Teachers in Next Education Workforce™ models are more satisfied than teachers in traditional classroom models
R. Lennon Audrain & Claire Shaner
When the Merrimack College Teacher Survey results came out earlier this year, it found something alarming: only 12% of teachers nationally are very satisfied with their jobs. The survey also found that 44% of teachers say they are very or fairly likely to leave the education profession in the next two years.
With this in mind, we’re not surprised that the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association found in their most recent survey that there are over 2,000 reported teacher vacancies in Arizona. Findings like these support the claims of an impending teacher exodus. While some believe that this means that we should double down on teacher recruitment and retention, these efforts alone will simply no longer be enough.
Teaching as a career needs a remodel. The education workforce will have to be designed differently to meet the modern needs of educators and learners alike. Fortunately, a new team-based staffing model piloted in Arizona schools shows promising results. Below, we share primary analyses and findings from a recent survey by Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for Education Policy and secondary analyses and findings from Arizona State University. Of note, the Johns Hopkins University study indicates that educators in Next Education Workforce models are more satisfied, collaborate more and believe they have better teacher-student interactions than educators in traditional staffing models.
Working in partnership
For years, Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College has worked in partnership with school systems to redesign school staffing models to improve outcomes for both educators and students. We call this effort the Next Education Workforce™ initiative. In these models, teachers work on teams instead of working as one teacher, alone, in one classroom. This allows teachers to identify their unique expertise to deliver deeper and personalized learning to all students.
To understand the experiences of teachers working in these models, MLFTC partnered with John Hopkins’ institute to measure how teachers are doing in these models, exploring questions like:
- How satisfied are teachers with their job, and how does this compare to teachers in the same district who are in the traditional one-teacher, one-classroom models?
- What do teachers in both models say about their interactions with their students?
- What is collaboration among teachers like?
- Was teaming associated with how teachers responded to the challenge of the pandemic?
The Institute for Education Policy distributed the survey to over 3,000 teachers in Mesa Public Schools, the largest school district in Arizona and the Next Education Workforce initiative’s largest district partner. Nearly 70% of teachers — in both Next Education Workforce models and traditional classroom models — responded to the survey, volunteering insight on their experiences.
Teachers in Next Education Workforce models are more satisfied than teachers in traditional classroom models.
75% of teachers in Next Education Workforce said they were somewhat or extremely satisfied with their teaching job, compared to 66% of traditional classroom teachers in the same district. One teacher in a Next Education Workforce model said, “I have a lot of fun every day at my job…I enjoy working with my co-teacher.”
At double the frequency, teachers in Next Education Workforce models collaborate more compared to teachers in traditional classroom models.
Team-based collaboration is a central component to Next Education Workforce models. One Next Education Workforce teacher in Mesa wrote, “I have a ton of support from my teammates and admin at my school. I feel like they are here to coach me and make me a better teacher.” Next Education Workforce teachers report higher levels of almost daily collaboration at double the frequency of their colleagues in traditional classroom models. Specifically, Next Education Workforce teachers collaborate almost daily at double the frequency to:
- develop materials or activities for lessons (34% compared to 14%)
- develop instructional strategies (25% compared to 10%)
- use assessment data to inform teaching decisions (19% compared to 6%)
- discuss what helps students learn best (30% compared to 15%)
I have a ton of support from my teammates and admin at my school. I feel like they are here to coach me and make me a better teacher.Mesa Public Schools Next Education Workforce teacher
Teachers in Next Education Workforce models believe they have better teacher-student interactions compared to teachers in traditional classroom models.
48% of teachers in Next Education Workforce models strongly agreed that they had quality teacher-student interactions. One Next Education Workforce teacher attributed this to the “friendly staff that cares for students.” Only 41% of traditional classroom teachers strongly agreed that they had quality teacher-student interactions.
Teachers in Next Education Workforce models believe their students received better instruction during COVID compared to teachers in traditional classroom models.
Schools faced a multitude of challenges during the 2021-22 school year, including a surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Omicron exacerbated school staffing problems, and many worried about the variant’s impact on students’ access to effective instruction. In Next Education Workforce models, 30% of teachers who had COVID themselves were confident or extremely confident in the instruction their students were receiving when they were away, 5% higher than that of teachers in traditional models. In part, this is due to the supportive structure of Next Education Workforce models. One teacher remarked “school is set up in teams [of teachers] with a strong network for student support.”
A future-focused research agenda
These initial, educator-level findings are promising indicators that educators in Next Education Workforce models are satisfied, collaborate more formally and frequently and have better teacher-student interactions. Further research is needed to determine causation, specifically around whether differences observed are the result of educators working in team-based Next Education Workforce models instead of some systemic difference between the groups surveyed. However, the findings outlined in the study do provide valuable insight into the unique experiences of Next Education Workforce teachers compared to teachers in traditional classroom models.
If you are interested in reading more about this survey’s findings or methodology, see JHU’s full technical report here.
As our team continues to dive deeper into research that builds upon these findings, we are excited to learn more about how this new take on teaching and learning might benefit teachers and students.
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and The School Superintendents Association (AASA), through its Learning 2025 Network, have teamed up to help school systems build Next Education Workforce models.
Systems-level leaders are invited to join us for a series of virtual meetings in 2022–23 to learn more about this work and how to launch team-based models in their local contexts. Learn more or register.
About the authors
R. Lennon Audrain is a doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. He studies the Next Education Workforce initiative and grow-your-own educator programs.
Claire Shaner, MMR, is a Research Analyst in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College with a background in statistics, communications and market research.