Academic journal article Rural Educator

The Relationship of Georgia's Rural Foreign Language Teachers' Sense of Efficacy to Teacher Attrition

Academic journal article Rural Educator

The Relationship of Georgia's Rural Foreign Language Teachers' Sense of Efficacy to Teacher Attrition

Article excerpt

Foreign language teachers are in critical need in many parts of rural America. Using Bandura 's conceptual framework of selfefficacy teaching languages as a theoretical lens, the researchers created a scale to measure foreign language teacher efficacy and administered alongside a well-known efficacy survey to in-service rural teachers (N = 167) in Georgia. Data analysis indicates that the new instrument is psychometrically sound and there are two dimensions to language teacher efficacy: Content Knowledge and Facilitating Instruction. Positive correlations between the two surveys suggest that teaching languages requires more than just strength of content knowledge and FL teachers may need assistance engaging students. Additionally, it appears female novice Spanish teachers are more prone to attrition than teachers of other languages. This research holds implications for professional development opportunities as well as teacher preparation programs.

Nationally, the number of students enrolled in K- 12 public schools in the United States (US) has been steadily increasing while the number of certified teachers willing to work in US classrooms has been decreasing. Such a phenomenon has contributed to a teacher shortage prevalent in many parts of the nation (American Association for Employment in Education, AAEE, 2008). Research on the shortage of teachers suggests a lack of consensus regarding the factors associated with the shortage. While Ingersoll (2001, 2003) finds a revolving door of teacher attrition and turnover that helps explain the teacher shortage (Ingersoll, 2001, 2003), Darling-Hammond (2000) indicates that the shortage is exacerbated by a surplus of certified teachers who actively choose not to teach. Yet, others argue that a shortage of teachers in many parts of the country exists regardless of the available teaching pool from which to draw (AAEE, 2006; Fideler & Haselkorn, 1999), because some professionals tend to avoid employment in urban schools and small private schools. Further investigation reveals that an uneven distribution of teachers nationally appears contribute to the current teacher shortage (Wilson, DarlingHammond, & Beny, 2001). Nevertheless, the literature clearly indicates there is a teacher shortage throughout the nation and among the areas of critical need are special education, bilingual education, math, science, and foreign languages (AAEE, 2008, Draper & Hicks, 2002; National Center for Education Statistics, 2002).

While there is an abundant literature base describing the shortage of math and science teachers, there is a paucity of research discussing the lack of foreign language (FL) teachers, especially in rural schools. Such a finding is alarming because approximately half of the nation's 80,000 public elementary and secondary schools are located in rural areas or small towns, and nearly one in three of America's school-aged children attends public schools in rural areas or small towns (Johnson, 2003). Research indicates that in four states (Maine, Mississippi, Vermont, and West Virginia) the majority of the population lives in rural areas. Two other states, South Dakota and Arkansas, come very close to having most of their inhabitants residing outside of suburban areas (Beeson & Strange, 2003). Characteristically, rural districts tend to have declining student populations, lower property value assessments, increased transportation expenses, a higher proportion of residents living in or near poverty levels compared to metropolitan areas, and difficulty attracting quality teachers (Dewees, 1999; Phillips, 2003).

The purpose of this research is to call attention to the lack of language teachers and investigate how rural FL teachers' sense of efficacy plays a role in their decision to remain or leave the teaching profession at a time of critical shortage (Swanson, 2008). The authors first review the current situation facing FL teachers specifically and advance five factors that help explain the FL teacher shortage in the context of rural schools. …

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