JVER v26n1 - Factors that Influence the Turnover and Retention of Minnesota's Technical College Teachers
Factors that Influence the Turnover and Retention of Minnesota's Technical College Teachers
Sheila K. Ruhland
University of Minnesota
Technical colleges are being faced with the increased number of teacher vacancies due to retirements, teacher's decisions to leave the teaching profession, and growth in career and technical education programs to meet employment demands. The potential applicant pool may be further reduced by the career opportunities from business and industry that, in recent years, have hired teachers from two-year colleges with salaries as an incentive. Few studies have been conducted to explain teacher's decisions to leave or remain in the technical college teaching profession. In order to develop and retain the high quality of technical college teachers, an understanding of the factors associated with teacher turnover and retention is critical. The purpose of this study was to identify factors that influence the turnover and retention of technical college career teachers.
Technical colleges are being affected by the increased number of full-time, retiring teachers. In addition to retirements, the tremendous growth in private sector career and technical jobs has resulted in technical colleges hiring additional teachers to teach courses in these areas driven by the fact that the 10 highest projected growth occupations can be classified in either the computer technology or health fields ( Silvestri, 1997 ). Between 1996 and 2006, these occupations are projected to grow from 69% to 117%. Silvestri further stated that average growth would be greater for occupations requiring at least an associate's degree. Retirements and job growth in technical areas will affect the demand for teachers in technical colleges across the United States.
In 1997, a study conducted by Vandermast ( 1998 ) indicated 65% of full-time faculty in community colleges were 45 years of age or older. An earlier study by Baker, Roueche, and Gillett-Karam ( 1990 ) found over 50% of the teachers currently in community colleges were planning to retire soon. "After years of hiring freezes, reductions in force, and restricted growth, community colleges today are recruiting increasingly large number of new faculty to fill retirees' positions" ( Gibson-Benninger & Ratcliff, 1996, p. 151 ). Community colleges, already facing the challenges of recruiting and hiring good qualified faculty, find they are in competition with business and industry where salaries are typically higher.
Few studies have been reported addressing the turnover and retention of technical college teachers. A study conducted on the turnover intentions of university faculty ( Hinsz & Nelson, 1990 ) reports "attitudes toward leaving the organization and subjective norms regarding leaving the organization form the basis of the most predictive model of turnover intentions" ( p. 82 ). The study tested several models to predict turnover intentions. In a study conducted by Pucel ( 1990 ), technical college teachers were surveyed to identify factors that attracted them to stay in and leave the teaching profession. Factors rated most important for staying in the profession include: (a) working with students, (b) sharing knowledge, and (c) work environment. The most important factors identified for those leaving teaching, other than retirement, include: (a) wanted a job change, (b) stress, (c) co-workers, and (d) work environment.
Pucel, Sonnach, and Obok ( 1992 ) conducted a study related to job satisfaction of beginning and experienced technical college teachers. One key finding of this study was that job needs of beginning and experienced teachers are significantly different. In addition, these authors identify six factors that explain a technical college teacher's decision to leave the teaching profession. These include: (a) work environment, (b) students, (c) less stress, (d) type of co-workers, (e) maintain competence, and (f) wanted a job change. Pucel and Kaynes ( 1989 ) in an earlier study, found that experienced instructors move in, out of, and within the postsecondary technical institutes due to job change, co-workers, and work environment.
The related issues of secondary teacher satisfaction and retention have been the focus of research for more than 20 years ( Chapman, 1984 ; Chapman & Hutcheson, 1982 ; Chapman & Green, 1986 , Chapman & Lowther, 1982 ; Cole, 1983 ; Knight & Bender, 1978 ; McBride, Munday & Tunnell, 1992 ; Miller 1974 ; Reilly & Welton, 1979 ; and U. S. Department of Education, 1997 ). The results of these studies have shown that personal characteristics, student concerns, workload, recognition received, salary, and policy-administration as common turnover and job dissatisfaction factors. Research reported by Han ( 1994 ) and Kirby and Grissmer ( 1993 ) reported higher salaries as the main factor needed to retain teachers. "While money is not the primary factor in deciding to choose teaching as a career, it is a major factor in the decision to leave teaching" ( Han, 1994, p. 15 ).
