Journal of Vocational and Technical Education
INDUCTION STRATEGIES THAT WORK: KEEPING AGRICULTURAL, HEALTH AND BIOTECHNOLOGY CAREER DEVELOPMENT BEGINNING TEACHERS IN THE CLASSROOM
Barbara M. Kirby
North Carolina State University
Anthony V. LeBude
North Carolina State University
The purpose of this study was to determine the nature and existence of beginning teacher induction programs. Second, the researchers wanted to identify effective retention strategies incorporated within those induction programs. Finally, they examined the relationship between impact of retention strategies and the level of concern of the beginning teacher in the Exploring Biotechnology, Agricultural Education, and Health Care Career Cluster. Assistance strategies having the most impact on beginning teachers included adequate materials, facilities that supported the curriculum, continuing education reimbursement, and a positive work climate. Less than 50% of the teachers experienced these strategies. Retention strategies should be implemented for the first five years of a new teacher's career. A support team, rather than a single person should be provided to the new teacher.
The dynamic process of assuming the role of a teacher involves many complex steps and interactions. Managing materials and resources, budgets, time, parents, volunteers, children and their individual differences all within the context of starting a new career, makes teaching one of the most challenging yet most satisfying careers (Glasser, 1992). The process of becoming a teacher takes time yet most beginning teachers are expected to act like seasoned veterans on their first day of employment (Lortie, 1975).
Related Literature and Theoretical Framework
Beginning teachers are riddled with new challenges and concerns. Efforts to alleviate some problems and resolve concerns led to a variety of induction programs. Fuller (1969) first examined concerns of beginning teachers and found that beginning teachers had concerns in three major areas: self, task, and impact.
- Self - Concerns about the self dealt with adequacy and survival as a teacher, class control, being liked by the pupils, and being evaluated.
- Task - Task concerns revolved around the use of teaching methods and materials and mastery of skills within the teaching and learning situation.
- Impact - Impact concerns dealt with the teacher's effect on the students. Teachers are concerned with student's learning, their social and emotional needs and relating to pupils as individuals.
According to Fuller (1969), beginning teachers are mostly concerned with the self and not concerned specifically about teaching. After experiencing success in the classroom, confidence in their teaching grows and beginning teachers move on to task concerns. This critical shift, however, can be slower if lack of adequate knowledge and or emotional support occurs during the pre-service and beginning years of teaching (Borich and Tombari, 1997). Teachers with support are more likely to experiment with new methods and continue to focus on their teaching effectiveness. After experiencing success and resolving their concerns from the lower stages, beginning teachers progress to the latter stage of concern where they focus on their impact upon student learning. As the beginning teachers' foci continue to sharpen, they become more concerned with the adequacy of the students' preparation and ability to function in society after graduation. Finally, beginning teachers become more concerned with individual students and their needs (Waters, 1988).
Induction programs designed to assist beginning teachers have varied in composition due largely to the goals of the specific program (Huling-Austin, 1986). The quality of the program may be a function of teaching assignment (Reiman and Paramore, 1994) or voluntary verses state or county mandated (Malpiedi, 1988). Huling-Austin (1988) proposed five goals induction programs can reasonably expect to accomplish: (a) improve teaching performance of beginning teachers, (b) increase retention of promising beginning teachers, (c) promote professional and personal well-being of beginning teachers, (d) satisfy mandated requirements of state certification programs, and (e) transmit the culture of the system. While the induction process may include these goals, it can still vary in quality depending on the knowledge and expertise of those who establish expectations for the program (Auen, 1990). The amount and types of assistance offered in programs depend largely upon the context of the school and teaching situation, and the personal and professional characteristics of the beginning teacher (Huling-Austin, and Murphy, 1987). Waters (1988) also noted that beginning teachers need new forms of assistance specifically tailored to their concerns regarding the transition from pre-service student or industry professional to successful professional educator.
