Researcher says newer teachers most likely to be engaged at work

Aug 16, 2013

Conventional wisdom says experienced teachers are often the best teachers, right?

But KU researcher Shane Lopez says it might not be that simple.

According to Lopez, K-12 teachers with less than one year of experience are the most engaged teachers at work, at 35.1 percent, based on . Engagement falls precipitously to 30.9 percent for teachers with one to three years of experience, and it falls further to 27.9 percent for educators with three to five years of experience. Engagement improves slightly for teachers with five to 10 years of experience (30.8 percent) and again for those teaching more than 10 years (31.8) but is still significantly lower than the first-year rate.

"For our nation, this means more than 2.5 million of our 3.7 million K-12 teachers are not bringing their best selves to work every day," said Lopez, a psychologist and professor of the practice in the KU School of Business and senior for Gallup. "For like me, it means that four of my son's six teachers aren't fully engaged."

Lopez' findings are based on Gallup surveys of more than 7,265 American K-12 teachers, conducted in 2012.

There's some important context to these findings, Lopez explained. First, overall, teachers' engagement ranks high compared with other occupations. In fact, teachers rank No. 4 in engagement on a list of 12 different measured in the survey. Additionally, the pattern of teacher engagement dropping over time is not unique to the teaching profession. In fact, it exists in every non-teaching occupation group surveyed.

But the size of the decline in engagement over time is greater among teachers than in other occupation groups. This is partly because new teachers have higher levels of engagement than new workers in non-teaching jobs. But it also seems to be the result of something specific to the teaching profession that causes teacher engagement rates to fall more dramatically than in other professions, Lopez said.

"The data suggest that teachers rank high in engagement among the 12 occupational groups because they are the most likely of all professions to say that at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day and are more likely to strongly agree with the statement 'there is someone at work who encourages my development,'" Lopez said. "But despite having higher engagement than the national average, teachers are the least likely of all to say, 'at work my opinions seem to count.' That latter statement could help explain the large in engagement over time."

The engagement findings are based on Americans' assessments of workplace elements with proven linkages to performance outcomes, including productivity, customer service, quality, retention, safety and profit.

Gallup's employee engagement index categorizes workers as engaged, not engaged or actively disengaged. Engaged workers are deeply involved in and enthusiastic about their work and actively contributing to their organization. Those who are not engaged are satisfied with their workplaces but not emotionally connected to them – and these employees are less likely to put in discretionary effort. Those workers categorized as actively disengaged are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace, and they jeopardize the performance of their teams.

So what are the implications of these findings? According to Lopez, school leaders should make the most of the relatively higher engagement of today's newest teachers and support these educators throughout their careers to maintain this engagement. School leaders can focus first on selecting talented teachers and drastically improve the environment in which teachers and students every day.

"A key choice educational leaders make is who to put in the classroom, which is why hiring and engaging great teachers is a vital step to school success," he said. "Engaged teachers not only challenge students to grow, they also encourage and engage their fellow , building the foundation for great schools."

Explore further: World population likely to peak by 2070

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Student engagement more complex, changeable than thought

Jun 20, 2013

A student who shows up on time for school and listens respectfully in class might appear fully engaged to outside observers, including teachers. But other measures of student engagement, including the student's emotional ...

Time-poor parents go digital to communicate

Apr 16, 2013

Teachers are turning to twitter, blogging and Facebook as a way of keeping in touch with parents about their child's learning, and according to QUT education expert Associate Professor Margaret Lloyd it is ...

Recommended for you

World population likely to peak by 2070

21 hours ago

World population will likely peak at around 9.4 billion around 2070 and then decline to around 9 billion by 2100, according to new population projections from IIASA researchers, published in a new book, World Population and ...

Bullying in schools is still prevalent, national report says

22 hours ago

Despite a dramatic increase in public awareness and anti-bullying legislation nationwide, the prevalence of bullying is still one of the most pressing issues facing our nation's youth, according to a report by researchers ...

Study examines effects of credentialing, personalization

Oct 23, 2014

Chris Gamrat, a doctoral student in learning, design and technology, recently had his study—completed alongside Heather Zimmerman, associate professor of education; Jaclyn Dudek, a doctoral student studying learning, design ...

Data indicate there is no immigration crisis

Oct 22, 2014

Is there an "immigration crisis" on the U.S.-Mexico border? Not according to an examination of historical immigration data, according to a new paper from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

User comments : 0