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Supporting Michigan's Early Career Teachers: Implications for Job Satisfaction and Commitment to the Teaching Profession

Sun, April 7, 3:40 to 5:10pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 200 Level, Room 202C

Abstract

Objective
Early-career teachers are likely to benefit from additional support (Ingersoll & Smith, 2004; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004), but this area of research has yet to be explored in a statewide context. Most existing research relies on small samples or national surveys. This study provides a rich statewide description of early-career teachers’ experiences of support. Researchers have yet to identify the specific forms of support most likely to increase job satisfaction and commitment to the profession. When teachers are satisfied and committed, they persist in their work and improve their practice, thereby improving students’ access to effective teachers. Thus, identifying the most effective forms of support will enable policymakers to make informed decisions that best serve teachers and their students.

Research Questions:
1) What are the nature and prevalence of support experienced by early-career teachers in Michigan across a variety of school settings?
2) What are the relationships between beginning teachers’ experiences of support and their job satisfaction and commitment to the profession?

Perspective
Patton and McMahon’s (1999) Systems Theory Framework of Career Development illustrates how a number of interrelated systems collectively impact an individual’s career development, including: the individual system, the social system, and the environmental-societal system. Systems Theory recognizes that many systems, including the workplace, interact with each other to impact teachers’ decisions.

Data and Methods
This mixed methods study uses a two-phase sequential explanatory design that begins first with survey data, and is then supplemented by interview data (Creswell, 2014). The survey includes items about support teachers receive, job satisfaction, and commitment to the profession. Survey participants (n = 348, 51% response rate) are early-career teachers from 14 districts across Michigan. OLS regression identifies the relationship between support, job satisfaction, and commitment to the profession. Follow-up interview participants (n = 19) discuss survey responses in greater detail, elaborating on their experiences as early-career teachers. Interview transcripts are analyzed using descriptive and emotion coding.

Results
Preliminary results indicate wide variation in the nature and prevalence of support. In both survey and interview data, teachers indicate the importance of one-on-one interactions with mentors and colleagues. Teachers particularly value colleagues’ guidance in navigating district policies and classroom management. Many teachers are dissatisfied with administrative support, expressing frustration with a lack of feedback and presence in their classrooms. Relationships with mentors and colleagues, and the ability to select professional development opportunities, are most strongly associated with job satisfaction and commitment to teaching.

Significance
This study provides insight into how early-career teachers are supported in a variety of settings and how these experiences predict satisfaction and commitment. Providing support for early-career teachers is a resource-intensive endeavor, and as such, it is imperative that we understand which forms of supports are most effective in positively influencing satisfaction and commitment to teaching. The findings from this study demonstrate the importance of interpersonal relationships with mentors and other colleagues, suggesting that state policymakers and districts leaders might best support early-career teachers through the development of programs and policies that support strong collegial relationships.

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