the first, it is the curriculum that is not relevant to real environment, second is the lack of collegial support, and finally, the third one not effective teacher preparation program in general that fails to train graduates to adapt to school setting.
With the aim of reducing this mismatch, teacher education programs at universities are targeted to turn their students into high-demand teachers equipped with effective instructions who will meet the escalating demands related to the teaching profession (Darling-Hummond, 2003; 2010). However, studies conducted by OECD (2005) highlight that beginning teachers feel devastated and overpowered when they see huge difference between knowledge and skills they obtained being students and what they have to go through during the first year in classroom. This experience of reality shock might trigger further frustration of their career choice and may result in higher turnover of new teachers and, as a result having negative repercussions for education.
The aim of this qualitative study is to document ten beginner teachers’ experiences while their transition from the university to the classroom. The second purpose of the study is to identify discrepancies between novice teachers’ expectations of their profession and realities they encountered in school setting revealing first year teachers’ ideas for a smoother transition into teaching, and write recommendations to improve teacher education program in Kazakhstan.
To investigate research purpose, this study attempts to answer the following overarching question.
- How do novice teachers evaluate their pre-service education program in the context of their first year of work experience in public schools?
The following sub-questions were defined:
- What are the differences between their expectations themselves as teachers and realities they faced at work?
- What are the challenges facing novice teachers at their first year of teaching experience?
- What aspects of their pre-service teaching program they find the most and the least important for successful teaching in the first year of experience?
The qualitative interview-based research study was employed to collect information to address research questions on novice teachers’ perceptions of their transition from university setting to the first workplace at public school. Semi-structured one-to-one interviews with open-ended questions make it possible to generate discussion surrounding the major research questions. This data collection method was used in order to get more in-depth information about novice teachers’ experience. As the focus of the study is on the perceptions, thoughts and feelings of teachers, the interview is the best tool that could be used to discover peoples’ thoughts and reflections (Patton, 2002). The interview protocol comprises of two parts with some background information about participants to gain more trust, and the second part includes questions about experience, particularly challenges facing at workplace as a novice teacher. The questions were designed from the themes identified in the literature review. As the primary goal was to track beginning teachers at the time they left their pre-service teacher education program and started teaching, 10 novice teachers at their first year of teaching were interviewed. Teachers who have spent almost a year teaching students just after the graduation can offer beneficial and constructive information about how the teacher preparation program prepared or did not prepare them for their first full-time position. All the participants were given pseudonyms to protect respondents’ confidentiality so as no one could be personally identifiable. The interviews were recorded lasting within 20-40 time frameworks. The interview was held in language that was convenient to the interviewee to share ideas without any hesitation. Three candidates willing to be interviewed in Kazakh, one in English and the rest are in Russian. Once accurate record of all data was collected, it was turned to digital versions. After transcribing the interviews, data was organized into a filing system to make it easier to analyse it. The data was then labeled with unique information so that I could know where and how it was collected. While coding, the data was systematically analyzed, the relationships and patterns in data identified. Important and interesting topics were raised to make quotes that would be used to illustrate key findings in my report. The research is grounded on the informed consent form which includes information about the purpose of the research, the body undertaking it, the reason of it is being undertaken, participants’ rights, time and location.
Finding 1: Novice teachers develop own expectations of their profession that are not met at a workplace. Finding 2: Novice teachers are emotionally stressed during the first year of experience. Most part of novice teachers reported being under emotional stress at work for certain reasons. Novice teachers reported to have persistent fear of making mistake in front of a veteran teacher along with feeling isolated. Finding 3: Novice teachers are physically overwhelmed during the first year of experience. One of the most frequently cited factors influencing novice teachers feel overloaded was paperwork. This echoes the finding from the study conducted by Bennett et al. (2013) and DePaul (1998) who place the issue of paperwork as an eye sore for most teachers. Having 37 students in one class is another very physically demanding job that requires “military education and training”. Finding 4: There is not alignment between what graduates are taught and what novice teachers experience at their workplaces. The study revealed that novice teachers confront challenges at their work for three main reasons. The first, it was a school practicum that most study participants found to be not aligned with reality. The literature about teacher education widely covers inconsistency between theory and practice, and this mismatch is worsened by the discrepancy of what graduates experience during the school practicum and what is taught at pre-service teacher education program. Finding 5: Building relationships and inclusive education are two aspects that are insufficient at workplace for novice teachers. Dealing with special needs students revealed to be an unexpected outcome and desperate troubles faced by novice teachers in Kazakhstan. Two teachers reported having students with speech therapy problems, and hyperactivity. Participants described that they did not even know from which side to approach to these children not to mention how to teach them.
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