The article being reviewed in this paper is An Analysis of Effective Support Structures for Novice Teachers by Warsame and Valles (2018). Its primary topic is exploring the topic of novice teacher retention and how support structures in educational settings can have a profound effect on the profession.
Background and Problem
According to Warsame and Valles (2018), U.S. public schools are undergoing a crisis of retaining novice instructors, attributing this to inadequate preparation as well as a lack of institutional support for teachers. That is an issue commonly explored in a variety of educational and academic literature, which suggests that 40-50% exit the profession within the first 3-5 years, while 29-54% (depending on study) of new teachers switch schools (Fantilli & McDougall, 2009; Redding & Henry, 2018). Inadequate preparation and poor support mentioned by Warsame and Valles (2018) results in less effective teachers, with high-turnover, subjecting students to a continuous cycle of ineffective instruction, particularly in low-income inner-city schools (Fantilli & McDougall, 2009). Lack of longevity among novice teachers, with some leaving during the middle of the year is a cause of alarm, impacting the school community, students, the learning process, and the teaching profession as a whole.
The primary focus of Warsame and Valles (2018) is novice teacher support. This is important because beginning instructors often find themselves in challenging situations for which their academic and even some practical instruction did not prepare them. This is combined with the initial emotional and psychological shock and general hectic environment of first year teaching and settling in. Most teachers struggle with management of full classrooms. With beginning teachers being left to metaphorically ‘sink or swim’ – schools and districts suffer significant costs. The challenging transition experiences that novice teachers face, leads to even the most creative, talented, and enthusiastic teachers to become frustrated and feeling unrewarded with their work, eventually risking to leave the profession altogether if it becomes intolerable (Fantilli & McDougall, 2009). This emphasizes the utmost importance for novice teacher support from educational institutions in early years.
Purpose and Research Questions
The purpose of the article by Warsame and Valles (2018) is to build upon and analyze research which suggests that teacher induction programs and other resources for support and retention of novice teachers can address the issues of turnover and dissatisfaction discussed previously. The chosen article specifically evaluates “the effectiveness of novice teacher induction support structures in Texas” (Warsame & Valles, 2018, p. 18). The study presents three research questions:
- “What are the perceptions of novice teachers relating to their employing school district on comprehensive induction support service?
- What are the perceptions of novice teachers relating to their certifying university support services in their induction program?
- What induction support structures better address the needs of the novice teacher in their decision to remain in the teaching profession?” (Warsame & Valles, 2018, p. 19-20).
These research questions are comprehensive and explore in-depth the effectiveness of support structures for novice teachers. The researchers chose to use teacher perceptions as an indicator of the effectiveness of the programs, these are the questions addressed with quantitative data. It is a competent approach to the subject matter considering that it is ultimately the teacher perception and attitudes which are the basis for their leaving employment or profession. Meanwhile, using the quantitative data findings from the first two questions and external observations with qualitative data, the third question provides a broader institutional overview on how the support programs can be structured to enhance positive outcomes for novice teachers.
The selected study utilizes a sequential explanatory mixed methods design, combining survey and interviews. The researchers split the study into two phases. The first consists of collecting and analyzing quantitative data through surveys. The second phase collects and analyzes qualitative data through interviews based on the results of the initial phase. The interview questions used for the study were open-ended (Warsame & Valles, 2018). The use of sequential explanatory mixed methods design by the researchers is unusual but is relevant to this context. This approach has been growing in popularity in social research, particularly on rather complex topics.
The benefits of this research methods is that the combination of two types of data helps to provide a greater understanding and insight into the research topic, that would not have otherwise been possible through a single data collection method. The broader insight increases confidence in findings and offsets possible missing data or conclusions from a single approach (Bowen, Rose, & Pilkington, 2017). However, there are challenges such as deciding on the priority or the weight given to the particular type of data, as well as sequence of data collection and assigning connections to various stages of the research process to quantitative or qualitative data, potentially affecting integrations of results (Ivankova, Creswell, & Stick, 2006).
Prior to conducting any data analyses, the researchers conducted response bias tests through reliability estimates using Cronbach’s alpha and a wave analysis, finding some evidence of response bias from teachers having less school-based support, but it was not significant. The researchers utilized descriptive statistics in coding, analyzing, and portraying the data, measuring mean, standard deviation, and agreement percentage with the survey question. Qualitative data underwent a thematic analysis, distributed by common themes found during the open-ended interviews (Warsame & Valles, 2018).
Some of the steps taken by the researchers such as conducting a response bias analysis was useful, specifically in a mixed methods methodology as it can help between analyze the interview qualitative data. Coding for quantitative data and thematic analysis for qualitative data as standard but make the most sense in this context, determining common categories in answers. One potential additional analysis that the researchers could have included, would be a statistical significance test. It allows to determine whether the result occurred due to chance or because of treatment in a given experiment (questions asked during surveys). It would then help research in the second phase or in drawing inference from data as statistically insignificant data could be irrelevant.
Key Results and Findings
In terms of school resources, results suggest that staff collaboration is the most helpful, while staff development prior to school year is least helpful. A slight majority agreed that administration support and classroom mentors are helpful, while a minority believed in classroom evaluations by administrations and professional development during the year were helpful. In terms of university resources, supportive liaisons, education courses, and clinical experiences were found to be most helpful, while networking and resources online as well as electronic mentoring was least helpful. The findings demonstrate that school-based support (61.6%) was more helpful and fitting than university-based support (38.5%) (Warsame & Valles, 2018).
Interviews were conducted with teachers of all races and with both who remained and who left the profession. Teachers who remained in the profession largely had positive feedback for school-based support, following the trends from quantitative data of highlighting administrative, classroom mentoring, and professional development support. Meanwhile, those who left teaching all had negative experiences with school-based support, such as a lack of it from administration, other teachers, or parents. Interestingly, both who were teaching and those who left had some positive feedback regarding university support (Warsame & Valles, 2018).
These results are largely on par with literature on the topic. Aarts, Kools, and Schildwacht (2020) found that first year teachers are largely concerned about teaching and classroom management, and only then transitioning caring about the workload, school organization and other things. Therefore, strong support early on in the classroom can be helpful, such as classroom mentoring discussed in earlier results. Pogodzinki (2014) discusses that novice teacher perceptions of working conditions depend on collegial support. Aspects such quality of mentor support and interaction with other colleagues as well as support from the administration, especially in helping to reduce administrative workload are important to novice teachers. Meanwhile, DeAngelis, Wall, & Che (2013) discuss the importance of transition from university-based support or preservice preparation to early career support. They argue that preparation quality still matters, but induction support is necessary to address teacher attrition and finalize their transition into the teaching profession. This and other literature match the findings and conclusions of Warsame & Valles (2018) in highlighting the need of a combined university and school-based support in the contexts of classroom management and administrative support as critical tools for retaining novice teachers.
According to Warsame & Valles (2018), their study sought to contribute to literature on support system that contribute to first-year or novice teacher retention. Quantitative findings showed greater need for school-based support, while further qualitative interviews elaborated for the three important themes in school-based support which are administrative, classroom mentoring, and professional development. In conclusion, school-based support seems integral to retaining novice teachers and their further career success, being able to compensate for lack of university support. However, it does not go vice-versa, and strong university-support does not compensate for weak school-based support. Based on this data, schools should seek to improve their institutional support in the highlighted areas as well as potentially work with universities for a better transition from an academic setting to practical teaching.
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Warsame, K., & Valles, J. (2018). An analysis of effective support structures for novice teachers. Journal of Teacher Education and Educators, 7(1), 17-42.