Questioning the Research on Early Career Teacher Attrition and Retention

  • Lee Schaefer University of Alberta
  • Julie S. Long University of Alberta
  • D. Jean Clandinin
Keywords: teacher attrition, teacher retention, early career, identity

Abstract

In this paper, we consider scholarly work on early career teacher attrition, and retention, from 1999 to 2010. Much of the literature has framed attrition as either a problem associated with individual factors (e.g., burnout), or a problem associated with contextual factors (e.g., support and salary). Some recent conceptualizations consider early career teacher attrition as an identity- making process that involves a complex negotiation between individual and contextual factors. On the basis of our review, we suggest the need to shift the conversation from one focused only on retaining teachers, toward a conversation about sustaining teachers. This shift offers the possibility of new insights about teacher education and about the kinds of spaces needed on school landscapes to sustain and retain beginning teachers.

Cet article porte sur les travaux académiques évoquant l'attrition et la rétention des enseignants en début de carrière entre 1999 et 2010. Une part importante de la littérature présente l'attrition comme un problème associé à des facteurs individuels (par ex. épuisement professionnel) ou bien à des facteurs contextuels (par ex. appui et salaire). Selon certaines conceptualisations récentes, l'attrition d'enseignants en début de carrière serait un processus de formation identitaire impliquant des négociations complexes entre l'individu et des facteurs contextuels. À partir de notre analyse, nous évoquons le besoin de s'éloigner des conversations portant exclusivement sur le besoin de retenir les enseignants pour discuter plutôt de soutien aux enseignants. D'un tel changement peuvent découler de nouvelles idées sur la formation des enseignants et le type de milieux scolaires nécessaires pour appuyer et retenir les enseignants en début de carrière.

Author Biographies

Lee Schaefer, University of Alberta
Lee Schaefer is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alberta studying in the area of Secondary Education. Lee's interest in early career teacher attrition stems from his own experiences as a beginning teacher. Using narrative inquiry as a method has provided opportunities to see how much is at work as beginning teachers compose their lives on both their personal and professional landscapes.
Julie S. Long, University of Alberta
Julie S. Long is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta and an affiliated faculty member at the Centre for Research for Teacher Education and Development, University of Alberta. Her research interests include narrative inquiry, teacher attrition and retention, and mathematics education.
D. Jean Clandinin
D. Jean Clandinin is Professor and Director, Centre for Research for Teacher Education and Development, University of Alberta. A former teacher, counselor, and psychologist, she co-authored with F. Michael Connelly, several books including Narrative Inquiry: Experience and Story in Qualitative Research (2000). Jean edited the Handbook of Narrative Inquiry: Mapping a Methodology (2007).
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