23 SES 02 D, Teachers and Teaching
Attracting and retaining qualified teachers in some subjects and geographical areas is the most common challenge in school staffing policies in many developed countries. More than half of the countries in Europe and almost all school districts in the US are faced with this challenge (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2018). Governments in these countries have tried various initiatives to increase the number of teachers, especially those teaching shortage subjects. Among the ideas tried are bursaries and scholarships for shortage subjects, loan forgiveness, paid internships and Future Scholars programme. Despite these initiatives, recruitment of teachers in some subjects, such as science and maths, has consistently proved to be difficult.
One of the reasons these initiatives have not been very successful is perhaps because people’s motivations for going into teaching and leaving have not been properly understood despite the large body of work in this area. Most studies deliberately exclude, through their research design, those individuals who are not in teaching or who have dropped out of teaching, ignoring the very people who can best explain the barriers to teaching. For example, a recent study commissioned by the DfE (CooperGibson Research 2018) interviewed teachers and former teachers about their motivations for going into teaching and why they left teaching. Relying on these kinds of studies for evidence, policy solutions therefore miss the structural, societal, sociological, educational, and even simple economic reasons for people’s decisions. For example, if the determinants of teacher supply are more structural, or to do with individual ‘learner identity’, then current incentives to increase teacher supply such as those based on monetary inducements may not be appropriate. Increasing the number of graduates going into teacher training will need to involve a consideration of the social-economic and other determinants of career choice to see why some people are attracted to teaching, and more importantly why some people are not, in terms of the subjective opportunity structure that they face - which may be unaffected by any objective changes in policy (Gorard and Rees 2002). Understanding people’s motivations in career decisions can also improve retention as studies have shown that those factors affecting people’s decision to become a teacher initially are very similar to those that affect their decision to stay in teaching (Dolton 1990).
Our main objective is to understand the factors that influence undergraduates' career intentions. The research questions are thus:
1. What are the key personal, economic and social factors influencing the supply of teachers?
2. Who are likely to be attacted to teaching as a career, who are not and why?
3.What is the role of financial incentives and other interventions to overcome potential barriers to recruitment in influencing the individual's choice of teaching as a career?
Unlike previous studies, our new study compares the career motivations of those who have no intention to teach, those who are considering teaching and those who are set on becoming teachers. Understanding individuals’ career motivations can help to identify appropriate strategies that could target the most appropriate people in the most suitable ways. This will offer a longer-term solution.
The study is a survey census of all second and third year students in six disciplines to give a representative range of undergraduates across 53 HEIs, where students have the option of going into secondary teaching, as well as courses which are directed towards other careers, and where students may not have considered school teaching as a career. The survey asked about undergraduates’ current intention to take up teaching or not, the factors influencing their choice of career and their perceptions of teaching as a career, and whether current government initiatives to promote recruitment would encourage them to take up teaching as a career. The survey also collected respondents’ demographic background information. Three groups of students will be identified: the definite teachers (those who have applied to teacher training and intend to teach); the maybe teachers (those who have considered teaching, have applied to teacher training or not and are unsure if they are going into teaching; and the non-teachers (those who have no intention of being a teacher). Multi-stage multinomial logistic regression analyses with the three groups as the outcome variable will be employed to illustrate which variables in combination predict whether someone is more likely to report wanting to be a teacher or not, with background characteristics, prior attainment and structural and organisational factors as predictors. Similar analyses will also used to portray the relationship between individuals’ perceptions of school teaching, important factors influencing choice of career and their intention to go into teaching or not.
The study in currently in progress, so no results are available yet. But we hope to be able to map and characterise three categories of students: those who are are definite about wanting to be a teacher; those who have considered teaching but are not sure if teaching is for them and those who are definite about not wanting to be a teacher. This study will identify those individuals that potentially can be encouraged to be teachers and the kind of factors that are important to them in their career decisions so that appropriate policy incentives can be used to target these people. The findings will inform policy makers on the most appropriate approaches to use in promoting teaching as a career to undergraduates.
CooperGibson Research (2018). Factors affecting teacher retention: Qualitative investigation. Research Report. London: DfE. Dolton, P. (1990). The economics of UK teacher supply: The graduate’s decision. The Economic Journal, 100 (400): 91-104 European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2018). Teaching Careers in Europe: Access, Progression and Support. Eurydice Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. Gorard, S. and Rees, G. (2002) Creating a learning society?, Bristol: Policy Press
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