Alternative pathways to becoming a teacher – and reasons to stay one

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Highly competent teachers and school leaders are essential for well-functioning education, and staff shortages can hold back individual learning, school development, or progress in entire education systems. European governments and authorities are therefore working together to identify policies and practices to raise the attractiveness of careers in teaching and school leadership.

Among other things, they can achieve this by:

  • understanding what it takes to support beginning teachers through the difficult first years, to keep them from dropping out altogether;
  • motivating serving teachers by opening diverse and interesting career perspectives (both inside and outside the classroom);
  • harnessing the potential of appraisal and feedback, collaboration and leadership to support every teacher in growing, both personally and professionally, for better student learning.

Below are three possible paths to these goals.

A new way for new talents in teaching

There is a well-charted course to becoming a teacher – namely, graduating from secondary school, studying teaching in an educational establishment, then undergoing practical training. But that is only a norm, and we need not take it for granted. The NEWTT project tests alternative pathways to teacher certification in countries that need it. The partners were curious to see how “career swappers” compare with classical teachers.

NEWTT: A New Way for New Talents in Teaching from Teach For All on Vimeo.

Some first results came out in January 2018: aside from their pedagogical knowledge and didactic skills, the newcomers in Austria exhibit a great amount of enthusiasm and empathy. Moreover, the two types of teachers supplement each other’s experience: according to educational expert Gudrun Feucht, the newcomers “help to make lessons more practical and bring perspectives from the professional world”. To them, it is a win-win situation, exemplified by Peter and Cristian in the video below.

NEWTT is a multiannual policy experimentation project (Key Action 3), supported through Erasmus+ and involving 5 countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania and the Basque Region of Spain.

The right environment to “retain” teachers

It is one thing to study teaching and another to practise it. Many young teachers find this transition difficult, leading them to quit the profession after only a few years. High workload and stress, the behaviour management of pupils, difficult relationships with parents, and a lack of support from school management were the main problems that the Retain project diagnosed.

However, it had some ideas on how to address these issues. Chief among them was a toolbox for school managers and teachers, developed and tested with the collaboration of teachers and pupils, and complete with instructions on how to use it. The project also published course materials in five languages, and organised a series of workshops – all with the aim of creating an inclusive and creative work environment, which encourages teachers to stay.

Retain ran from 2013 to 2016 in five countries: Belgium, Denmark, Spain, the United Kingdom and Turkey. It received funding from the European Commission in The Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP), and was designated a success story and a good practice example.

Online support for beginning teachers and their mentors

A key factor in the career of a new teacher is induction – early career support in the first school they work in. Induction has been shown to increase job satisfaction and self-efficacy, motivate teachers to undertake professional development, and eventually turn them into mentors for other teachers (TALIS 2013). These findings inspired the INDUCAS project, which looked for technological tools that could help to support the process.

The project’s main outputs included:

  • an online professional development course for mentors (MOOC);
  • an online platform supporting peer networks of beginning teachers, where they could undertake activities, share experiences and learn about ways to deal with immediate issues;
  • an online platform supporting peer networks of mentors, where they could also discuss issues and find ways to better support beginning teachers.

In this way, the two groups gained a broader perspective outside of their local context.

The European Commission recently published the INDUCAS full report in English and its executive summary in six languages – featuring more information about the project, its key conclusions, and future recommendations.

INDUCAS is a European Union-funded pilot project which ran between 2017 and 2018. It was designed and implemented by European Schoolnet and partners in four pilot countries: France, Italy, Romania and Sweden.