MILLENNIAL TEACHERS DAILY LIVED EXPERIENCES IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Hilary Lang Greenebaum
B.A. San Francisco State University, 1980
M.A. University of North Carolina at Wilmington, 1998
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy,
Educational Leadership and Innovation, 2009
2009 by Hilary Lang Greenebaum
All rights reserved.
This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
Hilary Lang Greenebaum
has been approved
Greenebaum, Hilary, L. (Doctor of Philosophy, Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Teachers Voices: Millennial Teachers Daily Lived Experiences in Public Schools
Thesis directed by Dorothy Garrison-Wade, Ph.D.
The purpose of this phenomenological research study is to describe the
experiences of the youngest cohort of teachers in order to gain a deeper understanding of
their professional lives and thus potentially retain them in the profession. Currently, a
large number of teachers leave the field within the first few years. Teacher turnover leads
to unnecessary financial expenditure, organizational instability, low levels of
organizational pedagogy, and a revolving door of adults in students lives. While there
are a number of studies that report on teacher turnover, none found use the qualitative
method of phenomenology or the generational theory of Strauss and Howe (1991, 1997,
2000) to frame the work. The socio-historical context, in which people grew up, enables
development of a generational profile that members carry throughout life. Strauss and
Howe purport that every generation in the U.S. is distinctive.
This study describes the experiences of six metropolitan teachers who teach
Reading, Writing, Math, and/or Science to students in grades 3-10. Each of the six
participants is described by a summary story, five major themes (Professional Identity,
Affective Reactions, Technology and Social Networking, Cultural Implications, and
Professional and Administrative Supports), and the essence of the phenomenon under
investigation, working in a school. Each teacher experiences a number of active internal
and external processes in their daily life as a teacher; therefore, the essence of these
particular six teachers experiences is Seeking to Thrive. An abundance of teachers
quotes lends credibility and authenticity to the study.
Beyond pure phenomenological description, recommendations for the profession
are included. Recommendations begin with acknowledgment that Millennials are
different from other generations. A longer duration and more intense pre-service teaching
experience would assist in development of teacher identity and understanding of cultural
implications in public schools. The establishment of collaborative structures and time for
teacher determined professional development would meet teacher needs. Moreover,
increasing support of leaders might lead to more support of teachers. Comprehensive and
efficient hiring practices could smooth the transition between university and classroom.
Areas of further research include more study on teachers perceptions, leadership, and
how to integrate interactive, technological learning processes.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its
This work is dedicated to my husband, Howard, who has whole-heartedly supported me
during graduate school and the dissertation process. 1 am indebted to his good-natured
and consistent encouragement of my achieving a professional dream.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. INTRODUCTION .................................................1
Background of the Study....................................3
Significance of the Study..................................8
Definitions of Terms......................................10
2. LITERATURE REVIEW............................................20
Contemporary Context for School...........................20
Ubiquitous and Accelerating Technology at School.....23
Profile of Millennials...............................27
Millennials at Work..................................28
Other Attitudes and Perspectives
Attrition and Migration........................................36
The Perfect Storm in Education.................................39
Why Teachers Leave.............................................40
Teachers Affective Reactions to Teaching.................51
Effects of Teachers Leaving....................................54
3. RESEARCH DESIGN.......................................................64
Qualitative Research Methods...................................66
Study Setting and Sample..................................70
Data Collection via Interviewing..........................73
Phenomenological Analysis of Data............................79
4. FINDINGS ...........................................................88
Teach for America............................................92
Telling their Stories........................................93
Amanda Experiences Teaching as Working and Learning..........94
Amy Experiences Teaching as Perseverance.....................98
Emily Experiences Teaching as a Joyful Calling..............103
Erin Experiences Teaching as Demonstration of Caring........107
Mary Experiences Teaching as Social Activism................Ill
Stephanie Experiences Teaching as Passion and Sacrifice.....116
Five Major Themes...........................................121
Technology and Social Networking.......................136
Professional and Administrative Supports...............144
Essence of the Phenomenon
Addressing Research Questions..........................156
5. DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS...............................166
Interpretation and Discussion of the Five Themes.......166
Technology and Social Networking..................170
Professional and Administrative Supports..........174
Patterns of Experience............................179
Interpretation and Discussion of the Essence...........181
Recommendations for Higher Education..............184
Recommendations to School Leaders.................186
Recommendations to Teachers.......................189
A. FIRST CONTACT TO FIND POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS.............195
B. LETTER TO POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS.........................197
C. INFORMED CONSENT..........................200
D. DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY........................204
E. ARTICLES READ PRIOR TO INTERVIEWS.........208
LIST OF TABLES
2.1 Mood of the four turnings.........................................59
4.1 Demographic survey results........................................91
At the very end of December 2007, an on-line commentary1 in the newspaper
Education Week sparked a firestorm of electronic comments in the world of bloggers,
commonly called the blogosphere. Titled Gen Y Teachers Want to Innovate;
Education Leaders Lag Behind, the author described how young teachers of the
Millennial generation are incompatible with a stagnant education system that can be
painfully isolating and uninspiring (Laine, 2007). Millennials, also called Generation
Y, were bom approximately 1980 2000. They are the youngest cohort of new
teachers at work in schools today. Laine asked if the profession will nurture or
negate these young teachers ideas and contributions in an era of a competitive,
knowledge driven, global economy as the nation is on the brink of a national labor
shortage due to large numbers of retiring workers (Laine, 2007).
What concerns me about this stagnant education system is the impact on
students. The raison d'etre for school is students; moreover, students are at the center
of my interest. Our students, their welfare, enthusiasm for learning, and academic
requirements are my top educational priorities and they need effective teachers. My
educational practice has been in service to students; working directly with teachers is
1 The commentary was not published in the hardcopy version; it is found at
wwvv.edweek.org/ew/articles/20Q7/12/21/171aine web.h27.html). Laine is the Director of the National
Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality.
how I elect to manifest my practice since adults have the power to change educational
policies and power structures. Thus, this study will directly address teachers.
To help answer the crucial question Laine raised about whether the profession
nurtures or negates our youngest teachers, over 850 Millennial teachers across the
United States revealed their opinions in a survey about working in public schools.
These young teachers expressed desire to have freedom to be creative, have the power
to make a difference, have opportunities to grow, obtain rewards for being effective,
and see an end to the one-size fits-all model of instruction (Rochkind, Ott,
Immerwahr, Doble, & Johnson, 2007). The young public school teachers also
overwhelmingly indicate they would choose more administrative support in lieu of
significant salary increases (Rochkind et al., 2007). Increasingly, educators such as
Laine are suggesting that educators listen to what teachers say since teachers are at
the heart of education reform and largely responsible for students achievement.