Induction Assistance and Retention Strategies
Veenman (1984) analyzed eighty-three studies of beginning teachers. Veenman found that beginning teachers had the most problems with classroom discipline, motivating students, dealing with problems of individual differences, assessing student work, relationships with parents, organization of class work, insufficient and/or inadequate teaching materials and supplies, and, finally, dealing with problems of individual students. Solutions to these problems were not taught in university teacher preparation programs and beginning teachers did not expect to encounter them. The collapse of missionary ideals formed during teacher training is caused by the harsh and rude reality of everyday classroom life. This phenomenon is known as "reality shock" (Veenman, 1984).
Odell (1986) recorded the actual assistance asked for by beginning teachers and the assistance provided by support teachers. Contrary to Veenman (1984), Odell (1986) found system information, information related to procedures, guidelines, or expectations of the school district, as the most asked for assistance by beginning teachers new to the system. Beginning teachers with no prior teaching experience needed the most help with collecting, disseminating, or locating information and other resources for use in the classroom. Secondly, beginning teachers needed emotional help through their support teachers' empathetic listening and sharing of experiences.
In North Carolina, teacher retention is of grave concern (Brannon, Shields, and Hoff, 1996). Theoretically, teachers should remain in the classroom if quality induction programs support them. The quality of the program is dependent upon the appropriate matching of strategies and levels of concern (Fuller, 1969). This study was needed to examine the extent to which retention strategies occur and their impact upon beginning vocational education teachers. Little evidence as to what concerns beginning teachers in the agricultural, biotechnology, health care career cluster possess that may result in their leaving the classroom. Furthermore, recent research has only begun to reveal effective strategies for retaining vocational teachers.
Purpose and Objectives
The purpose of this study was to determine the nature and existence of beginning teacher induction programs. Secondly, the researchers wanted to identify effective retention strategies incorporated within those induction programs. Finally, they examined the relationship between impact of retention strategies and the level of concern of the beginning teacher in the Exploring Biotechnology, Agricultural Education, and Health Care Career Cluster.
The following research questions guided the study:
- What was the nature of beginning teacher induction programs for vocational education teachers in Health Occupations, Exploring Biotechnology, and Agricultural Education?
- What was the level of concern of beginning teachers with five or fewer years of experience?
- What retention strategies most impacted beginning teachers?
- Is there a relationship between level of concern of the beginning teacher and the impact of retention strategies?
- Were there any differences in the needs of initially certified persons by certification type and program area?
The research study was descriptive in nature (Borg and Gall, 1989). Survey techniques were used as the primary means of data collection. The study also included the use of a focus group to elicit more in-depth qualitative information. While the study was descriptive in nature, relationships were explored.
A researcher-developed instrument was designed using a review of the related literature and adaptation of existing instruments with permission. The instrument was reviewed for content validity by a panel of experts including three members of the graduate faculty and two additional teacher educators who had expertise in beginning teacher research. The instruments used in this study were field tested by initially licensed teachers who were not part of the research sample. The instruments were revised to reflect the suggestions of the panel and to achieve greater clarity. The mail questionnaire was divided into five parts.
Part I identified the level of concern of beginning teachers using the Concerns Questionnaire (Rogan, Borich, and Taylor, 1992; Spuhler and Zetler, 1995). The questionnaire contained 45 questions regarding beginning teachers' levels of concern. A five point Likert-type scale was used to rate the teachers' concern levels. For the three sub-scales Self, Task, and Impact, a Cronbach's alpha reliability of 0.91, 0.84, and 0.94 was generated, respectively.
Part II, Strategies for Retaining Teachers, determined the occurrence of retention strategies in the beginning teachers' induction programs and the impact those retention strategies had on the beginning teachers. The instrument was adapted from an earlier study by Heath-Camp, Camp, and Barber (1988). The instrument contained 36 questions. Teachers indicated if the retention strategy had occurred and then determined the impact of the retention strategy on them as beginning teachers. A five point Likert-type scale was used to rate the strategy impact. The reliability of the instrument was determined by calculating a Cronbach's alpha coefficient (.91).
