01 SES 05 A, Novice Teachers: Support and Opportunities
Theoretical framework:Teaching is a highly complicated profession involving a multitude of challenging situations (Mansfield, et al., 2016), and the contextual challenges novice teachers experience may turn out to be significant in their induction period. Research shows that contextual factors include the quality of school facilities, availability of materials, workload, diversity among students, student motivation, classroom management, time pressure, curriculum changes, teachers’ conceptions of their effect on school processes; administrative support; mentor guidance, teacher-student interactions and teachers’ relationships with their colleagues, parental cooperation, the particular properties associated with a region, province, or nation (Knowles et al., 1999, Le Maistre & Pare, 2010; Bennett, et al., 2013) and achieving work-life balance (Mansfield, et al., 2016), all of which have a significant effect on teachers’ professional development (Boyd et al., 2009; Feng, 2006; Loeb, Darling-Hammond & Luczak, 2005). Moreover, a positive school culture and a positive school climate are also found to make a strong and beneficial contribution to the smooth induction of novice teachers and to their professional development (Fullan, 2001; Ingersoll, 2002).
Flores and Day (2006) conducted a longitudinal study with novice teachers working in different contexts and found that the influence of workplace, namely the “positive or negative perceptions of school culture and leadership played a key role in (re)shaping teachers’ understanding of teaching, in facilitating or hindering their professional development, and in (re)constructing their professional identities.” (p.230). Another study conducted by McCormack and Thomas (2003) indicated that the novices had concerns regarding “resourcing and financial constraints placed on schools such as lack of classroom resources, teaching outside their specialization, and lack of relief funding to allow training and development” (p. 135). Furthermore, they had problems such as large and difficult classes, a wide range of extra-curricular tasks as well as administrative responsibilities, “which caused them tension and the feeling of merely ‘surviving’ during their first year of teaching” (McCormack &Thomas 2003, p.135). These contextual difficulties are in line with previous investigations that reported concerns about meeting the requirements, difficulties in classroom management, difficulty in communicating with other teachers and time management (e.g. Sasson, et al., 2020; Liga & Grinfelde, 2018; Rees, 2015).
Contextual differences in school climate might also result in novice teachers’ questioning their place in the school. In a study regarding new teachers’ perceptions of what happens in their school, almost one third of them disagreed that teachers in that local community were respected (Rizza, 2011). In fact, when novice teachers feel that school administration and their colleagues value their contribution to school work and encourage them, they can become engaged in the school culture and teaching profession more easily (Dawley et al., 2008).
In brief, regarding the relationship between contextual differences and teacher growth, research shows that “the nature of a particular school context is a vitally important consideration for those whose practices are forming. …. the work of teaching is made or broken, is rewarding or not, depending on the nature of the local school context ….” (Knowles, et al., 1999, p.374). This study aims to investigate the impact of diverse work contexts on novice teachers’ professional development. Specific research questions are as follows:
- What are the contextual challenges novice teachers face during their induction year at schools?
- How do novice teachers deal with the contextual challenges they face during their induction year at schools?
- How do the contextual challenges contribute to or impede the professional development of novice teachers during their induction year?
Research design: In order to answer the research questions, a longitudinal comparative case study design was employed in this study. Furthermore, the researcher aimed to draw a holistic picture of the novice teachers’ realities by talking to them and observing them in their natural setting throughout the induction process. Therefore, four novice teachers were selected as study participants through criterion sampling to provide detailed and in-depth data in relation to the induction processes they go through. The cases selected as the participants of the study were four novice teachers appointed to different high schools in four counties of Ankara. Accordingly, a graduate of Hacettepe University Faculty of Education, Defne was a 26-year-old novice Biology teacher working at an Anatolian High School in Şereflikoçhisar; a graduate of Anadolu University Faculty of Education, Aslıhan was a 22-year-old novice English teacher working at a Vocational and Technical Anatolian High School in Nallıhan ; a graduate of Hacettepe University Faculty of Literature, Esra was a 26-year-old novice German teacher working at an Anatolian High School in Kalecik, and a graduate of Gazi University Faculty of Education, Kemal was a 26-year-old novice Geography teacher working at a Multiple-Program Anatolian High School in Evren. The data were gathered by means of six interviews with each teacher at different phases of the induction period and periodic observations throughout the academic year. Remembering the words of Patton (1990), the findings gathered from the subjects of inquiry in this study would not be appropriate to a shorter and numerical form of study; instead, they would be “longer, more detailed, and variable in content” (p.24). Thus, the data collected through the data collection processes were subjected to content analysis to identify the main themes and concepts underlying their induction experiences and processes. Moreover, persistent observation, peer debriefing, member check, thick descriptions, triangulation and audit trail were used to ensure trustworthiness in this study.
Results: Contextual challenges teachers faced and their influences are presented through perception of school, handling workload and serving in a disadvantaged community, as three representative themes. All themes are to be covered in the full paper. Perception of school: Teachers had changing feelings towards their schools. While Kemal and Esra had good relationships with colleagues and principal, and a supportive school environment, Aslıhan had problematic relationships and disappointment regarding the school and town, felt neglected being a culture teacher in a vocational high school and she “wished she had not chosen this school” (Aslıhan, 15.03.2015). Defne’s feelings became more positive as she developed better relationships with colleagues. Teachers’ relationships with colleagues and principal were influential on their perception of school. Handling workload: Workload was a problem for three teachers, creating concerns for their understanding of the profession. Suffering from extra-curricular tasks like delivering courses out of field, in Kemal’s case, and suffering from the lack of a mentor, in Defne’s case, and learning everything on their own, in Defne’ and, despite having a mentor, Aslıhan’s cases, were some sources of workload. Teachers found workload as a challenge, often not finding adequate time for planning their lessons, which had negative effects on their professional development. Serving in a disadvantaged community: Teachers were appointed to distant counties of Ankara with limited opportunities. Kemal felt restricted in Evren and he tried to go somewhere else to feel relaxed. Defne felt “restricted in Şereflikoçhisar, having to live in accordance with people’s opinions” (Defne, 26.01.2015), which she overcame through closer relationships with colleagues. Aslıhan regretted selecting her school and town, Nallıhan, which had negative influences on her. Esra had no difficulties as she lived in Çankaya, instead of Kalecik. Dealing with such pressure was challenging, yet proved to be valuable on teachers’ professional development.
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