This research study attempts to listen to and understand young teachers
experiences of their teaching in public schools. If they stay in the profession, they
may evolve to be master teachers or the next generations educational leaders. This
study, grounded in the qualitative methodology of phenomenology, attempts to go
deeper than a survey and ask, what does teaching today mean to these young public
school teachers? The phenomenon under investigation is teaching for teachers under
the age of 28. This phenomenological study asks how Millennial teachers experience
their teaching career after they have completed their formal, state-mandated, district
induction program. Ideally, this study reveals what types of school and district
leadership actions could influence Millennial teachers to remain in teaching for
longer periods and thereby increasing organizational stability, which in turn may
positively influence student success and achievement.
This introductory chapter describes the central problem surrounding the
research questions, followed by an introduction to the theoretical framework and
purpose of the study. The significance and phenomenological research design of the
study further supports the research questions. Terms, assumptions, limitations, the
scope of the study, the researchers perspective, and a chapter summary will complete
Background of the Study
As a profession, educators ask teachers who are in their early-mid twenties,
and who have grown up within a specific cultural context, to flourish in a system that
scholars have claimed for years is outdated and archaic (Laine, 2007). This young
generation, called the Millennials by scholars Strauss and Howe (1991, 1997, 2000)
embody a particular set of characteristics. They are different from any other
generation due to the specific historical and cultural context in which they grew up.
According to Strauss and Howe (1991), the originators and preeminent experts on
generation theory, every generation has underlying currents of similarities, which
shape a generational profile in broad strokes.
While Millennial teachers are the central focus of this study, the surrounding
context for education today warrants discussion. There are a number of converging
forces, often called a perfect storm, brewing in our current educational landscape
(Budig, 2006). Some of the storms characteristics include high rates of teacher
attrition and migration, the inevitable retirement of older teachers, low salary, higher
student enrollment, and students with more learning and social needs (e.g. poverty)
all coalescing in a test-centric system noted by some to represent a curricular
disconnect between real world and school (Renzulli, 2008). College expenses, the
high cost of living, and debt aggravate the situation of teachers low earning potential
so that many teachers leave low-resource districts for higher paying districts, or leave
the profession entirely. Moreover, there is an escalating division between
schools/communities with and without resources (Budig, 2006). The inferred question
underlying this study is will young teachers stay long enough to make lasting
contributions to the profession and students benefit.
Strauss and Howe (1991, 1997, 2000) are the most frequently cited scholars
studying Millennials. With backgrounds in history and economics, they developed a
theory of generations in the early 1990s that examined and explained how changing
socio-cultural contexts for generational cohorts changed members life experiences
via unified memories, shared language, habits, beliefs, and life lessons. The
experiences of every generation result in significant broad rhythms of American
history. From 1584 on, Strauss and Howe examined each of generations present in
American history (each generation is about 17-22 years long) and developed a theory
of cohort-based generations that is both explanatory and potentially predictable. A
comprehensive discussion of Strauss and Howes theory of generational cohorts is in
Chapter II as I describe the conceptual framework supporting this study of Millennial
The generation called Millennials was bom starting in the early 1980s in a
time Strauss and Howe term a crisis, or fourth turning. At the date of this study, the
oldest of this generation are now in their middle to late twenties. They were wanted,
protected, children; many were organized into a plethora of structured activities, and
their efforts were celebrated. During their coming of age years, the Millennials did
not live with the realities of military conscription, which ended in 1973, struggles
over civil rights, or the assassinations of political or religious leaders. These
youngsters grew up with sophisticated electronic technologies, thus are extremely
comfortable with all kinds of hardware and software. As a result, Millennials are
accustomed to and expect innovation and continual learning. As a generational
cohort, they believe they are special and expect frequent feedback. Additionally, they
are tolerant of diversity, strive to be inclusive, and are collaborative in nature.
Millennials want to work on teams and appreciate advice from their coaches and
mentors (Strauss & Howe, 2000; Richardson, 2008). As such, Millennial teachers
have much to offer the profession yet also much to learn about the world of work
Dr. Mel Levine, a professor of pediatrics, writes extensively about young
people and their readiness for college and work. According to his research (2006,
2007), our country is experiencing an epidemic of work-life unreadiness among our
youngest employees. Young employees appear to be unable to defer gratification, to
think long term, are impatient for having to start at the bottom of their career path, or
even to identify with the world of adults. The world of peers and friends offer social
acceptance while the world of work offers struggles and setbacks to which these
young adults are unaccustomed due to their safe and scripted upbringing. While Dr.
Levine does not use the term Millennial, he is clearly describing this generation.
.. .kids have grown up in an era that infiltrated them with unfettered pleasure, heavy
layers of protection, and heaps of questionably justified positive feedback. As a
result, childhood and adolescence may become nearly impossible acts to follow
(Levine, 2005, p. B12).
With this particular generational profile, the present study asks how
Millennial teachers will professionally connect with our current, well-entrenched
hierarchical public school systems that operate with numerous mandates and
increasing responsibilities for teachers (Johnson, Birkeland, Donaldson, Kardos,
Kauffman, Liu, Peske, 2004; Valli & Buese, 2007). There are myriad converging
elements that challenge the best of our youngest teachers. Millennial teachers are
caught in the intersection of a sheltered youth and the unforgiving, demanding word
of public school teaching in an era of high stakes accountability.
The purpose of this phenomenological study is to help inform the education
profession, and those who write education policy, how Millennial teachers view their
teaching career. In addition to enabling and empowering teacher voice and possible
advocacy, the immediate goal of this study is to inform the education profession of
our youngest teachers experiences. Specifically, this study can help inform school
and district leaders a deeper understanding of how to retain effective young teachers
of the Millennial generation for longer periods so they can assist to transform schools,
as well as influence social and educational policy for the benefit of students.
First, the term retention may need an adjustment in usage, due to what the
word retention now means to young workers (Coggins, 2008). Many Millennial
workers now perceive their careers to be a series of chapters with a series of differing
positions and responsibilities. To accommodate strong principles, some contemporary
young educators do not want to give up their conceptions of social justice, or
altruism, and instead of leaving the profession, plan to shift from classroom teaching
to other educated related careers (Olsen & Anderson, 2007). The idea of one position
for life is no longer a popular option (Coggins, 2008; Olsen & Anderson, 2007;
Richardson, 2008). Indeed, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (2002)
estimates that Americans can now expect to change either jobs or careers five to
seven times during their lifetime.
Finally, professors and schools of education may be interested in the
experiences of the study participants. Perhaps the participants of this study will offer
constructive comments to academia as these young teachers reflect upon their
professional education and first years of teaching. The intent of this study is to listen
and learn from young teachers.
Significance of the Study
Articles such as Laines (2007) in Education Week are a good example of the
type of commentary about young teachers opinions of teaching, but the topic of
Millennial teachers is generally an un-published domain at the time of this writing. In
the search of the literature, little specific research exists on Millennial teachers in
public schools except the book, Finders and Keepers, by Johnson et. al at The Project
on the Next Generation of Teachers (2004). Similarly, other researchers such as
Smith (2007) and Rochkind et al. (2007) discuss early career teachers yet do not
specifically differentiate their generational profile as specifically as Johnson and her
colleagues (2004). Millennial teachers are not a significant part of the literature at the
time of this writing.