Part III of the questionnaire measured the overall level of job satisfaction of beginning teachers. Beginning teachers were asked to indicate their level of job satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 10. Data from this section is not being reported in this article.
Part IV of the questionnaire, Supervision and Peer Coaching, gathered qualitative data regarding the nature of induction programs and the identification of support personnel and description of the subsequent support provided.
Part V gathered demographic information about the sample of beginning teachers. Areas included licensure area, gender, and type of school of current employment.
Focus group methodology was also employed in an attempt to further understand the nature of programs and challenges facing beginning teachers. Each mail survey packet included a postcard for teachers to complete and return if they wished to participate in the focus group. Twelve teachers volunteered. The interviewer used a 10-item questionnaire. The interviewer permitted the participants to elaborate on their responses and ask follow-up questions when appropriate.
Population and Sample
The population consisted of beginning vocational teachers in the agricultural; biotechnology and health career cluster with five or less years of completed teaching experience. A printout obtained from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) containing all initially licensed teachers from January 1, 1990 to January 1, 1996, by program area, was used to define the population. The study populations were drawn from Agriculture, Health Occupations Education and Exploring Biotechnology teachers. The study population included 167 teachers with 5 or less years of completed teaching experience. By program area, this included 48 Agriculture teachers, 32 Exploring Biotechnology, and 87 Health Occupations teachers.
The required sample size for a population of 167 would have been 115 (Krejcie and Morgan, 1970). Since the population and the sample were similar in size and considering the sensitivity of questioning untenured teachers, it was decided to conduct a census study and include all 167 cases.
Beginning teachers were asked to volunteer for a focus group. Out of the twelve respondents agreeing to participate, five were present the day of the focus group. They represented all the subjects areas taught within the Career Cluster.
Data were collected through a mailed survey sent in February 1997. Surveys were mailed to 167 teachers. A reminder postcard was mailed 10 days after the initial mailing and a second set of questionnaires were mailed a week later. Six weeks after the first mailing, non-respondents were called and a third mailing sent to individuals willing to return the questionnaire. The Agriculture sample had 27 usable, returned questionnaires out of 48 (56%). The Exploring Biotechnology sample had 13 of 32 (41%) teachers return questionnaires while the Health Occupations Education sample had 44 of 87 (51%). An overall return rate of 50% (84 - 167) was achieved. Seventy-three percent of the respondents were female and the majority (45%) held bachelor degrees. Teachers with associate degrees were also the teachers who were primarily provisionally licensed.
A comparison of early and late respondents was done to determine if any differences occurred between respondents and non-respondents. No significant differences were found. Since late respondents are similar to non-respondents, one may generalize to the population if no differences are found (Miller & Smith, 1983).
Analysis of Data
The Concerns Questionnaire determined the level of concern of beginning teachers. Data from the Concerns Questionnaire were subdivided into three sub-scales corresponding to the three concern levels - self, task, and impact. Mean scores for each area was determined.
The level of concern for beginning teachers was determined using the 45 item Stages of Concern questionnaire adapted from an instrument developed by Rogan, Borich, and Taylor (1992); Spuhler and Zetler (1995). The 45 items were randomly arranged but comprised three sub-scales of Self, Task, and Impact.
The Strategies for Retaining Teachers Questionnaire determined if researcher identified retention strategies occurred, and if so, what impact they had on beginning teachers. The data were reported as descriptive statistics. By examining the mean impact scores of particular retention strategies experienced, the researcher determined which retention strategies were most helpful to beginning teachers. A Pearson-Product moment correlation was used to determine the relationship between the impact of the retention strategies and level of concern.
Information compiled from the peer coaching and supervision section of the survey questionnaire and from the focus group provided the descriptive nature of the beginning teacher induction programs. The demographics section of part V gathered information regarding licensure type for beginning teachers and program areas. This information was used to determine if there was a difference in needs of initially licensed teachers and teachers licensed by alternative methods.