With the impending teacher shortage, the time is right to study those factors that will enable technical colleges to retain teachers, especially those who teach in areas of high industry demand. Turnover is costly to any organization, and it is far more cost effective to retain teachers than to hire. Understanding the factors associated with teacher turnover and retention is the critical first step to developing teacher retention strategies. The purpose of this study is to identify those factors influencing technical college teacher turnover and retention. Price ( 1977 ) defines turnover as "the degree of individual movement across the membership boundary of a social system" ( p. 4 ). Mobility data related to turnover includes changing: (a) employer, (b) occupation, (c) geographic location, (d) employed to unemployed, and (e) into and out of the labor force. Turnover focuses on the movement of the individual, not the movement within the organization. Retention is defined as remaining in the teaching profession ( Grady & Figueira, 1987 ).
Three models are particularly useful to this study of teacher turnover and retention. Holland's ( 1973 ) theory of vocational choice posits that vocational satisfaction, stability, and achievement depend on the congruence between one's personality and environment in which one works. This theory suggests that career changes may be related to changes in personality, environment, or overall perception of what is involved in teaching. Thus, teachers who rate themselves higher in skills and abilities, values, and professional accomplishments should exhibit more satisfaction with their career.
Krumboltz' ( 1979 ) social learning theory of career selection identifies four factors (genetic endowment and special abilities, environmental conditions and events, learning experiences, and task approach skills) that influence the nature of a career decision. The basis for this theory are educational and occupational preference and how these influence career selection. Genetic endowment and special abilities include race, gender, physical appearance, and physical characteristics. Social, cultural, political or monetary factors are the basis for environmental conditions and events. Examples of this factor include job training opportunities, technological developments, and training resources. Previous learning experiences influence an individual's career decision-making. Isaacson and Brown ( 1997 ) define learning experiences as (a) instrumental, and (b) associative. Instrumental learning experiences have individuals responding to the environment to produce consequences. Associative learning experiences involve individuals learning by reacting to external stimuli, observing models, or pairing of two events. Skills that individuals apply to a task or problem define the task approach skills. Examples include performance standards, work habits, and symbolic rehearsing. Understanding these factors can help answer the question of why individuals change occupations throughout their lives.
Chapman expanded on Holland's theory of vocational choice and Krumboltz' social learning theory and developed a public school teacher retention/attrition model ( Chapman, 1983 ; Chapman, 1984 ; and Chapman & Green 1986 ). The model suggest that teacher retention is a function of: (a) teachers' personal characteristics, (b) educational preparation, (c) initial commitment to teaching, (d) quality of first teaching experience, (e) social and professional integration into teaching, and (f) external influences. Personal characteristics include gender and age. Educational preparation includes quality of teacher preparation program, student performance (e.g., grade point average, course grades), and degree obtained. Initial commitment to teaching and quality of first year teaching measures overall learning experiences as a teacher. Professional and social integration are measures of a teacher's values, skills and abilities, and accomplishments. The external influences are measured based upon environmental conditions (e.g., employment climate, alternative employment opportunities). Chapman's conceptual framework as adapted forms the theoretical framework for the present study.
Purpose and Research Questions
The purpose of this study was to identify factors that influence the turnover and retention of technical college teachers. A second purpose was to identify possible skills that teachers possess or experiential factors influencing a teacher's willingness to continue teaching.
The following research questions guided this study:
- Is there a statistically significant difference in commitment to teaching between teachers who choose to leave and those who remain in the profession?
- Is there a statistically significant difference in perception of first-year teaching experience between teachers who choose to leave and those who remain in the profession?
- Is there a statistically significant difference in self-assessed skills between teachers who choose to leave and those who remain in the profession?
- Is there a statistically significant difference in willingness to continue teaching between teachers who choose to leave and those who remain in the profession?
