Investigating New Teachers’ Experiences: Easing the Transition through Professional Development
Some people are born to teach, and know early on that it is their destiny. Others arrive in a classroom through a different, sometimes not so deliberate path. Whatever the path, deliberate or not, teachers are leaving the profession. Recent research highlights teacher turnover as a central challenge facing public schools (Anderson, L & Olsen, 2006). There are myriad reasons for the current revolving door in schools; from difficulty managing the classroom, shortage of resources, time management, and an insurmountable amount of paperwork, to ineffective or non-existent support systems. One such support system that would address many of the issues plaguing new teachers and possibly prevent new teachers from leaving is offering on-going meaningful professional development.
The purpose of professional development is to provide teachers with the knowledge and skills to improve student achievement (Payne & Wolfson, 2000). It is common for school districts to provide professional development opportunities for teachers. However, many professional development classes are not carefully structured or purposefully directed toward new teachers. Effective professional development should be school focused while remaining relevant to teachers by addressing their specific needs and concerns (Ganser, 2000).
Review of Literature
Grossman & Thompson (2004) conducted a longitudinal study of ten teachers. Over a period of three years, these teachers were interviewed and observed numerous times each month. The study concluded that new teachers are still developing. Educational philosophies are still being developed and they are still learning how to teach. At such an early point in a teacher’s career, experiences in the classroom can affect the direction of future learning. The school districts that employed the new teachers were extremely supportive of new teachers’ needs by supplying mentors, being receptive to suggestions and giving the teachers opportunities to observe and be observed by veteran teachers for productive feedback.
A study by Long (2004) found that ongoing learning through structured professional activities contributes greatly to a new teachers’ growth and an absence of this has a detrimental effect on teachers’ desire to remain in the profession. The researcher followed seven new teachers through their first year of teaching. The subjects in this study experienced success, but for the most part, they found themselves frustrated and unsure of themselves. The frustrations ranged from detached mentors, the absence of a sense of community among teachers, little or no encouragement from administrators to a lack of autonomy and punishment for creativity.
The research team of Bickmore, Hart & Bickmore (2001) conducted an umbrella study of new teachers, mentor teachers and principals to determine the effectiveness of an induction program that includes...