The Nature of Induction Programs
The nature of induction programs included one-time offerings of support as well as an entire year of continuation support. The primary strategies, which occurred, included an orientation on school policies (63%), a workshop for new teachers (74%), and supply purchasing information (55%) to begin the year. Mentors, assigned to 77% of the beginning teachers, were assigned for the entire year. Furthermore, principal evaluations and feedback (67%), parental support (57%), the development of friends in the teaching industry (66%), and access to other teachers in the county or state by phone (71%) provided a support network that spanned the school year. Adequate materials (60%), adequate facilities (61%), positive work climates (77%), quality housing (76%), and a salary supplement (81%) were also types of support that continued throughout the school year.
Respondents were asked to describe the kind of help they received, who supplied the help, and what kind of help they still desired. Overall, the type of assistance identified most frequently was emotional support (48), followed by interpretation of policies and procedures (32), then assistance with supplies and materials (23), lesson plan/curriculum/program assistance (19), and discipline/classroom management/student understanding (18). Mentors were recognized for their emotional support. Peers were also helpful with emotional support as well as policy/procedure information and supplies/materials information, while administrators were most often recognized for assisting with policy/procedure information.
Beginning Teachers' Stages of Concern
Program Area. According to Table 1, all three program areas were identified as moderately concerned with the Impact stage as noted by the high relative mean scores in that stage of concern. However, Agriculture teachers (n=27) and Health Occupations Education teachers (n=44) shared a general trend of increasing concern from the Self-stage to the Impact stage. Exploring Biotechnology teachers (n=13), on the other hand, had a higher concern level in the Self-stage than the Task stage.
Beginning Teachers' Levels of Concern by Program Area.
Levels of Concern
Note. Mean scores from 1-1.49 were of no concern. Mean scores ranging from 1.50-2.49 were a little concerned. Mean scores ranging from 2.50-3.49 were considered moderately concerned. Mean scores ranging from 3.50-4.49 were considered very concerned and mean scores ranging from 4.49-5.00 were extremely concerned.
Years of Experience. As teachers progressed through their early careers, their level of concern increased as they moved from the Self-stage to the Impact stage. The highest mean score at the Self-stage (M=3.05, SD=. 77) was experienced by teachers with less than one year experience and by teachers with three years experience (M=3.22, SD=.71). Teachers with less than one year of experience (M=3.35, SD=.68) and teachers with three years of experience (M=3.47, SD=.63) displayed higher levels of concern at the Impact stage. A moderate level of concern was expressed at the Task stage and it remained fairly constant throughout the five years. Teachers' levels of concern tended to range from levels of little concern to extreme concern. Levels of concern were examined by program area and tended to follow the general population.
Stages of Concern by Licensure Type.The state grants three types of teaching credentials. The "A" license is for graduates of a baccalaureate degree who meet minimum teaching license requirements. The "G" or Graduate license is for those who complete a master's degree in the teaching area. The provisional or "P/V" license is granted to those who are not licensed but are completing teaching credentials while teaching. This last group usually includes individuals moving from industry to teaching positions. Stages of concern for beginning teachers by A (n=38), G (n=3), and P/V (Provisional/Vocational) (n=20) licensure types were all evident in the Impact stage. However, only the G level licensure type had decreasing concerns as the stages progressed from Self to Impact. If the scores for each group on all three stages are analyzed, a trend of decreasing scores from P/V to A to G is recognized. The mean years of experience for each licensure type was P/V=1.65 yr., A =2.41 yr., and G =4 yr.
Impact of Retention Strategies on Beginning Teachers
Thirteen of the retention strategies for the total population were rated 3.5 or higher, denoting major importance (see Table 2). Of those 13 strategies, 8 were reported as having occurred by over 50% of the population. One strategy, an extra planning period was rated 3.59, but only experienced by 5% of the population. A positive work climate experienced by 80% of the population was rated a 3.97. Interestingly, 78% of the beginning teachers reported having a mentor assigned but only rated the assistance as moderately important (3.39). Lastly, the strategy of offering in-service on how to counsel students was experienced by 8% of the population and rated as having moderate importance (2.89).
