Enhancing Effectiveness and Connectedness among Early Career Teachers in Urban Schools
Co-Principal Investigators: Marc Atkins, Stacy Frazier, Ané Maríńez-Lora, Bridget Hamre, Mark Smylie and Michelle Parker-Katz
Purpose: Early career teachers working in low-income communities experience teacher attrition rates of nearly 50%. Two of the strongest predictors of attrition are teachers' classroom management skills and their ability to engage students in learning. In this study, the researchers will develop, refine, and test the feasibility of a professional development (PD) model for early career teachers working in poor urban communities. The PD model will target teachers’ classroom management skills and ability to engage students (for the purpose of this study, called teachers’ effectiveness) as well as teachers’ relationships with colleagues and connection to the school (called teachers’ connectedness). The PD model involves pairing early career teachers with peer-nominated teacher mentors and coaches (retired veteran teachers) to provide knowledge dissemination and intensive classroom support in classroom management and motivating learners. The PD model also includes a professional learning community component designed to promote early career teachers' connectedness to colleagues. The researchers hypothesize that developing teachers' classroom effectiveness and connectedness to colleagues will promote positive academic and behavioral outcomes for students.
Project Activities: The researchers will use a mixed method iterative research design to develop, refine, and pilot test a professional development model for early career teachers that targets enhancing their effectiveness with students (classroom management and student engagement) and connectedness with colleagues.
Products: Products will include prototypes of all intervention manuals, training manuals, and measures to evaluate the outcomes of interest for the PD model. The fully developed PD model targeting the effectiveness and connectedness of early career teachers working in kindergarten through eighth-grade classrooms in poor, urban environments can be disseminated to schools and will be used in designing the Goal 3 study.
Setting: Three public schools (kindergarten to eighth grade) in a large urban center in Illinois.
Population: Study participants will include 12 to 15 early career teachers (i.e., those with three or fewer years teaching experience), 9 key opinion leader (KOL) mentors who are currently teachers within the three study schools, and 2 coaches who are retired teachers with experience in the school district.
Intervention: A professional development model for early career teachers that targets their effectiveness with students (classroom management and student engagement) and connectedness with colleagues. The model includes two specific components: (a) Classroom Support in the form of knowledge dissemination from teacher mentors and classroom-based coaching from experienced teachers in the district to provide modeling, demonstration, and feedback on classroom management and student motivational practices; and (b) a Professional Learning Communities program that promotes mutual support and shared leadership to foster connectedness and trust among teachers within a school.
Research Design and Methods: The research team will use a mixed methods research design to establish the feasibility and acceptability of the professional development model, and the promise of the model for impacting the proximal teacher outcomes of increased effectiveness (management and engagement of students) and connectedness (relationships with fellow teachers and connection to the school community). In Year 1, the research team will develop and implement the classroom support curriculum and the Professional Learning Communities program in one school to pilot the proposed procedures. In Years 2 and 3, the revised model will be fully packaged and implemented in two additional schools to test the model’s feasibility and promise for increasing teacher effectiveness and connectedness.
Control Condition: There is no control condition.
Key Measures: Fidelity of the professional development model will be measured using researcher-developed checklists. Early career teachers, teacher mentors and coaches (retired veteran teachers) will participate in semi-structured interviews and focus groups to assess in depth their experience with the professional development model and conditions that promote and hinder implementation. The potential impact of the model on teachers’ effectiveness will be measured using semi-structured interviews, the Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale (TSE), and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). The potential impact of the model on teachers’ sense of connectedness will be measured using semi-structured interviews, sociometric interviews, the Teacher-Teacher Trust Scale, the Teacher Commitment Scale, and the Professional Community Index.
Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative methods, including thematic analyses of interview and focus group data, will help assess the feasibility and acceptability of the PD model. Quantitative methods will be used to determine whether the PD model impacts proximal teacher outcomes related to effectiveness in managing classrooms and motivating learners and connectedness to colleagues. Using a within series (A/B) single case design, variability in the level, trend, and stability of a data series will be assessed as a phase change is introduced (i.e., initiation of the PD model). Reliable Change Index Scores will be used as ancillary evidence that the PD model shows promise in impacting the effectiveness of early career teachers. Social network analyses will help evaluate the promise of the model in increasing the connectedness of early career teachers to colleagues. Triangulation of qualitative semi-structured interviews, rating scales and a standardized direct classroom observation system (i.e., the CLASS) will be used to obtain multiple sources of evidence and confirm findings through their corroboration across different research methodologies.
Publications from this project:
Shernoff, E.S., Marinez-Lora, A., Frazier, S.L., Jakobsons, L.J., Atkins, M.S., and Bonner, D. (2011). Teachers Supporting Teachers in Urban Schools: What Iterative Research Designs Can Teach Us. School Psychology Review, 40: 465–485.