Effective support is key to keeping new teachers in the profession


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Credit: Andrew Reed/EdSource

Beginning teachers are most susceptible to leaving the profession. With upwards of 10,000 teacher vacancies and a decline in teacher credentials with California, it is urgent for the state — alongside much of the U.S. — to identify ways to mitigate attrition.

But recent research from the California-based Center for Teacher Innovation suggests three effective strategies for supporting new teachers that should be incorporated into all teacher prep and support programs:

Provide dedicated and well-matched coaches. Quality coaches should be at the forefront of beginning teacher support. Numerous studies have indicated that coaching can improve teacher outcomes, including feelings of preparedness and retention. While California requires induction and coaching for all new teachers, many states do not.

When coaching is offered, there are several important considerations. First, there needs to be an intentional match between a coach and the new teacher. Default pairings often rely on aligning teachers and coaches by grade level or subject area. But depending on program size, that may not be possible, so programs could consider additional strategies to strengthen the coaching relationships, like matching similar personality traits or professional skills.

Programs should also invest in activities that promote interaction, such as allowing coaches and teachers time to get to know one another, coaches sharing about their qualifications and experiences, and using time to discuss goals for the new teacher. These opportunities build trust between the teacher and coach; but caution, coaching time does not equate to counseling sessions, and priority should remain on professional growth. This can be done through classroom observations, feedback or a host of other effective coaching strategies. Finally, coaches should meet with their teachers frequently — ideally, weekly — to provide consistent check-ins on progress early in the year, when things are most challenging.

Pay attention to curriculum and technology. There are two design structures of induction often overlooked but vital to the beginning teacher experience. Centrally, programs need to carefully craft what they want their new teachers to learn. New teacher curriculum may reiterate central components of pedagogy (e.g., lesson planning, classroom management), but often more specifically, it includes how to adjust what they learned in their teacher preparation program into their specific classroom context. Whether it is considering creative activities to engage students or being culturally responsive, new teachers need to think about how their training applies to their current environment.

Relatedly, programs should consider how new teachers learn this professional content. While it can be conveyed through coaches, programs should think about how technology, in particular, can enhance or detract from teacher development. Learning management systems such as Canvas, Blackboard and Google can be utilized to distribute what new teachers should learn, but must be user-friendly to reliably provide information.

Connect teacher learning. New teachers need to understand how the scope of their professional learning interactions and activities build upon each another. Teacher preparation programs, the district, professional development workshops, their campus and peers are among just some sources that can provide different, sometimes contrary, professional information. It can be challenging for newcomers to understand whom to listen to and how to balance a variety of information. Thus, induction programs should consider how their work complements other programs. Induction program personnel, teacher educators and district administrators need to work together to ensure that each training successively builds upon one another. Otherwise, persistent separation causes inevitable overlap in learning or, worse, contradictory learning.

Along with the three strategies outlined above, induction programs must be accessible and affordable and enhance beginning teachers’ learning, rather than waste time that they don’t have to spare on activities that generally are not beneficial for them.

Beginning teachers need consistent help and a professional village of people to grow and thrive in the profession. School districts, induction programs and others who assist new teachers must incorporate all three of these evidence-based strategies in their programs to ensure that new teachers can develop and ultimately stay in the profession.

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Andrew Kwok is an assistant professor at Texas A&M University and researches teacher preparation and beginning teacher supports.

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