As Johnson, Donaldson, and Berg (2005) posit, only a thorough investigation
of todays teachers attitudes and actions can yield findings on which to base future
policy and practice (p. 103). Clearly, there is a gap in educational research and this
study can help fill that void to help inform the education profession, school and
district leaders, policy makers, and academics. Interestingly, the nursing and business
fields are more prolific; there is a growing body of literature in both trade and
academic journals about Millennials in the workforce.
Three overarching research questions guide this phenomenological study.
1. How do Millennial, public school teachers experience their teaching career
after they have completed their formal induction program?
2. Are there school and district leadership actions that encourage Millennial
teachers to remain in teaching?
3. What does teaching mean to young, Millennial-aged, teachers today?
In addition, through extensive interviews, this study hopes to answer three
sub-questions: (a) Do young teachers today fit the Millennial profile, (b) What
motivates Millennial-aged novice teachers to stay in teaching? (c) How are their
career expectation met, or not?
Knowing the stories that people tell and think about is of paramount
importance when analyzing teachers beliefs because teachers, like all human beings,
are so different and their thinking is complex and multi-layered. Therefore, this study
is based upon the qualitative tradition of human science, phenomenology.
Phenomenology is inductive, or discovery oriented, and seeks to find the essence, or
shared truth, and meaning of the phenomenon as stated by people who have
experienced that phenomenon. Moreover, Strauss and Howe (1991) describe their
analysis of generations as people living in a specific context. Who better to speak of
Millennial teachers experiences than those same teachers?
More specifically, this study will ask that each participant read two brief
articles and think about them before each meets with the interviewer for the first of
several interviews. Each participant will be asked to relate their professional life with
the text and to relate an experience, or tell a story, of a specific event that captures
their experience as a young teacher. There will be several private interviews and
participants will have the opportunity to read their transcripts and comment upon
them. Other qualitative methodological traditions use this process, often called
member checking. In this manner, the teachers are considered co-participants in the
study. Once interviews are complete, a composite text description of their shared truth
will be written to communicate the essence of their experiences. A full description of
the study, sampling decisions, interview questions, and data analysis techniques are
explained in Chapter III.
Definitions of Terms
Several terms used throughout the study are recent additions to our daily
vernacular. Additionally, others terms are clarified for consistency. This study will
use the following definitions:
1. Attrition: Attrition refers to teachers who leave their teaching career due to
retiring, wanting to stay home to raise a family, or leaving teaching for
another job. Although some teachers leave their schools for education-related
positions, such as counselor, administrator, or curriculum specialist, the word
attrition in this study will refer to teachers who leave the profession.
2. Induction: The term induction refers to a state-mandated period of time,
whereby teachers must go through district-sponsored classes of events or
seminars. In this state, new teacher induction typically lasts one year.
3. Migration: In this study, migration means teachers leave one school building
for another school building. School buildings may be in the same school
district, but often are not.
4. Millennial: Millennial is the name of the generation bom no earlier than the
early 1980s. Young adults are part of the Millennial generation. Synonyms for
the term Millennial are young, Gen Y, or the Net Generation. In this
study, the term Millennial teacher refers to young teachers under the age of 28
5. Retention: Retention, or to retain, means teachers stay teaching in their school
buildings. For the purposes of this study, retention will refer to a teacher
working in the same building for five or more years.
6. Web 2.0: Also called the read write Internet, Web 2.0 indicates the
interactivity of the Internet. Individuals have the capability to create
knowledge, documents, and media with other individuals across the globe.
This has changed expectations for work and leisure activities. Examples such
as Web logs or blogs, interactive whiteboards and mobile technology, wikis,
and Podcasts have changed the way people think about gaining knowledge
This phenomenological study is a small study, located in a western
metropolitan area. I will interview approximately six teachers two times each to
understand what teaching means to them. If the teachers have much more to say there
will be a third or even possibly a fourth interview. This study does not intend to
generalize to all young teachers, to teachers who teach similar subjects, or to teachers
in similar grades. Other factors mark the boundaries of this study: the study has a
focus on general education versus special education and the study does not
differentiate between effective or non-effective teachers. Finally, the theory that
forms the framework for this study is a study of people moving through time in
generational units. Therefore, it does not address sub-groups within those larger
groups. Examples of sub-groups are people of specific gender, ethnicity, religion, or
lifestyle choices. This study will do the same; it will address the generational cohort
of Millennials and not sub-groups within the cohort.
It is my argument that if educational leaders, which include building, district,
state and federal organizations, are more cognizant of our youngest colleagues needs,
expectations, and abilities, and then acted upon these in a productive, forward
thinking manner, our youngest teachers might be more inclined to stay in the teaching
profession. I also assume that many Millennial teachers might feel forced out of their
schools due to rigid bureaucracy, focus on external mandates, and intensity of the
work. I am also operating under an assumption that effective schools, with strong
leadership, ample resources, and a caring school community are less likely to suffer
high levels of teacher attrition.
In addition, I embrace the assumption that all of our nations students have the
right to an equitable opportunity for a meaningful education. The McKinsey Report
(Barber & Mourshed, 2007) states equal educational funding exists in other countries
and those countries are making significant gains. Australia, Finland, South Korea, and
Singapore and others are among the top ten in the Organization for Economic
Cooperative Developments (OECD) ranking while Jordan, Brazil, and several cities
in the United States (Boston, Chicago, and New York City) are making strong gains.
The powerful influence of decentralization in schools in the United States does not
facilitate an easy transition to large-scale policies dealing with educational equity
(Levin, 2008). The education leaders and politicians noted in the OECD study make
forward thinking, focused, and strategic long range plans to ensure that all students
have access to the best that country or city has to offer (Barber & Mourshed, 2007).
This counters what Jonathon Kozol (2005) shamefully calls the apartheid of the
United States public school system today. Other scholars, such as Darling-Hammond
(2007) and Glass (2008), carefully discuss and statistically dissect inequitable
educational access that often results in an achievement gap.
To achieve the best education an organizational system has to offer means that
students have the option of learning for the love of knowledge as well as for high
levels of meaningful employability. Many would agree that school-based education
has great potential to develop individual talents and life-long, worthwhile interests for
both work and pleasure. Interestingly, as U.S. corporations are bemoaning the lack of
employability of students today in the global marketplace, these same corporations
are champions of outsourcing jobs and services to the lowest international bidder. As
a result, one current paradox is that many jobs in the U.S. are predominantly service
oriented and do not require high levels of Math or Science (Glass, 2008) although
these jobs may require specialized training after high school (Darling-Hammond,
2007) . Schools play a role, but are not the defining factor of U.S. economic strength
As Giroux (2006) eloquently points out, the United States has allowed major
forces of capitalism, privatization, and market fundamentalism to infiltrate schools.
