Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version

Spring 5-7-2014


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Teaching, Curriculum, and Learning), Under the Supervision of Professor Stephen A. Swidler. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Thomas J. Kolbe


Early career teachers are moving within or from the profession at an alarming rate. The intent of moving schools, districts, or exiting the profession creates instability in the profession. This is costly to student learning, improvement efforts and financially. Teacher attrition tends to be higher in schools where the need for high quality teaching is the greatest: high-poverty and low-performing schools. Improving teachers’ work environment and professional developments are more cost effective and influential in convincing teachers to remain.

The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions that K-12 early career teachers indicate for the intent of attrition from or within the profession and the relationship to the professional supports of the workplace. A sample of 353 K-12 teachers with two to four years of experience in a Midwestern state responded to a 47-item researcher designed Internet survey. The instrument gathered the participants’ perceptions of workload, professional supports, and instability in the workplace as they relate to the intent to move schools, districts, or to exit the profession. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression were used to analyze these variables.

The intent for moving schools, districts and exiting the profession are related to multiple factors including an unmanageable workload and perceptions of position and workplace instability. The intent to move school districts is also related to the lack of professional supports from colleagues, school leadership, and the school climate. The results of the study confirm that multiple professional supports, including job-embedded professional development and a school climate of trust, influence the intent of early career teachers’ career decisions.

Adviser: Stephen Swidler