Despite attempts to meet early career teachers' needs through learning and support experiences, teacher retention rates are still much too low, especially in urban and rural schools. This qualitative study examines the needs of ten early career teachers, eight alternatively certified, and their perceptions of contextually-based learning and support opportunities and seeks to understand how this affects retention. These needs and the usefulness of the learning and support opportunities in meeting these needs are considered from the teachers' perspective and from the perspectives of their three administrators and five support providers.
Data for this study include interviews, demographic surveys, observations, and document analysis. The pre-service and induction phases of Feiman-Nemser's learning to teach continuum frame the analysis. After presenting findings from the administrator/support provider perspective, findings from the teachers' perspective, grouped by department (e.g., social studies, special education, math, science) are examined.
Although teachers and administrators/support providers had different perceptions about teacher needs in relation to their first year in the classroom, teachers and administrators/support providers alike identified designing a responsive instructional program and enacting a beginning repertoire of instructional strategies as the primary needs over the second and third years in the classroom. However, administrators believed teachers' primary needs in their first year were connected to creating a classroom learning environment, especially overcoming classroom management challenges.
Teachers and administrators/support providers reported perceptions of the availability of the same multiple support opportunities at the school site. Administrators conceptualized the broad range of support opportunities as ultimately meeting most teacher needs. Teachers believed that of the varied supports, formal and informal interactions with colleagues were most useful in meeting their needs. Finally, teachers revealed that a combination of career aspirations and contextual factors were most influential to their future plans.
Such findings suggest that an emphasis on developing responsive curriculum and enacting instructional strategies is necessary for preservice and inservice teachers. Also, early career teachers, school leaders, and teacher educators must conceptualize learning to teach as an ongoing process that occurs most effectively with comprehensive, contextualized support. Additionally, linking hiring and retention efforts may help stem teacher attrition.