Glass (2008) is more straightforward and argues that political elites simply do not
care about equitable schools in the U.S. due to rampant xenophobia and high levels of
personal avarice. Politics and educational policy are no longer about the public good
but instead there is a gun barrel focus on test scores with the test as the educational
goal (Giroux, 2006). Although I believe all students have the right to opportunity for
academic achievement, handing over curriculum and subsequent assessment to
education industry corporate monopolies is not in our students or nations best
interests. Moreover, those currently in power also want to use business practices as
the model for running schools and believe in the factory model for school, which is
typified by sorting and selecting to keep social and political hierarchies in place
(Giroux, 2006; Glass, 2008).
Assessment has become obtrusive (Giroux, 2006; Glass, 2008; Renzulli,
2008) . Giroux (2006) continues that as education has become more technical, the
nation sacrifices authentic, meaningful learning for narrow and rigid adherence to
testing protocols and legislative mandates. For many, schooling has succumbed to
vocational training for the good of the corporation and teachers have become
technicians who administer corporately produced curriculum and assessments. These
powerful forces, among others that Giroux (2006) describe, negate a vibrant
democracy as well as obstructing relevant, engaging, rigorous instruction and the love
of learning for learning's sake. Schools are part of a larger constellation of social,
technological, political, and economic elements that cannot be ignored yet do not
constitute the central issue of this study.
As a teacher then building administrator, I immersed myself in public school
life at the elementary and middle levels. For the past almost 20 years this profession
has been more like a life style than a career. In my minds eye, I can picture many of
the students with whom I have worked, and can easily hear conversations with many
of my colleagues. The glue that holds it all together for me is the relationships
between and among people. Years ago, when I began my administrative career, my
goal was to make teaching better for teachers and which is equated in my mind with
better for students. For me, this means that teachers are treated as professionals,
work in an effective and caring school community, and are encouraged to continually
re-new themselves professionally. I feel strongly about the needs of teachers. School
leaders need to support, challenge, honor, and treat teaching staff with respect and
compassion. If that happens, I believe the chances for student success will increase.
The reason I want to explore Millennial teacher daily-lived experiences is due
to my concern for the vitality and durability of the education profession. Teaching,
for some, has become an almost impossible job (Valli & Buese, 2007). I worry that
new teachers, with their high rates of attrition, will not fill the void left by retiring
teachers. Ingersoll (2001) uses the analogy of a leaky bucket; the new stream of
teachers does not staunch the flow of other teachers leaving. Another well-used
analogy, the revolving door, infers constant flux while the former analogy, the leaky
bucket, infers waste and lack of holding capability. Both analogies are accurate and
offer visual representation of a complex and serious issue.
As a school leader, I believe that how teachers perceive their work is
important because those feelings influence their interactions with students. As an
administrator, I spent much of my time with teachers, working with them to get
through their fragmented, busy day while keeping a shared eye on the goal of student
success. I was a sounding board, confidant, cheerleader, boss, coach, and teacher.
Personally and professionally, I know that teachers can be the most important part of
school for students. What parent does not want a responsive, kind, and intelligent
teacher for his or her child? Many of us remember teachers we have known with
fondness or aversion; we know from first hand experience the effects teachers have
had on our children and ourselves. The nature and choice of a childs teacher reaches
from the most personal family conversation, through local school organizations, to
the desks of state and federal lawmakers.
Despite the previous discussion regarding teachers, I do hold biases and it is
important to clarify them. First, not all teachers are effective and I am well aware that
some need to leave the teaching profession. On the other hand, some teachers are
coach-able and need assistance to realize they need to improve, along with tools and
strategies to make those improvements. Teachers fall within a wide continuum of
varying ranges of motivation, skill, talent, and ability. It is the responsibility of school
leadership to address teacher capacity. Secondly, teachers can perform their primary
job of teaching well and yet cause problems with their peers. The micropolitics of
school personnel, of any age, can be more overwhelming for administrators than the
business of student learning and meeting parent or district expectations. Finally, as a
school leader, I wanted to hear all teachers points of view, asked for their feedback
and input, and tried to respect all faculty and staff at all times. At times, this was
difficult. At times, I wanted them to comply with what I said because it was easier for
me. This tension between listening and respecting others input while wanting to take
charge and dictate change is a bias I bring to this study, listening and learning from
Millennial teachers. My advice or interpretation of what is right or wrong at the
participants school has no place in the daily- lived experiences of Millennial teachers
who take part in this study.
I am concerned for our collective future. Our global concerns are vast and
complex. I believe it is imperative that our students have equitable access to
engaging, meaningful education so individuals can join with other active citizens
around the world. Only by working with others does the nation have a chance to alter
the trajectory of environmental degradation and destruction.2 This study is the result
of my need to take action for our students and nations sake. My goal is that the
outcome of this study will contribute to the body of research and practice that may
eventually ameliorate dissatisfaction with the status quo. Our students are inheriting a
2 The Arlington Institute lists the worlds biggest problems, which include economic collapse, peak oil,
global water crisis, species extinction, and rapid climate change, and state that these problems are so
complex and far reaching that only global initiative will abate their effects.
complex world; they are the ultimate beneficiaries of my efforts regarding teachers
This chapter has ranged from a global and national perspective to the intense
and specific focus of this study; Millennial teachers and their experiences teaching in
pubic schools. The introductory premise is that our current educational system is
stagnant and young teachers, Millennials, due to their generational profile are
incompatible with traditional schools. The intent of this study is to listen and learn
from Millennial teachers using the theoretical framework provided by Strauss and
Howe (1991, 1997, 2000).
Time, life, and history are the foundations to the theory with two revolving
cycles superimposed upon each other creating a unique and wide-ranging opportunity
for perspective. The first cycle represents American history identified in seasons
named Awakening, Unraveling, High, and Crisis. The second cycle represents lives
of American generations represented by four archetypes; Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and
Artist. As new teachers, the Millennial generation is caught in the intersection of a
sheltered youth and the challenging world of public school teaching. While other
professional domains, such as nursing and business, have explored Millennials in the
workplace the education profession has not (Hill, 2005; Raines, 2002; Skiba, 2005;
Trunk, 2007). This phenomenological study will help to augment the paucity of
research available at the time of this writing.
The philosophic traditions of human science and phenomenology require that
the researcher is transparent with their assumptions and biases, which I explained in
this chapter. My assumptions and biases range from far-reaching ideas rooted in
social justice to personal thoughts based upon my professional background as a
school leader. The essence of my concern for the topic, Millennial teachers, lies in my
care for student learning as well as the strength of the education profession.
Are our youngest teachers, the Millennials, entering an in-hospitable
profession and education system? This chapter explores a range of topics starting with
the context for schools today, explanation of the Millennial profile, and the pervasive
influence of Web 2.0 technology. Other major sections include a historical overview
of teacher retention research, the state of teacher attrition and migration today, and
reasons why teachers leave. A rationale for the theoretical framework that underpins
this study concludes the chapter.