- What factors influence a technical college teachers' decision to leave the teaching profession?
The population consisted of technical college teachers from southwestern Minnesota who completed the first course required for initial certification between 1995 and 1999 at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. The course, Introduction to Vocational and Technical Teaching is the first of five required courses in the Technical Education Series (TES) required to meet postsecondary teacher certification requirements. Technical colleges offer courses and programs that teach specific knowledge and skills leading to specific jobs. Community colleges provide a start towards a bachelor's degree or completion of a two-year associate degree. Minnesota's state universities offer courses and programs leading to bachelor's, master's, and advanced degrees.
Names and addresses were obtained from the Office of Professional Development and Outreach (OPDO) at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Only those teachers who indicated on their registration form approval to release their names and addresses were part of the initial population. Four hundred twenty teachers who completed Introduction to Vocational and Technical Teaching provided approval for release of their name and addresses. Limitations of this study included: (a) the population is not a representative sample of the United States, (b) not all teachers completing Introduction to Vocational and Technical Teaching between 1995 and 1999 provided approval for release of their name, thus they were not included in the initial population, and (c) phone numbers were not available, so telephone follow-up was not feasible for non-respondents.
The initial mailing was sent in January 2000, with two follow-up mailings sent in February and March 2000. Sixteen surveys were returned non-deliverable or with incomplete information. For surveys returned non-deliverable a more current address was located and sent a second time. Data from respondents are self-reported and are based upon respondents feelings and perceptions of themselves. The actual number of returned and useable surveys was 135 for a return rate of 32%.
The survey developed for this study employed items used in an earlier study by Chapman and Lowther ( 1982 ), and Chapman and Green ( 1986 ). Additional questions were developed to obtain responses related to the quality of teacher preparation. The survey consisted of five sections. Section one educational preparation and section five demographics, related to Chapman's model of personal characteristics, educational preparation and initial commitment to teaching. Section two, teaching experience related to Chapman's quality of first teaching experience. Section three, skills and abilities related to Chapman's social and professional integration into teaching. Section four, institutional factors related to external influences (e.g. environmental conditions). Survey questions included: (a) open-ended, (b) close-ended with ordered choices, (c) close-ended with unordered response choices, and (d) partially close-ended ( Dillman, 1978 ). Each of the questions asked in the survey fit into one of the four categories. The open-ended question asked participants to identify their professional goals for the next five and next 10 years.
Members of the Council for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC) reviewed and validated the survey. These experts were asked to make recommendations for improving, adding, or deleting any survey items. In addition, the Office of Measurement Services at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus reviewed the survey providing additions and deletions and recommendations on the format of the survey. Recommendations from the reviewers were added to the final survey document.
Data analysis determined whether the two groups (those who choose to leave and those who remain in the profession) differ in their attitudes toward a variety of measures. For research questions one through four, significant differences were tested using the Mann-Whitney U test to contrast those who choose to leave and those who remain in the profession. The value for statistical significance was set at the p < .05 for all statistical comparisons. Participants who did not respond to a specific question were not included in the statistical comparisons for that question.
The significance test used here, the Mann-Whitney U statistic, is mathematically equivalent to the Wilcoxon rank-sum test ( Howell, 1997 ). Both are distribution free tests for statistical significance and do not utilize means, medians, modes, or standard deviations in the computation of the U -value. This means that the U test will work with any distribution. Howell suggests that the test may be testing differences in central tendency at times, but because we gain freedom of assumptions we loose the specificity of the difference that we are actually testing. A significant value via the U test, then, does not tell us the way that the data for the two groups differ, but merely that they do differ in a fashion that is unlikely attributable to chance. Concerning the descriptive statistics reported in this study, medians and/or modes are often the most appropriate description of ordinal data such as that found in this research. But, because means and standard deviations are more familiar to most, they are used to describe the data sets here and are reported in the subsequent tables.
