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Lee Kem, Murray State University

LeeKem.jpgWeaver (2002) noted that “almost a third of America's teachers leave the profession sometime during their first three years of teaching, and almost half leave after five years.” A plethora of information is available regarding what can be done to promote retention after the new teacher is employed. To increase the probability of remaining in the teaching field, can this teacher dropout problem be addressed at the college level? What issues are involved? What can advisors of education majors do to help address this problem?

There are three areas of concern that affect the new teacher dropout rate:

  • Lack of academic preparation and subsequent lack of content knowledge required for teaching in the classroom
  • Teacher dispositions
  • Lack of “goodness of fit” for the teaching profession

Lack of students’ academic preparation can result from a combination of student-related factors, such as the rigor of college classes, poor study strategies, and lack of understanding of their own learning, writing, and test-taking styles. Many freshmen enter college without a personal understanding of these issues. Within the first two months of the freshman year, it is important that students complete assessments; results from these assessments can help enhance the probability of students’ success in college and in their majors. Student results from assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ® not only help advisors better relate to students, but can be useful in raising students’ understanding of themselves.

Assessment results can tell the advisor if the student learns best through class discussion. In instances where this is the case, a lecture class may be more difficult and thus the advisor may suggest that students register for fewer course credits during that semester. Students who prefer group study can be guided toward professors who utilize group work in classes. The better the “fit” between the students’ learning, writing, and test taking styles and the teaching style of the professors, the easier it should be for students to learn. Students who understand their test taking styles should find it easier to study for different types of tests and achieve better grades. Knowledge of individual preferences for acquiring and gathering information, how to make decisions, and how to relate to others, can have a powerful impact on student success in college and in future careers.

Online assessments such as the MBTI ® Form M provide continued access to the results by any advisor even if students change their majors. The advisor has access to the assessment results every semester and the continuity in advising can be most beneficial in helping students utilize campus resources such as the learning center, tutoring services, and study skills classes.

Students who lack understanding of the connection between their own styles of learning, studying, and test-taking are more likely to encounter academic problems leading to probation. At midterm, advising can focus on the link between low grades and the self-knowledge gained from the assessment results. Students can make adjustments to increase the probability of their success in college.

Students’ dispositions are another area of concern that can result in students being required to change to another major. Some students may continue through the program and be certified to teach without identification of dispositions issues. When transferred from the college student environment into the school setting where the “recent student” is quickly thrust into the demanding “adult teacher” role, new teachers’ dispositions can cause relationship problems with students, other teachers, and administrators. This abrupt change in environment, roles, and relationships can cause severe stress, often resulting in dissatisfaction, dropout or dismissal from the teaching profession. The root cause of this problem can be a lack of understanding of self and the fit necessary for different types of majors. Assessment results can point to areas of deficiency for the teaching profession that could be considered strengths for other majors and careers.

Another reason students experience difficulty in the education program and in the teaching field is “goodness of fit.” Holland (1992) suggested that individuals with certain interests and characteristics are more attracted to certain career fields. There are several interest inventories available that will help assess the goodness of fit for career fields, including education. One inventory based on Holland’s ideas is the Strong Interest Inventory ® (SII). Advisors may find the SII’s online version to be especially useful, especially the Career Report based on the combined results of the MBTI and the Strong Interest Inventory. The inventory can help students determine if their interests are not a good “fit” for the teaching field. When it is necessary to advise students to change majors out of the education program, showing them other options based on their interest inventory can make the decision more palatable. When students see that their preferences and interests offer numerous possible career options, it is often easier to accept the advice to change majors.

Murray State University education advisors who utilize the MBTI and Strong Interest Inventory (SII) with all incoming freshmen know that assessment results can open the doors for expanded discussion about studying, learning, and appropriate choice of major. This can be an important component of developmental advising; as students gain a better understanding of self, they are empowered and equipped to make better choices and decisions.

Can advisors help reverse the dropout rate of new teachers? YES, YES, YES for three important reasons that relate directly to the use of assessment results:

  • When the advisor knows students’ preferences and interests early in the freshman year, the advisor can better understand students and provide higher quality advising.
  • Utilization of assessment results enhances students’ self-understanding, use of campus resources, and increases the probability that students will choose appropriate majors.
  • The increased knowledge of both advisor and students can result in better student decisions thus reducing the total number of “major changes” for the university --- a win-win for the students, the university and, most importantly, the education majors’ future pupils.

Lee Kem
Associate Professor
Murray State University
College of Education
Lee.Kem@coe.murraystate.edu

Holland, J. L. (1992). Making vocational choices (2nd edition). Odessa, F: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Weaver. R. (November 2002). President's viewpoint: A respect shortage. National Education Association. Retrieved November 29, 2007 from www.nea.org/neatoday/0211/presview.html

Cite this article using APA style as: Kem, L. (2008, March). Avoiding teacher 'dropouts'. Academic Advising Today, 31(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2008 March 31:1

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