Contemporary Context for Schools
Any discussion of the contemporary context of schools must begin with a
conversation about technology. The first wave of computer technology was a
receptive, or passive system whereby the public used the computer for applications
such as word processing or spreadsheets and expected the Internet to help find
information (Jenkins, 2006). During the 1990s, the Internet exploded into the lives of
people all over the world. How people work, entertain themselves, pursue hobbies,
find information, and learn will never be the same (Jenkins, 2006).
The second wave of Internet capability, often called Web 2.0, enables users to
interact and participate in an on-line, often wireless (mobile), networked
environment, and virtual community. Among users the capability and high regard for
speed and interactivity appear to increase every year. Web 2.0 has changed how
individuals and organizations use technology. The connectivity and interactivity of
Web 2.0 enable computer users to be active participants; now computer users are part
of a dynamic process and users can connect with anyone across the globe.
Technologies, and the Internet, have become significant personal and professional
components of many peoples lives.
The book Convergence Culture (Jenkins, 2006) offers extraordinary insight
and analysis of how the ubiquitous Internet has changed our contemporary culture.
Jenkins work at MIT focuses on how media and the Internet are intersecting and
changing our lives; his work revolves around participatory culture and collective
intelligence. According to Jenkins, the professional worlds of law, medicine, and
education, to name a few domains, will never be the same because of the power of
participatory, interactive technologies. People now have enhanced capacity to learn in
new and different ways by harnessing the power and potential of the interactive
Internet. With access and the appropriate resources, students can now create and co-
construct knowledge using new technologies such as digital video, Podcasts, instant
messaging, blogs, and Wikis. This implies a sea change in the way educators think
about, organize, and implement learning designs in schools for both teachers and
students. Millennials are on the cutting edge of new technology and are expected to
be active participants in the knowledge society (Allan, 2007).
The knowledge society requires that people across the globe be connected. To
keep the following statistics in perspective, at the end of January 2009, the U.S.
Census Bureau estimates our total global population to be approximately 6.756 billion
people while the U.S. has an estimated population of a little more than 305 million
people.3 To put usage in perspective, the total worldwide Internet audience is now an
estimated 188.9 million people.4 5
One example of burgeoning usage is blogs. The Web site Technorati has
searched and indexed 133 million blog posts since 2002. That is equivalent to
900,000 posts in a 24-hour time period. Technorati currently lists over 70,000
education or school related blogs. There have been a number of studies aimed at
understanding the size of the Blogosphere. yielding widely disparate estimates of both
the number of blogs and blog readership. All studies agree, however, that blogs are a
global phenomenon that has hit the mainstream. Furthermore, Technorati reports that
according to comScore MediaMetrix (as of August 2008). Facebook has 41.0 million
users while MySpace has 75.1 million users. In February of 2009, Facebook itself
repots it has 175 million active users.'
Social Netw'orking sites are no longer the exclusive purview of young adults.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports, The share of adult Internet users
who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the
past four years from 8% in 2005 to 35% in January 2009.6 Seventy five percent of
3 The US Census Bureau World Clock Projection site is found at
4 Technorati is a web site that has been indexing and analyzing blogs since 2002. It can be accessed at
5 For review of Facebook statistics see www.Facebook.com
6 The Pew Internet Project is an initiative of the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit fact tank that
provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. Pew Internet
explores the impact of the Internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health
online young adults, age 18-24, use social networking sites like Facebook or My
Space. This has influence on young teachers in numerous ways; a section in Chapter
IV describes the study participants thoughts about technology.
Other types of technology usage are notable. The Pew Internet & American
Life Project reports that 62% of American employees use Internet or email for
professional purposes and many carry mobile cell phones or Blackberries with
Internet capabilities to stay in touch with their professional colleagues. Furthermore,
currently, 19% of all Internet users say they have downloaded a Podcast to listen or
view at their convenience. Finally, the Pew Internet Project reports that as of January
2009, over 55% of all adult Americans now have a high-speed Internet connection at
home. Technology is clearly an integral part of contemporary life and it would be
helpful to incorporate technology into discussions concerning education for both
students and teachers. How the profession accommodates and integrates technology
usage has influence over Millennial teachers perceived attitudes and behaviors.
Ubiquitous and Accelerating Technology at School
Statistics and common knowledge indicate that Millennials are a highly social
generation. They like to remain connected online and work in teams (Prensky, 2001).
These findings are relevant for school leaders who are attempting to retain
technologically proficient young teachers. Young teachers may indicate,
professional development did not meet my needs on a statistical survey as a reason
care and civic/political life. The Project is nonpartisan and takes no position on policy issues.
to leave their building. Offering antiquated learning opportunities such as mandated
book discussion groups that are perceived as irrelevant, and lecture style staff
development, may be other reasons young teachers indicate professional development
did not meet their needs. Another possible reason for young teachers migration and
attrition could be limited access to, or limited opportunity to enhance learning of the
technology available in school buildings. Millennials are 21st century adults; they
cannot envision a life without unhampered access to evolving technology and using it
with their peers.
Knowing that rapidly changing and ubiquitous technology are paramount to
how people now operate in the world, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2007)
organizes 21st century skills into broad categories that include core academic subjects,
learning and innovation skills, information, media and technology skills as well as life
and career skills. Their framework also identifies support systems that include
standards, assessment, curriculum and instruction, professional development, and
learning environments. Grounded in the educational theory of Dewey and Vygotsky,
the Partnership for 21st Century Skills framework (2007) comes from a unique
private/public partnership between major technology companies, the United States
Department of Education, and the National Education Association. Leading
educators, researchers, and organizations such as the National School Boards
Association, National Coalition for Technology in Education and others also
contributed to the development of the framework.
It is important that educators understand that technology and industry are
moving quickly into realms of rapid technological advances reminiscent of science
fiction for the uninformed. Ray Kurzweil, pioneering inventor and futurist, maintains
that in the 21century technological advances will not equal 100 years worth of
change and innovation but instead will be akin to 20,000 years of change due to the
exponential nature of technological advances (Sides, 2006). It is wise to recall
Moores Law, a classic principle whereby computers double their speed every 18
months.7 Kurzweil prognosticates that in about 2045 there will be a human-life
changing fusion of genetics, robotics, and nanotechnology where humans actually
meld with technology (Maslin, 2005). In 2045, the oldest Millennials will be in their
early 60s with families of their own. How will todays educators manage this
accelerating dynamic without significant contribution from technologically perceptive
teachers of the Millennial generation?
Positioning students to segue seamlessly into a future that Kurzweil argues is
almost here, economists and education scholars such as Bell-Rose and Payzant (2008)
claim that the shift in educational practice should be the ability for students to be
more process versus content oriented. Demonstration of life-long learning aptitudes
such as collaborative problem solving, accessing and evaluating information,
detecting bias, as well as exercising initiative, innovation, self-regulation, and
flexibility are required (Day, 2000; Renzulli, 2008). With the rapid technological
7 For example, inexpensive laptops today exceed in capacity a super computer built in 1990 that cost
$15 million (Sides, 2006). Similarly, the cost of a single transistor cost one dollar in 1968; in 2002, one
dollar could purchase 10 million transistors (Maslin, 2005).
change present in the world today, no one can predict the types of jobs available in
the future; they are not invented yet (Bell-Rose & Payzant, 2008). With their
familiarity with Web 2.0 collaborative and interactive technology, and interest in
significant issues of the world, Millennial teachers offer the profession, and their
students, opportunities to create relevant and engaging learning opportunities that
have the potential to guide students toward an exciting and un-certain future.