The primary purpose of this study was to identify factors that influence teacher turnover (leavers) and retention (stayers) of technical college teachers in southwestern Minnesota. For the purpose of the findings reported in this study, stayers are defined as teachers who entered the teaching profession and are still teaching. Leavers are defined as teachers who taught at least one year and then choose to leave the teaching profession. Table 1 provides the respondents demographics, and Table 2 provides the number of respondents by year and area of certification. The majority of respondents completed the initial Technical Education Series (TES) course in 1999.
Eighty percent of the respondents had five years or less total technical college teaching experience. Within this group, 58% of the respondents each had over 15 years of business and industry experience, 28% of the respondents had 6 to 15 years of business and industry experience, and 10% had five years or less of business and industry experience. (Four percent of the respondents did not provide a response to this question.) Respondents identified their career goals in the next five years to include continue teaching (19%), complete a bachelor's degree (12%), and enhance their teaching skills and pursue and/or complete a master's degree (10%). The most frequent career goal for the next ten years was to pursue a master's degree (10%). Other goals for the next ten years with nine participants or less each identifying the goal included: develop curriculum, continue to teach, obtain an administrative position, pursue a doctorate degree, and retire.
Table 1 Respondents' Demographics
Gender Male 53 Female 46 Age 30 years or under 6 31-40 34 41-50 47 50 or above 13 Education Associate degree 7 Bachelor's or post-baccalaureate 39 Master's 11 Doctorate 4 Non-degree/licensure only 39
Research question 1 asked, "Is there a statistically significant difference in commitment to teaching between teachers who choose to leave and those who remain in the profession?" Teaching commitment was measured as: 1 = extremely committed, 2 = above average commitment, 3 = some commitment, or 4 = no commitment. The mean score (with standard deviations in parentheses) for those choosing to leave was 2.10 (.99), and for those remaining in the teaching profession was 1.54 (.65). The U test revealed a statistically significant difference ( p = .004) between those choosing to leave and those remaining in the teaching profession.
Research question 2 asked, "Is there a statistically significant difference in perception of first-year teaching experience between teachers who choose to leave and those who remain in the profession?" First-year teaching experience was measured as: 1 = extremely positive, 2 = very positive, 3 = positive, 4 = somewhat positive, and 5 = poor experience. The mean score (with standard deviations in parentheses) for those choosing to leave was 1.57 (.63), and for those remaining in the profession was 1.63 (.63). The U test revealed a statistically significant difference ( p = .035) between those choosing to leave and those remaining in the teaching profession.
Table 2 Respondents by Year and Certification Area
1995 113 27 14 4 3 2 1 0 3 1996 57 15 5 3 2 0 2 0 3 1997 90 25 10 9 1 2 0 1 2 1998 92 30 14 6 3 3 1 2 1 1999 68 38 11 11 7 2 2 3 2 Total 420 135 54 33 16 9 6 6 11
Note : Ind. Ed. (Industrial Education), Hth. (Health), Bus. Mkt. (Business and Marketing), FCS (Family and Consumer Sciences), Gen. Ed. (General Education), and Agr. (Agriculture).
Research question 3 asked, "Is there a statistically significant difference in self-assessed skills between teachers who choose to leave and those who remain in the profession?" Respondents were asked to self-rate their current skill level. Skill level was measured as: 1 = very poor/nonexistent, 2 = poor, 3 = fair, 4 = good, 5 = excellent. The independent variables were identified from Chapman and Lowther's ( 1982 ) survey, literature review, and CSCC reviewers. Significant differences were reported for practical experience in the teaching area ( p = .021). Table 3 illustrates the means (with standard deviations in parentheses) between the two groups of teachers (those choosing to stay and those remaining in the profession) on the perception of their own skill level.
Research questions 4 asked, "Is there a statistically significant difference in willingness to continue teaching between teachers who choose to leave and those who remain in the profession?" Participants were asked to self-rate each item as to its importance in determining their willingness to continue teaching. Willingness to continue teaching was measured as: 1 = not important, 2 = somewhat important, 3 = very important, 4 = extremely important. The independent variables were identified from Chapman and Lowther's ( 1982 ) survey, literature review, and CSCC reviewers. There was no significant difference reported for the 17 independent variables by the two groups of teachers (those choosing to leave and those remaining in the teaching profession) and perception of their own willingness to continue teaching. Table 4 illustrates the means (with standard deviations in parentheses) for the 17 independent variables.
