Globally, early teacher attrition is an emergent issue (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011). In retaining beginning teachers, a growing body of literature recognizes the crucial role of relationships and support from colleagues (Mansfield, Beltman, & Price, 2014). Few empirical studies, however, investigate this relational aspect of teacher induction thoroughly from a network perspective. The main objective of this study is to explore the position of beginning teachers within the dynamic web of ties that make up their school team.
In total, eight primary schools and their ten beginning teachers (two males, eight females) participated in the study.
Data was collected using a follow-up mixed-method social network design. First, a questionnaire was distributed to the team members of all participating primary schools on three moments over one school-year. They were asked to report about their instrumental (“Whom do you go to for work-related issues?”) and expressive network (“Whom do you go to for personal matters?”). To deepen the quantitative results, every measurement was followed by semi-structured interviews with all beginning teachers. Hereby further information about their ties (e.g. support) with colleagues (ego network) and the school team in general was obtained.
Currently, results of the first measurement (December 2016) are discussed.
The average response rate for the whole-school questionnaire was 96.5%. There is noticeable variation between schools; some are densely connected, while others are rather sparse. More specifically, for the instrumental networks, density ranged between .46 and .93. For the expressive networks, density ranged between .24 and .43. Moreover, for the instrumental and affective networks respectively, the normalized in-degree for beginning teachers varied between 1 and .47, and .53 and 0; the normalized out-degree between 1 and .31, and .71 and 0. These results reveal large differences among teachers’ power potential in the network. A high in-degree (receiving many ties) is an indicator of being popular or prominent. A high out-degree (initiating many ties) implies being an influential person. During interviews, differences between networks and positions of beginning teachers within networks were substantiated. One teacher explained not to discuss personal matters with colleagues because during breaks she stays in her classroom due to high workload.
A multitude of studies has already focused on the challenging teacher induction. However, studies regarding this period using a network perspective are scarce. By exploring the beginning teachers’ school networks and the position of beginning teachers in these networks, this study broadens the theory building on teacher induction. When data-collection of all three measurements is completed, we will focus on beginning teachers’ positional changes and/or absence of changes during one school-year and how this relates to factors affecting retention (e.g. job satisfaction).
Ingersoll, R.M., & Strong, M. (2011). The impact of induction and mentoring programs for beginning teachers: A critical review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 81, 201-233.
Mansfield, C., Beltman, S., & Price, A. (2014). “I’m coming back again!” The resilience process of early career teachers. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 20, 547-567.