Today, school leaders who are developing a multi-generational community of
learners in their buildings cannot ignore the ubiquitous aspect of Millennials daily
interaction with technology. Oblinger and Oblinger (2005) use Strauss and Howe
(1991) as a basis for their work with integrating instructional technology into learning
environments. These scholars note that Millennials typically have high abilities to
read image-rich material based upon years of reading a variety of digital images;
however, their text literacy may not be as developed. They can be intuitive in how
they manipulate technology, yet may have difficulty critically evaluating source
material. Millennials visual spatial skills are finely tuned and they are more
comfortable with learning via exploration and discovery. Their attention spans can
change rapidly from one task to another. Millennials even choose not to pay attention
to information, or people, they find uninteresting out of deference or courtesy like
previous generations due to a familiarity with focusing on what interests them at a
particular moment. Impatience trumps civility in these situations. These findings offer
new challenges to school leaders attempting to retain Millennial teachers.
Profile of Millennials
The youngest generational cohort of teachers came of age during the Internet
explosion of the 1990s. They have different identifying labels such as Millennials,
Net Gen, Gen Y, or GenMe. If they had access to technology, they are often called
digital natives (Prensky, 2001) and may have special talents and skills to offer older
digital immigrants who are currently employed in schools.
Some of the effects of growing up with digital technology are cognitively
significant. Plasticity, or malleability, refers to how thinking can change due to
experience; the need for interactivity and speed resemble the non-linear, hypertext,
digital environments in which the Millennials grew up. Speed is essential; twitch-
speed refers to the accelerated response time young people expect from their
technology. These young adults do think and act differently (Prensky, 2001).
Although digital immigrants may be proficient in technology processes, they still
have a foot in the previous non-digital world. Young teachers today are comfortable
with the interactive Internet and may be more empathetic and responsive to their
students need for digital connectivity since it mirrors their own.
As stated in an earlier section, Millennials were bom beginning in the early
1980s and are the most racially and ethnically diverse generational cohort to date
(Strauss & Howe, 2000, p. 15). Trunk (2007) reports in Time magazine that in the
U.S. there are currently 85 million Baby Boomers, 50 million Generation X, and 76
million Millennials. These young Millennial adults have gown up with life saving
vaccines, electronic games, and digital technology; they have never been barred from
places because of their race, or been barred from sports because of gender. They did
not grow up with the draft, political riots, assassinations, or the explosion of the
Challenger rocket but vividly recall the murders at Columbine High School and the
attacks of September 11, 2001 as defining moments of youth. These young adults
grew up in a time of heightened awareness of self-esteem and child protections. These
young people have participated in egalitarian team sports and cooperative learning
classrooms; they have been subject to numerous policies to protect them and decrease
In 1991, Strauss and Howe predicted adult Millennial attributes would include
characteristics such as rational, selfless, competent civic-minded adult who may be
overbold, unreflective, and insensitive (p. 365). As youngsters, young Millennial
adults have received a number of compelling messages from parents and teachers
throughout their lives which include you are special, include everyone, stay
connected 24/7, set high goals for yourself, and serve your community (Raines,
2002). Millennials are who they are due to the context in which they were raised.
Millennials at Work
Are the older generations of teachers and administrators prepared to meet the
needs and expectations of these young teachers? If not, there is a strong possibility
these young teachers will leave their schools. Based upon their research, Strauss and
Howe (2000, p. 314) discuss what Millennials will demand in their work
environment. These young people will want employment that allows them to have
families and careers at the same time; they will not tolerate the high level of stress to
which older generations have become acclimated. Salary and benefits will also be
issues in regards to fairness. As Strauss and Howe (2007) point out, housing costs
have skyrocketed so it may be difficult for young people to be able to afford to
become teachers unless salaries are dramatically increased. Finally, Strauss and Howe
(2000) explain that Millennials will want their work places to be cooperative and
reliable. Older workers are predicted to appreciate their team spirit and confidence yet
question their toughness and creativity (2000, p. 314). Indeed, some older colleagues
may misinterpret their confidence for self-centeredness and say that Millennials are
pampered, risk averse and dependent (Strauss & Howe, 2007). It is important to note
that their research, and subsequent profile, are based upon dominant, mainstream,
middle class young people. The effects of poverty, immigration, and ethnic struggles
do not factor into the profile of Millennials as this theory is an investigation of
generations not particular sub-groups within each generation.
Although Twenge (2006) disagrees with one prediction of Strauss and Howes
work on generations, overall she does agree with the description and identification of
current young people and their context. Twenges (2006) argument is that these
young people are too self-absorbed and cynical to accomplish anything for the greater
good of humanity. Strauss and Howe believe this Millennial generation will be
community minded, and thus more like the greatest generation era of World War II.
Moreover, Twenge (2006) posits anyone under the age of 35 belong to the same
cohort. She does not use prior historical or economic analysis to develop her theory.
Instead, she statistically manipulates a number of surveys taken by college-aged
students for the past 40 years. Her sample is large yet limited; college students
represent a small, privileged, group of young adults; the data they provide is out of
social context. While her book is interesting and offers a clear picture of the current
culture, her theory and psychological data appear shallow compared to Strauss and
Howes (1991, 1997, 2000) substantial and comprehensive historical analysis
reaching back approximately 400 years.
Weinberger and McCombs (2003) profile of Millennials at work also builds
upon Strauss and Howes work. They describe Millennials as a group that wants to be
trusted and respected; they want opportunities to be responsible. Millennials want to
work in places where people care; they want freedom not license, as well as
assistance and guidance to succeed. They desire choices, and are willing to share
power in collaborative endeavors, which includes building positive, meaningful
personal relations and connections.
Millennial teachers are driven by a desire to influence the world and
participate in socially responsible work (Johnson, et al., 2004). Oblinger and Oblinger
(2005) agree; they perceive Millennials as caring deeply about complex global issues
and acknowledge science and technology as useful tools. Moreover, young employees
are even motivated by their corporate employers charitable agreements (Glass, 2007,
Trunk, 2007). For example, at Deloitte and Touche, a multi-national financial
consulting corporation, more than half of the employees in their 20s prefer
employment in organizations that provide opportunities for community service
(Trunk, 2007). These scholars present a diametrically opposed picture of the social
motivations of Millennials from what Twenge (2006) describes.
