01 SES 05 A, Novice Teachers: Support and Opportunities
The transition from teacher education into the teaching profession has been characterized as a “reality shock” (Dicke et al, 2015; Weenman, 1984). As a result of this reality shock, turnover is especially high during the first years in the profession and many new teachers leave within the first five years (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011; Gallant & Riley, 2014). To prevent reality shock and early teacher attrition, the need to provide support for new teachers has become widely accepted in educational policy, practice, and research over the past three decades (Avalos, 2016; Ingersoll & Strong, 2011; OECD, 2020).
However, Keltchermans (2019) argue that the acknowledgement of early career teachers’ particular problems, and need of support, has had a number of unintended side effects that are problematic and in the long run even counterproductive. He claims that support programs or mentoring practices is fundamentally rooted in a kind of ‘deficit thinking’. The newcomer is positioned as an incomplete and not fully competent teacher. Futhermore, to overcome the limits of this deficit perspective, the very idea of early career teachers and teacher induction needs to be rethought, reconceptualized and revised. Consequently, teacher education has to be conceived in a richer and broader way. Keltchermans argues that one alternative is to regard new teachers as potential resources or as an asset for the school (Keltchermans, 2019, see also Correa et al, 2017; Ulvik & Langørgen, 2012). This study will draw attention to the phenomenon of newly qualified teachers as resources for the school development.
At the same time there is a tension between dealing with «sink or swim» (Howe, 2006) and leaving the ‘deficit thinking’ (Keltchermans, 2019). On the one hand there is a need for support, on the other hand a need to open the lens of newcomers as potential resources for school development. How is it possible both to fall short - “not being there yet” (Correa, et al, 2017) – and simultaneously be a resource for school development? In fact, research shows that newly qualified teachers often are given challenging working conditions and jobs that are demanding even for experienced teachers (Amdal & Ulvik, 2019; Aspfors & Fransson, 2015; Sharplin, 2014), something that can make it extra difficult for them to be perceived as a resource.
Focusing on newly qualified teachers as resources in school development, the study's aim to get insight into how new teachers understand themselves as resources in school development and how their resources can be uses to the benefit for the school as an organization. The research questions are as follows: How and on what basis can newly qualified teachers be resources in school development? Newly qualified teachers are here defined as teachers in the first two years in a permanent or temporary position in school after completed teacher education.
The interview data was collected from teachers in seven upper secondary schools in five municipalities in Norway. Nine participants were interviewed. The sample consisted of four women and five men, eight in temporary positions, one in a permanent position. Furthermore, two had full-time and seven had part-time positions, from 60 to 85 %. Several of the part time teachers took on ad hoc temporary teaching to increase their salary. The semi-structured interviews (Kvale & Brinkman, 2009) were conducted in spring the first year as teachers or in early fall the second year. We avoided the very first semester of the participants’ were teaching, in order to allow them time for becoming an organizational member able to share their knowledge and expertise with colleagues (März & Kelchtermans, 2020). Then their possibility of becoming a resource likely increased. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim by an assistant. The analysis of the transcripts was conducted manually in several stages and in collaboration between researchers. We mainly used a data driven reflexive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke 2006; Braun & Clarke, 2019).
Preliminary results suggest that newly qualified teachers understand themselves as resources for school development. The newcomers can contribute with high commitment, flexibility, outside perspectives and new knowledges to schools. One of them says: «being recently educated, I know my subjects rather well». At the same time the result suggests that there is a tension between being a resource in school development and simultaneous needing support. Another teacher says: «I found it stressful and overwhelming and have told everyone that if I’d known how it turned out, I hadn’t taken on a 100 % position. It was first afterwards I realized how heavy it was». The resource perspective acknowledge to be lost in the newcomers’ needs for support. In this perspective we suggest seeing newcomers as resources and their need for support as a parallel dynamic process to redeem opportunities for the innovation novices bring into schools. One process does not exclude the other but can be seen as a complementary interaction.
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