Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

First-Year Teachers and Induction Support: Ups, Downs, and In-Betweens

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

First-Year Teachers and Induction Support: Ups, Downs, and In-Betweens

Article excerpt

Novice teachers often struggle during the transition from being students of teaching to teachers of students. Consequently, high attrition rates characterize the first 3 years of teaching, underscoring a need to provide better support for beginning teachers. This investigation sought to answer the following question: How are 1st-year teachers supported during induction and how do they respond to this support? Four 1st-year elementary teachers participated in a year-long case-study investigation. Primary form of data collection was monthly semi-structured phone interviews. Participants faced similar challenges, while adjusting to their new profession, but received varied, often inadequate, forms of support during their 1st year. The results suggest that rather than identifying the prevalence of induction support, future research should endeavor to assess program quality and guide educators in the provision of valuable induction for new teachers. Key Words: Induction, Beginning Teachers, and Case Study

Introduction to the Problem

Educators have long known that, without quality teachers, the best curriculum, facilities, and resources do not matter (Bush, 1966). This knowledge, coupled with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act's mandate requiring highly qualified teachers for every child in the United States (No Child Left Behind, 2002), underscores the value of effective induction support for beginning teachers. By definition, induction is the first 3 years of teaching (Feiman-Nemser, 2001) and influences teaching behavior for an educator's entire career (Mager, 1992). It is also a period of difficult adjustment; as many as 29% of K-12 teachers leave the profession during the first 3 years of teaching (Ingersoll, 2001, 2002). If highly qualified teachers are to remain in the profession and thrive, they must be supported during the challenging induction years. The present investigation chronicled the experiences of four 1st-year teachers who shared personal accounts of the challenges and successes they faced during their entry into the teaching profession through monthly interviews. This article presents an analysis of their experiences.

Literature Review

Many new teachers adopt traditional teaching methods during their student teaching and early in-service years instead of utilizing the innovative ones they were exposed to in teacher preparation (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Veenman, 1984). This tendency can result from interactions with experienced colleagues who deride innovative research-supported teaching methods (Clark, 1999). Survival plays a role as well; faced with seemingly insurmountable classroom management issues, beginners often adopt traditional teaching methods that keep students working quietly in their seats, and thus, are easier to control (Veenman). These factors led Feiman-Nemser to conclude, "'sink or swim' induction encourages novices to stick to whatever practices enable them to survive whether or not they represent 'best' practice in that situation" (p. 1014).

In contrast, well-designed induction programs can provide beginning teachers with support that helps them survive the classroom management challenges, seemingly endless curriculum and instruction questions, and feelings of isolation that contribute to the nationwide attrition problem. Well-established induction programs have successfully retained high percentages of beginning teachers. For example, studies of induction programs in Santa Cruz, California; Walla Walla, Washington; and southern Illinois reported retention rates that were greater than 90% over 6-, 5-, and 3-year time periods, respectively (Boss, 2001; Chubbuck, Clift, Allard, & Quinlan, 2001; Linik, 2001). Although these studies reported the successes of individual induction programs, the collective impact of induction programs may not be as significant. Smith and Ingersoll (2004) reported that nearly 80% of 1st-year teachers nationwide participated in some form of induction--an increase of approximately 40% from 10 years earlier. …

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