01 SES 13 C, Teachers' Early Start: Professional Development Perspectives
Researchers around the world agree that teacher quality is the most important factor in schools in determining student achievements (Darling-Hammond, 2000; 2001). Hence, the focus on the quality and effectiveness of teacher preparation programs and their effects on reducing teacher turnover, as well as influencing teachers’ pedagogic knowledge and strategies, preparedness for teaching, satisfaction and sense of purpose (Adoniou, 2013).
Teachers' turnover is a significant challenge, especially among novice teachers (Ingersoll, 2001). In Israel, the focus of this research, novice teacher turnover rates after the first year in teaching are significantly higher than in the second year of teaching, suggesting that the first year is particularly challenging and critical in determining one’s future career. Teacher turnover has negative implications on teacher quality, because it forces the system to accept high number of first year teachers whose skills and abilities are underdeveloped, and because these teachers require considerable investments in their professional development. In recent years, alternative licensing programs for teachers have mushroomed in Israel, trying to address the shortage in highly qualified teachers. Nowadays there are 25 alternative licensing programs operating in Israel, which account to more than 50% of new teachers annually. This study will focus on one alternative licensing program TFI (Teach First Israel), also known by its Hebrew name 'Hotam', an offshoot of 'Teach for America' that was founded in 1987 and part of the 'Teach For All' network with similar programs in 48 countries around the world (Teach For All, 2018). The program is designed to attract college graduates who agree to teach for two years in the social and geographic periphery before leaving teaching. The participants undergo intensive training during the summer, about five weeks in dormitory conditions. During the summer they learn to teach for two weeks at a "summer school" and immediately afterwards, when the school year begins, they join as teachers of record to schools, while continuing to study one day a week towards a teaching certificate.
Some studies claim that this expedited approach to teacher preparation has considerable drawbacks, particularly the inadequate pedagogical training which does not reflect the reality of teaching in schools (Veltri, 2012). In addition, critical scholars argue that such programs de-professionalizes the teaching profession (Milner, 2013). To compensate for the expedited preparation, new TFI teachers get three levels of support and guidance: a training coordinator, a school mentor and a didactic instructor. In addition, there are potentially two additional organizational related support factors: the school principal (Roberson & Roberson, 2008( and the school's professional culture (Kardos, Johnson, Peske, Kauffman, & Liu, 2001).
The purpose of this study is to identify the support factors operated by the TFI program, and examine how the TFI novice teachers experience them. Furthermore, we would to examine the role of the principal and the professional culture in supporting TFI teachers. The research questions are as following:
(a) How do the TFI teachers experience the support they receive during their internship year? What types of support are particularly significant for them?
(b) What is the role of school management and professional culture in supporting beginning teachers’ professional growth and intention to stay in teaching?
We conducted semi-structured, open-ended, face-to-face interviews, based on a research protocol used in a similar past project (Author, 2013). 20 subjects from TFI were interviewed after their first or second year of teaching, in order to record their perspective of the support they received during their first year in teaching. Some of the participants were recruited during the 2018 annual conference of TFI. The others were recruited by applying a "Snow ball" method. Although the participants did not receive monetary compensation for their participation, all appreciated the opportunity to reflect on their first year experience. Interviews lasted 45 to 90 minutes and were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Afterwards, we coded the data electronically (using the qualitative data analysis software 'Dedoose') with open codes which later condensed to super codes or themes. Teachers’ Demographic Details: The participants age ranged from 24 to 34 (M=29.85). As for gender, 13 were females and 7 were males. Fourteen were teaching in High-School or Middle Schools and six in elementary schools. Interestingly, seventeen of the teachers had previous experience in education (especially informal education) or working with youth and children.
In general, most teachers reported having a positive support from the TFI program and community, including those who had a 'bad' year and decided to leave their first school, or those who criticized the academic part of the program. Teachers reported on three types of significant support factors: the training coordinator, school team and the school mentor. The training coordinator's role is to develop the teacher's professional identity, through observations, feedbacks etc. Teachers reported to have received primarily emotional rather than professional support from training coordinators. Those who said that the school team was significant for them also tended to mention one or more specific team member who gave them emotional and/or professional support. As for the mentoring, two types of teachers’ experiences were identified. The first, involved teachers who reported receiving “great support” which was primarily technical (i.e., offering advice on procedural bureaucratic issues). Other teachers in this group reported receiving a combination of emotional, technical and a bit of professional support from their mentors. Those teachers were also the ones who reported to have had an overall positive experience with their school team. The second, included teachers who reported not wanting to receive mentor’s support. Not surprisingly, these also tended to describe their school team as insignificant. Finally, none of the teachers mentioned their didactic instructor among those who offered significant support. To answer the second question, we analyzed the extent to which the management and professional culture were supportive of TFI teachers and whether they appeared to enable teachers’ future career decisions. Our findings suggest that all teachers who reported to have received weak principal support and weak professional culture already left their first school after a year or two or declared that they will resign and leave their school by the end of the year.
Adoniou, M. (2013). Preparing teachers - The importance of connecting contexts in teacher education. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 38(8). Darling-hammond, L. (2000). Teacher quality and student achievement: A review of state policy evidence. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8(1), 1–49. Darling-Hammond, L. (2001). Doing What Matters Most: Investing in quality teaching. Ingersoll, R. M. (2001). Teacher Turnover and Teacher Shortages: An Organizational Analysis. American Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 499–534. Kardos, S., Johnson, S., G. Peske, H., Kauffman, D., & Liu, E. (2001). Counting on Colleagues: New Teachers Encounter the Professional Cultures of Their Schools. Educational Administration Quarterly - EDUC ADMIN QUART (Vol. 37). Milner, H. R. (2013). Policy Reformers and of Teaching Academic Editor, (802). Roberson, S. A. M., & Roberson, R. (2008). The Role and Practice of the Principal in Developing Novice First-Year Teachers, 113–119. Tamir, E. (2013). What Keeps Teachers In and What Drives Them Out: How Urban Public, Urban Catholic, and Jewish Day Schools Affect Beginning Teachers’ Careers. Teachers College Record (Vol. 115). Veltri, B. T. (2012). Teach for America : It ’ s More About Leading, 62–66.
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