Table 3 Differences Between Two Groups of Teachers and Perception of Skill Level
Skills Mean ( SD ) U test
Written communication skills 4.17 (.60) 4.10 (.74) .759 Oral communication skills 4.38 (.68) 4.26 (.64) .332 Organization and planning 4.03 (.68) 4.05 (.82) .832 Function within a team environment 4.28 (.75) 4.27 (.71) .925 Supervision and leadership 4.17 (.85) 4.21 (.66) .925 Analysis and evaluation of ideas and presentations 4.07 (.80) 4.16 (.70) .586 Development of new approaches to problems 4.17 (.85) 4.07 (.72) .455 Persuasion of others to accept your ideas 3.83 (.66) 3.82 (.76) .966 Involvement with long-term projects 3.69 (.66) 3.85 (.85) .214 Conflict resolution 3.93 (.92) 3.84 (.72) .382 Integrate technology into the curriculum 4.03 (.91) 4.15 (.84) .550 Knowledge of curriculum development 3.59 (.73) 3.74 (.82) .342 Knowledge of teaching methodologies 3.55 (.74) 3.65 (.74) .516 Practical experience in teaching area 3.72 (1.03) 4.20 (.89) .021
Note : The values are significant at the p < .05. Leavers N = 31, stayers N = 104.
Table 4 Differences Between Two Groups of Teachers and Perceptions of Willingness to Continue Teaching
Continuing Teaching Mean ( SD ) U test
Positive teaching experience 3.46 (.65) 3.51 (.61) .746 Currency of cooperative learning techniques 2.75 (.79) 2.80 (.77) .956 Professional growth and development opportunities 3.23 (.65) 3.21 (.78) .951 Participation in professional associations 2.31 (.97) 2.50 (.92) .369 Inner sense of knowing I'm doing a good job 3.77 (.43) 3.69 (.49) .451 Availability of induction/mentoring program 2.80 (.71) 2.67 (.91) .532 Recognition by supervisors/administrators 2.81 (.94) 3.02 (.78) .307 Recognition by peers 3.00 (.80) 3.01 (.79) .879 Recognition by students 3.27 (.72) 3.45 (.70) .202 Approval of family and/or close friends 2.46 (.95) 2.75 (.88) .143 Adequate time to complete job responsibilities 3.54 (.51) 3.46 (.66) .783 Pleasant working conditions 3.35 (.75) 3.40 (.65) .831 Quality and quantity of resources available 3.54 (.51) 3.38 (.60) .269 Chance to contribute to important decisions 3.38 (.64) 3.13 (.74) .118 Leadership opportunities 2.88 (.82) 2.87 (.84) .937 Perception of job security 3.08 (1.09) 3.24 (.82) .764 Potential for salary advances 3.23 (.71) 3.34 (.70) .431
Note : Leavers = 31, stayers N = 104.
Research question 5 asked, "What factors influence a technical college teachers' decision to leave the teaching profession?" Respondents were asked to check more than one reason, if applicable. Reasons identified for leaving the teaching profession are provided in Table 5. The reasons cited most often for leaving the teaching profession was perceived limit on salaries and program/teaching position ended with 29% of those leaving selecting these reasons.
Table 5 Reasons Left Teaching Profession
Reasons Identified Number of
Perceived limit on salaries 9 29 Program/teaching position ended 9 29 Institutional climate 7 23 Additional time commitments outside of teaching 7 23 Licensure requirements 5 16 Lack of job security 5 16 Lack of job advancement 4 13 Lack of support from administration, department 4 13 Lack of teacher preparation training 3 10 Classroom management issues 3 10 Decided teaching wasn't for me 2 6 Job related stress 2 6 Obtained another position 2 6 Lack of resources 1 3 Pressure to increase enrollment 1 3
Note : Reasons are listed in order of frequency reported.
