Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Characteristics and Experiences That Contribute to Novice Elementary Teachers' Success and Efficacy

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Characteristics and Experiences That Contribute to Novice Elementary Teachers' Success and Efficacy

Article excerpt

This article reports the results of a case study about elementary school teachers' induction experiences. Four teachers began the three-year study, but only two remained in the profession after their second year. This development was consistent with estimates that 40-50% of novices leave the profession within five years (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Bandura's (1977) construct of self-efficacy beliefs was used as a lens to examine how personal characteristics and professional experiences either contributed to new elementary teachers' success, increased sense of self-efficacy, and desire to remain in the profession, or contributed to their desire to leave teaching.

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Educators have long recognized that the beginning years of teachers' careers are extremely challenging. Isolation from colleagues and bridging the gap between theory and practice are paramount among the challenges novice teachers face (Lortie, 1975). In response, school districts and outreach programs have endeavored to provide support during the induction period--the first three years of teaching. Support during this time is referred to as induction support; it can help beginning teachers systematically expand their repertoire of teaching strategies instead of relying on trial and error (Freiberg, 2002). For clarity, in this article induction is used to refer to the time period and the actual support provided to novice teachers.

Reports of the potential benefits of support during induction go back more than two decades (Huling-Austin, 1986). More recently Smith and Ingersoll (2004) indicated that during the 1999-2000 school year, nearly 80% of first-year teachers in the United States received some form of induction support. This was an increase of approximately 40% from a decade earlier. Widespread implementation of induction programs and data about teacher attrition and retention have allowed researchers to identify factors that help novices remain in the profession. These include administrative support, continued support from teacher preparation institutions, colleagues with similar beliefs about teaching, and a supportive school community (Long, 2004). Mentoring from skilled veteran teachers with "strong interpersonal skills, respect for multiple perspectives, and outstanding classroom practice" (Moir & Gless, 2001, p. 112) also supports retention.

Increasing retention of promising new teachers has numerous benefits. Among these are the reduction of two costly problems: Nationwide, the estimated annual cost of replacing teachers who leave the profession is $2.2 billion (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005), and high attrition contributes to the shortage of quality teachers in the United States (Harrell, Leavell, van Tassell, & McKee, 2004). Additionally, long-term teacher retention has been correlated with increased student achievement (Wong, 2004). Induction support contributes to increased teacher confidence and skill (Turley, Powers, & Nakai, 2006) as well as retention (Kelley, 2004). Teacher retention has clear benefits and is supported through induction; however, the mere presence of induction programs is not enough to ensure competence (Fry, 2007). Programs need to be implemented effectively and be responsive to novices' needs in order to achieve the high levels of new teacher retention--upwards of 90%--that successful programs report (Kelley).

Self- Efficacy

In addition to retention, induction may enhance beginning teachers' self-efficacy, which, as Bandura (1977) explained, "is the conviction that one can successfully execute the behavior required to produce outcomes" (p. 193). Self-efficacy influences people's expectations of success, how much effort they expend, and the extent to which they persist in activities. It can be enhanced through success and reflection about thinking and behavior, or reduced through repeated failures.

Self-efficacy has been meaningfully used in educational research as a means of examining teacher success. …

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