Highest Impact of Retention Strategies and Percent Occurred Reported by Total Beginning Teachers (N=84).
Adequate materials, textbooks, and workbooks were provided.
Adequate facilities that supported the curriculum were provided.
Reimbursement for continuing education was provided.
A positive work climate for teaching and learning was provided.
Administrative endorsement of school policies resulted in effective student discipline.
Information on purchasing supplies/equipment was provided.
The principal provided helpful evaluation and feedback.
Extra duties were reduced for beginning teachers.
Clerical support was provided for beginning teachers.
An extra planning period was provided for beginning teachers.
A salary supplement was provided in your county.
An orientation on school policies was given.
An in-service on classroom management was provided.
Planning time was made available before school started
An in-service to explain the curriculum was provided.
The parents of your students provided support for your program.
A list of available resources and vendors was provided.
An in-service on time and stress management was provided.
A beginning teacher's handbook was provided.
A mentor teacher was provided for assistance.
Time was available to observe other teachers teaching.
A workshop for new teachers was held.
Class size was intentionally reduced
Completion dates for licensure requirements were flexible.
A vocational student organization orientation was held.
Teachers were encouraged to develop friends within the teaching industry.
A twelve-month teaching appointment was provided.
Activities, programs, or functions were provided to integrate teachers, students and community.
Other teachers in the county (state) were made available by phone.
Quality housing was available locally.
Teachers were encouraged to attend professional meetings.
Teachers were encouraged to visit several departments in the county.
An orientation tour of school facilities was given.
Release time was made available to teachers.
An in-service on counseling students was provided.
Teachers were encouraged to get involved within the community organizations.
Note. The IMPACT scale ranged from None=1, Minor=2, Moderate=3, Major=4, Critical=5. A score of 1-1.49 was considered of no importance. A score of 1.50-2.49 was considered of minor importance. A score of 2.50-3.49 was considered of moderate importance. A score of 3.50-4.49 was considered of major importance and a score of 4.5-5 was considered of critical importance.
Relationship between Impact of Retention Strategies and Concern Level
A significant, positive relationship existed between 18 of the 36 retention strategies and the respondents' (N=84) scores on the Self sub-scale. Those with a relationship of .30 or stronger included: developing friends within the teaching profession (r= .38), planning time made available before school starts (r= .37), availability of county/school teachers to help (r=.35), in-service on time management (r=.35), adequate facilities (r=.33), adequate housing (r=.33), a beginning teacher's handbook (r=.31), and in-service on counseling students (r=.30).
There was also a significant, positive relationship between 13 of the 36 strategies and the respondents' Task scores. Three of the strategies included: providing clerical support (r= .50), encouragement to attend professional meetings (r= .36) and reimbursement for continuing education (r= .35). A significant, positive relationship existed between 17 of the 36 strategies and the respondents' Impact scores. The top five strategies included: flexible license requirement deadlines (r= .45), reimbursement for continuing education (r= .37), a beginning teacher's handbook (r= .36), developing friends within the teaching profession (r= .35), and planning time made available before school starts (r= .33).
Focus group concerns
Of the five teachers participating in the focus group, two were provisionally licensed and 3 held the initial "A" teaching credential. Major concerns cited by the group in rank order included: 1) Time management, 2) Equipment and budget, 3) A desire to leave teaching, 4) Discipline, 5) VoCATS (competency testing) and accountability, and 6) Evaluation and tenure. The teachers' levels of concerns were primarily at the task stage. Only one was moving toward the Impact stage. The provisionally licensed teachers were particularly concerned and frustrated by the tasks of teaching. They expressed a great need for information and emotional support.
