Sunday, 27 November 2016

Teacher Education and Retention

In ‘Teaching Scotland’ this week there is an article based on this post about teacher retention, here is the full post.
Teacher education and retention rates give an indication of the ‘health’ of the education system. If the number of students choosing teaching as a career is high and the attrition rates are low, then this shows a system which values its teachers as professionals and supports their career long professional learning.
From a study of Australian student teachers, those entering the profession are typically female, young, from less than affluent families’ backgrounds, with postgraduate career changers tending to be moving from a career with a similar occupational status as teaching. This is very similar to Scotland. For those student teachers in the study, teaching was not considered a fall-back career but a planned career choice even when there was strong social dissuasion as teaching. It was stated that teaching offers rewards that are not inherent in other occupations. These are linked to personal and social values which leads to higher job satisfaction.
The Australian study discusses that student teachers are motivated to choose teaching as a career based on motivators and values. The motivators being their ‘teaching ability’ related beliefs, personal utility values and positive prior experiences of teaching and learning. This is based on the intrinsic values of teaching, social utility values (making a difference) and personal utility values (job security). The values in the Professional Standards reflect the values of teaching and social utility values.
The Teacher Induction scheme is supported by research as support for early career teachers (ECT) is deemed essential as ECT develop a sense of ‘Who am I as a teacher?’ and ‘Who do I want to become?’ In education systems that support teacher professionalism, like Scotland, ECT are supported by a mentor, who can be both formal and informal. There is evidence that both are vital, as ETC need to develop a social network and have a social connectedness in order to ‘find themselves as teachers’. ECT need space to ask both instructional questions but also share thoughts and concerns with colleagues to develop as sense of belonging. School leaders should offer opportunities for all teachers to be connected through TLC’s and invest in staffrooms as social spaces to support the formation of casual networks. 
More market driven education systems of countries such as the USA and England, which invests little in teachers and PL show higher attrition rates.  The recently published report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, England (2016) states that the retention rate for primary trainees was between 58-68%. For secondary trainees, the retention rate was on average 37-44% for Teach First graduates and 59-62% for other routes. When the cost is also compared with other methods of teacher education in England, the Teach First model cost an average of £38,000 compared to other routes which are broadly on par with each other costing between £18, 000 - £23, 500 for secondary graduates. This market driven approach does not appear to be best value for public money.
In these market driven education systems, the way teachers are prepared for the classroom also shows a lack of understanding of the complexity of learning and teaching, and instead develops teachers who have a narrow concept of teaching. This narrow view is enacted as the ability to raise test scores and does not embody successful teaching as the ability to incite curiosity, develop a love of learning or cultivate empathy and compassion for others. This narrow view also undermines the deeper and broader view of building human capital. As teachers in these systems are more about being in competition with each other than learning together, it creates a culture of individualism and does not support collaborative practice or building social capital. This is counterpoint to the aspiration of the Scottish education system which understands that partnership working and collaboration is the best way forward. However, partnership working and collaboration is not without its issues.
Scotland suffers not as much from teacher attrition or poor workforce planning but there is an issue with teacher geographical distribution across the country, leading to real problems with teacher numbers in some areas and some subjects in secondary schools. Typically, of the student teachers who start on an ITE course, 85% will graduate and then proceed into the Teacher Inductions Scheme. The retention rates of teachers from the Teacher Induction scheme has varied from the lowest of 73% in 2005 to the highest of 94% in 2015, the average retention rate over that last three years for the Teacher Induction Scheme is 89.6%. This is very good value for the public purse.  The investment made in our new teachers results in very high rates of retention, as the government representative from Saudi Arabia said after the Scottish system was explained “Ah.  I see now.  You grow your teachers.”
Recruitment campaigns to boost teacher numbers need to focus on a variety of factors and not settle for the easy option of promoting the social contribution and the opportunity to work with children. We have to be more explicit about the personal utility (job security/satisfaction) and intrinsic values that make teaching an option for a wide pool of graduates and career changers. Scotland provides access to high quality and teacher driven professional learning, reinforcing the view of teaching as a career, of teachers as professionals, and of teachers as life-long learners.
Allan, R. Bellfield, C. Greaves, E. Sharp, C. Walker, M. (2016) Long term costs and benefits of Different Initial Teaching Training Routes; Institute of Fiscal Studies; London
Richarson, P.W. & Watt, H.M.G. (2006) who chooses teaching and Why? Profiling characteristics and Motivations across three Australian Universities, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 34:1, 27-56
Struyve, C. Daly, A. Van de Candelaere, M. Bieke De Fraine, Meredith, C. Hannes, K. De Fraine, B. (2016) ‘more than a mentor’, journal of professional capital and community, Vol 1 Issue 3, pp.198-218
Zeichner, K.7 Hollar, J (2016) “developing professional capital in teaching through initial teacher education”. Journal of Professional capital and community, Vol 1, Issue 2 pp.110-123

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