The primary purpose of this study was to identify factors that influence the turnover (leavers) and retention (stayers) of technical college teachers.This study revealed significant differences between those choosing to leave and those remaining in the teaching profession for teaching commitment level ( p =.004), and perception of first-year teaching ( p =.035).Teachers staying in the teaching profession, typically have a higher degree of commitment to teaching versus teachers who were considering to leave or had left the teaching profession.Teachers who had left the teaching profession rating their first-year teaching experience more positive than teachers currently in the teaching profession. This finding is of interest since it appears that teachers who left the teaching profession did not leave as a result of their first-year teaching experience. One of the 14 skills, practical experience in teaching area ( p = .021) revealed significant difference. There was no significant difference between the 17 factors listed as important to determine a teacher's willingness to continue teaching.
There is modest support for Chapman's model. Teachers in this study differed on commitment to teaching and first-year teaching experience which is consistent with research previously conducted by Chapman ( 1983 , 1984 , and 1986 ). However no significant difference was found on 30 of the independent variables related to skills and willingness to continue teaching.
It is important to note that the reasons teachers left the teaching profession are not all inclusive. From the 31 respondents who left teaching, only eight of the respondents identified "other" reasons in addition to the eleven reasons listed on the survey. Other reasons identified included lack of support from administration and department, obtained other position, lack of resources, and pressure to increase enrollment. With career opportunities from business and industry, it is not uncommon for teachers to leave the teaching profession to obtain other positions. The majority of respondents (58%) indicated they had over 15 years of business and industry experience. The other reasons identified indicate the importance of a work environment and resources a teacher needs to do the job required in today's educational environment.
Findings from this study provide modest support for Hans ( 1994 ), Pucel, Sonnach, and Obok ( 1992 ), and Pucel and Kaynes ( 1989 ) research that identified higher salaries, work environment, stress, co-workers, and job change as reasons teacher's left the teaching profession. Leavers from this study identified limit on salaries (29%), institutional climate (23%), classroom management issues (10%), job-related stress (6%) and decided teaching wasn't for them (6%) as reasons for leaving the teaching profession. Leavers indicated their career goals for the next five and 10 years were to pursue and/or complete a bachelor's or master's degree. The other reasons identified, as discussed previously, support the importance of an awareness of one's work environment and the factors that may influence a teacher's decision to leave the teaching profession.
Implications for Future Practice
Based upon the findings from this study, there are implications for future practice. One implication is to improve the quality of first-year teaching experience for new teachers. Teachers identified work environment and other external factors as reasons for leaving the teaching profession. The work environment factors identified included lack of job security, job advancement, support from administration or department, resources, and teacher preparation; classroom management issues; and job related stress. External factors identified included salaries, additional commitments outside of teaching, and licensure requirements.
Those responsible for hiring teachers should look for teachers who bring more experience to the teaching profession. Significant difference was reported by teachers who remained in the teaching profession for practical experience in the teaching area. A teacher's overall commitment to teaching is likely to increase based upon the practical experience they bring to the teaching profession.
Recommendations for Further Research
Further research needs to be conducted to identify other factors related to a teacher's decision to leave the teaching profession. Factors identified by respondents for leaving the teaching profession included lack of support from administration, lack of resources, institutional climate, and lack of job security. These factors are related to environmental conditions and events as discussed in Krumboltz ( 1979 ) social learning theory of career selection, and social and professional integration and external influences presented in Chapman's ( 1983 , 1984 ) retention/attrition model.
Further research should also be conducted to compare the perception of skill level that teachers may need to have that seems to be important, according to the findings from this study, in order for them to continue teaching for each of the technical college teaching certification areas (e.g., agriculture, business and marketing, family and consumer sciences, and industrial education).
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SHEILA K. RUHLAND is Assistant Professor, Department of Work, Community and Family Education, University of Minnesota, 1954 Buford Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108. [E-mail: email@example.com ]. Her research interests include two-year technical and community colleges, teacher retention, evaluation and assessment, and Tech Prep education programs.