The teachers also noted frustration with administrative evaluations. It was not clear to them when evaluations should occur. Quality feedback did not follow the evaluation. All the teachers were assigned mentors. However, only one was from the subject area. It appeared that having support from other teachers, friends, and colleagues from across the state weighed heavily in the teacher's desire to stay in the profession.
Based on the findings of the study, the following conclusions were drawn:
- Induction programs experienced by the beginning teachers in this study primarily provided emotional support and procedural information through individual meetings, workshops, orientation, and handbooks. Induction programs are not addressing new teachers' needs for time, planning, and clerical assistance. New teachers are still experiencing an overload of assignments.
- As teachers progressed in years of experience, their concerns change and distinguish themselves around the three stages of concern: self, task, and impact. Regardless of program area, beginning teachers are more concerned about the impact they are having on students than on performing tasks or impacting themselves. Beginning teachers over commit and it is not always by choice.
- Teachers with less than one year of experience and with three years experience had higher levels of concerns in all stages and are concerned about how teaching is affecting them personally and how their teaching is impacting students. Concerns which influence a teacher's decision to leave the profession include: concerns about their own safety, a perceived lack of fairness and support, inadequate facilities and materials, resources, and time consuming tasks that are perceived as unnecessary.
- The impact of the strategy is related to the teacher's level of concern at the Self, Task, and Impact stages. Teachers who function primarily at the Self-stage benefit from time/priority management, informational, and emotional support strategies. Those at the Task stage also need strategies to help them manage their time so they can accomplish their tasks. Teachers who function primarily at the Impact stage need strategies that assist them in better serving students, i.e. information providing strategies, program and curriculum strategies, policy clarification, evaluation and feedback strategies.
However, simply increasing the number of strategies will not ensure quality assistance. Appropriate strategies are the ones teachers view as having the greatest impact.
- Teachers differ slightly in their levels of concern and in what they perceive to be important strategies by program area and type of license. Teachers who are entering teaching through lateral entry experience higher levels of concern than those do with "A" or "G" licenses at all stages. Health Occupations Education teachers tend to have a higher level of concern at the task level than agriculture teachers or exploring biotechnology teachers. Also, other strategies such as providing a twelve month teaching appointment is very important to the agriculture teacher and not so important to health occupations teachers. Health occupation teachers place a higher value on continuing education than the others. Biotechnology teachers identify the impact of adequate facilities that support the curriculum as being of greater than the other strategies.
Recommendations are applicable to beginning teachers in agricultural education, health occupation education, and exploring biotechnology as well as to those who are associated with these teachers and their induction programs. Based on the findings and conclusions of this study, the following recommendations are offered:
- Induction programs serving agriculture teachers, health occupations teachers, and exploring biotechnology teachers need to include strategies that provide emotional support, time management and prioritization strategies, and procedural information.
- Adequate resources and facilities should be provided. Beginning teachers should not be expected to function in jobs where there are inadequate resources and facilities. They will not remain in that position very long.
- Schools need to evaluate their induction programs and implement strategies that have the greatest impact. Strategies should be selected that have the greatest impact on teachers for the particular program area and level of license.
- Retention strategies should be implemented for the first five years of a new teacher's career. Based upon the varied types of support persons involved in a new teacher's career, a support team, rather than a single person should be provided to the new teacher. Members of the team should include mentor teacher and/or subject area peer teachers, administration, and state staff as well as teacher educators to assist with the transition into the profession. Retention strategies need to match the beginning teacher's stage of concern.
- State funding needs to be provided for continuing education, professional development activities, salary supplements, and twelve-month contracts. Beginning teachers should be encouraged to participate in support network activities and professional organizations.
- Collaboration between middle grade schools, high schools and teacher education institutions should result in better mentor training/peer coaching programs. Incentives for experienced teachers to become mentors needs to be emphasized in vocational education program areas. Partnerships should result in securing teaching resources and professional development opportunities.
- Further research should be conducted on the long-range impact of the retention strategies. The relationships between the impact of retention strategies and stage of concern merits additional research.
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