The corporation, Deloitte and Touche, is concerned about retaining their
youngest employees. They appear to be at the forefront of multi-generational
management and leadership in the corporate world. Deloitte and Touche now
employs a special officer of Next Generation Initiatives after discovering that young
Millennial employees had previously resigned from their positions because they
thought they had no other choice. What these young employees wanted instead was a
transition to other work, which Deloitte is now able to orchestrate. Deloitte is able to
save $150,000 per employee by retaining their young Millennial workers (Trunk,
Aside from literature in the business domain, nursing education is another
professional domain studying Millennials and multi-generational leadership. The
Bureau of Labor Statistics (2007) reports that the nursing profession is growing
quickly; nursing is currently the second fastest growing occupation in the nation.
Therefore, it is a necessity that the nursing profession effectively recruits and retains
their youngest colleagues to provide adequate care for patients. Hill (2004)
summarizes the different generations present in nursing teams today (Veterans, Baby
Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials) and how to accommodate their needs and
expectations for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Nursing professionals agree
that Millennial nurses are both multi- taskers and collaborators. Technology is
embedded into how young nurses work and learn. Moreover, young nurses have
much to teach their older colleagues, and are eager to participate in teams (Hill,
Both Twenge (2006) and Levine (2005) note the paradox many young adults
are experiencing today and unfortunately in increasing numbers. Twenge (2006) fully
describes the troubling shift toward loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and depression from
which many young adults suffer. She explains that while this generation has many
creature comforts they do not possess the stability, safety, and clear path to adulthood
of previous generations. Young adults today grew up with the belief they could be
any thing they wanted to be; concurrently lavish lifestyles and a celebrity-obsessed
pop culture envelop them in a constant barrage of images. Consequently, some
Millennials may come to expect that lifestyle for themselves. The reality of earning a
salary, paying for rent, food, and health care is not as glamorous as life portrayed by
the media. As Twenge (2006) explains, depression and anxiety can result from the
contradiction of so many choices, unrealistic expectations, blurred social boundaries,
and social instability. This may imply that school leaders may have a psychologically
troubled cohort of young teachers who struggle with daily life in vastly different ways
than previous generations.
Other Attitudes and Perspectives
In consensus with other scholars (Strauss & Howe, 2000; Oblinger &
Oblinger, 2005; Prensky, 2001) findings, both nurses and teachers state they expect
immediacy and expect to respond quickly. They want leadership and they want
continuous feedback on how they are performing (Johnson et al., 2004; Skiba, 2005),
which is in direct opposition to traditionally isolated teachers who did not expect
more than cursory feedback from their principals (Johnson et al., 2004). Most young
teachers today require peer-to-peer interaction to feel successful. They also feel they
bring skills and abilities to work which they want to share with others. Millennial
teachers learn by participating, interacting, experiencing, and constructing
knowledge. Therefore, they can facilitate these important learning skills for their
students. Current pedagogies call for environments in which the student actively
interacts with learning materials and participates in multilateral communication
activities (Allan, 2007, p. 12). Again, this is diametrically opposed to traditional
teacher behavior when teachers close their doors and work alone as sole authority in
the classroom (Johnson et al., 2004).
Young teachers share other attitudes that are different from previous
generations. The line between home and work is fuzzier for the Millennial generation
than for other generations (Johnson et al, 2004; Trunk, 2007). Conventional
boundaries are blurred. Todays young people live in real, virtual, and hybrid worlds
and can move quickly and seamlessly between these different environments.
Professional relationships may also be personal friendships for young teachers more
so than in previous generations. Millennials are less accepting of top-down hierarchy
and are generally more entrepreneurial than previous generations. They want fair
treatment but that does not mean uniform treatment. Millennial teachers also expect
ways to differentiate themselves in leadership positions or in domains outside their
classrooms (Johnson et al., 2004, p. 252).
Many of todays leaders had difficulty responding positively to strong leaders
when they were young. In the 1960s, the collective attitude among young people was
to question authority and not to trust anyone over the age of 30. Young people today
do not share that sentiment. They want strong leadership. Therefore, the quality of
leadership is more critical than before. As Strauss and Howe (2000, 2007) point out, a
concern is that this Millennial generation will not question authority and blindly
follow leaders without critical analysis. These young people may grow up to be bland
yet civic minded, intellectually shallow, yet prone to excessive collectivism and
group orientation. Regardless, it is the education professions responsibility and
challenge today to think about how school leaders can maximize the opportunities
these young Millennial teachers offer, while those in school leadership and academia
help them to minimize their perceived faults.
Teacher Attrition and Retention Research
The research from previous decades bears striking similarity to teacher
attrition and retention research findings today. To clarify an important point however,
teacher retention and attrition research has been plagued with confusion for years.
Macdonald (1999) explains that both the methodology of data collection of and
definition and resultant identification of who is a teacher are not clear or agreed upon
by researchers. Moreover, as Johnson et al. (2005) point out, there is not yet an
established body of literature and there is an uneven distribution of the literature. For
example, salary warrants more study than practices around teacher hiring. Salary also
warrants more attention than the effects of a positive community and teacher
retention. These obstacles make strong correlations difficult yet patterns are clear and
reminiscent of discussion today.
Research from the 1980s described by Kelly (2004) indicates that internal
forces such as large class sizes and lack of administrative support may be more
relevant than external forces (e.g. district policy) regarding teacher attrition.
Furthermore, Kelly (2004), using data from the 1991 Schools and Staffing Survey,
found that high poverty schools or minority enrollments did not contribute to high
levels of teacher attrition; behavioral climate was a stronger correlation. Moreover,
extra course work on pedagogy, membership in a professional organization, and state
certification all demonstrated higher levels of teacher commitment and retention
In 1990, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD) state that teacher attrition was due to a number of factors including the
ageing of the profession, challenges in matching fluctuating student demographics
and teachers, changing patterns of women entering the work force, and attractive
employment opportunities in other industries. Other reports indicate teachers low
status and poor working conditions are the cause for attrition (Macdonald, 1999). In
addition, analyzing data and research from the 1990s indicate that poor quality
teacher preparation, working conditions, conditions that affect service such as
external accountability mandates, and salary all strongly influence teacher attrition
A decade ago, the consensus was that the primary lever to attract and retain
teachers was remuneration (Dove, 2004; Macdonald, 1999). Kelly (2004), using the
1991 Schools and Staffing Survey data, found for the majority of the teaching
career, greater salary does lead to lower levels of attrition, although this effect is
stronger in the early years (p. 210). This resonates with teacher comments today
(Rochkind et al., 2007). However, Johnson et al. (2005) report in their review of the
literature that overall, relative teacher pay has declined since the 1970s.
What has not declined is the desire teachers have to teach and work with
young people. Since the sociologist, Dan Lortie (1975) wrote his influential book
Schoolteacher over thirty years ago, teachers continue to want to ignite a spark with
their students. He wrote, It is of great importance to teachers to feel they have
reached their students their core rewards are tied to that perception. Other sources
of satisfaction pale in comparison with teachers exchanges with students and the
feeling that students have learned (Lorie, 1975, p.106). Unfortunately, in their effort
to reach students, some teachers can emotionally burnout, migrate to other schools, or
leave the profession entirely.
Attrition and Migration
A number of scholars across the country reveal that migration and attrition of
new teachers are nationally recognized issues yet none specifically mentions
Millennial teachers by generational name. In addition, the category new teachers
can include older individuals with prior professional experience who are new to
teaching (Barnes, Crowe, & Schaefer, 2007; Futemick, 2007; Guarino, Santibanez &
Daley, 2006; Hill & Gillette, 2005; Hirsch, Emerick, Church & Fuller, 2007;
Ingersoll, 2001; Inman & Marlow 2004; Loeb, Darling-Hammond, & Luczak, 2005;
Provasnik & Dorfman, 2005). Teachers, of any age, who are new to a building, may
be new to teaching or new to the profession. There are several nuances to the term
A recent book, Finders and Keepers, by Johnson and The Project on the Next
Generation of Teachers (2004) are the only authors of a major publication found after
a review of the literature who discuss a new type of generation of young teachers and
what that implies to teaching and the education profession. Johnson et al. (2004) also
differentiate between young, new entrants to the profession, older workers with prior
professional experience, and teachers who participated in an alternative certification
process. The authors narrative account of young teachers experiences substantiates
and personalizes their comprehensive discussion of teacher attrition and migration.
There are many other sources of statistics to describe the issue of teacher
attrition. Teachers leave their profession at higher rates than other professionals with
the same educational level, such as nurses and architects who embody a turnover rate
of about 10% (Ingersoll, 2001). Futemick (2007) reports that 10% of new teachers in
California leave high-poverty schools each year while Kopkowski (2008) reports that
in urban districts the turnover rate is closer to 20% and in North Carolina the teacher
turnover rate is 12.58% (Hirsch, et al., 2007). Carroll (2007) reports teacher turnover
at a national rate of 16.8%.
Attrition rates are also increasing. Dove (2004) reported that National Center
for Educational Statistics (NCES) data in 1993 stated 30% of teachers leave in five
years while according to the Center on Teaching Quality (2006), 50% of our teachers
leave the profession after five years. The U.S. Department of Education, National
Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), reported in the Mobility in the Workplace
Report (Provasnik & Dorfman, 2005), that schools nationally hire an estimated 17+%
of the teaching staff every year. Some of these are returning teachers (4%), some are
transfers from other buildings (9%), while 2% are delayed entrants, and 3% are new
entrants to the field. Other reports indicate the country will have to hire two million
new teachers in the next decade (Hussar, 1999).
Moreover, Johnson et al. (2004) report that between the years 2000 and 2010
as many as half of the national teaching force will retire. The retiring group of
teachers has made a strong impact on education. They are the first generation of
teachers to teach school for an entire career; they were the first to unionize in the
1960s and 1970s, and cemented the flat, undifferentiated career trajectory of teachers.
These independent and self-sufficient teachers also valued their privacy as they taught
in their isolated classrooms in what Johnson et al. call egg-crate schools (p. 250).
One of the clearest findings of Johnson et al.s study is that egg-crate type schools
will not satisfy the new generation of teachers. Young teachers today, the Millennials,
have different career expectations, a different context, and different ways they
envision their future. The expectation that this group of new young teachers will
simply be substitutes for retiring teachers, without a change in school practice, is
doomed to fail (Johnson et al., 2004).
The central problem of this study is teacher attrition and migration. How can
school leaders discourage the excessive turnover of effective teachers, especially our
youngest teachers who may connect closely with, engage, and motivate our students?
It is important to remember however, that teacher retention is not the primary goal.
Student learning is the issue. The idea is to retain effective, skilled, committed
teachers who want to work for their students benefit (Johnson, et al., 2005).
The Perfect Storm in Education
Teacher attrition, migration, and burnout add pressure to an already
developing perfect storm. Budig (2006) describes an impending national disaster
fueled by increasing numbers of older teachers retiring, high rates of teacher attrition,
the commonly perceived low value for teachers (demonstrated by low salaries and
prestige), the nations competitive need for employees with an intellectual edge, and
rising enrollments of school-aged children. Johnson et al. (2004) agrees with Budig
and adds that the requirements of the U.S. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public
Law 107-110) contributes significant pressure to the emerging perfect storm. Budig
(2006) is adamant that the United States is headed for a catastrophe; he admonishes
the nation that we will pay now or pay later.
The popular press, politicians, scholars, and researchers are all part of the
ongoing conversation of what is wrong with schools today. This research study does
not attempt to describe that and instead focuses on the lived experiences of Millennial
teachers in hope of informing what actions school leaders can take to mitigate
attrition and migration among our youngest teacher colleagues.
Why Teachers Leave
Teachers leave their schools for a number of reasons and their leaving affects
student learning and schools. Reasons include (a) teachers personal characteristics,
(b) teacher qualifications, (c) the work environment, (d) administrative support, (e)
teachers affective reactions to teaching, (f) student conflict, and (g) salary. The
section on administrative support is more comprehensive, with separate sections to
describe various functions of leadership, due to that components relative importance
on why teachers of all ages leave their buildings. As stated previously, the only
authors to differentiate this generational cohort are Johnson et al. (2004).
Teachers self-report that their primary reason for leaving their schools include
retirement, health/family concerns, salary, or a move to a different career. In addition,
lack of planning time, heavy workload, too many students, low salary, and lack of
influence over school policy, lack of professional advancement, and professional
development that did not match the individuals needs are reasons for leaving for
another career (Ingersoll, 2001). Half of teacher turnover is attributed to migration
and the other half is attributed to attrition, either teachers leaving the profession
permanently (e.g. retirement or for another job) or temporarily such as staying home
to raise small children (National Center for Education Statistics, NCES, 2005).
However, the NCES data indicate that retirement contributes to a smaller percentage
of teachers leaving than teachers leaving for another job. Attrition and migration, two
facets of K-12 teacher turnover, combine to produce the phenomenon of significant
percentages of teachers new to specific buildings with consequent organizational
challenges and instability.
Who is likely to stay in teaching? Development of a teacher persona is the
first step in a new teachers career. Many new teachers struggle with how real
teachers do this (McCann & Johannessen, 2004, p. 139). Part of that personal
development lies in the realm of relationships. The question of how to deal with
supervisors, parents, colleagues, and students is essential for new teachers. Novice
teachers, who eventually left the profession, talked more about their own needs
instead of their students needs; some even spoke openly of their plans to leave the
profession citing that teaching was a temporary profession (McCann & Johannessen,
2004). Matching the Millennial profile, these researchers found that the personal
characteristics of teachers who would most likely stay in the profession included a
strong sense of responsibility, a passion for young people, and deep concern for the
nations collective future. These teachers exuded a combination of altruistic,
intellectual, and spiritual inclinations (p. 143).
The variable most consistently associated with teachers leaving the field was
age, especially in the special education literature. Attrition patterns follow a U-shaped
curve with younger and older teachers leaving in larger numbers than those in the
middle (Billingsley, 2004; Guarino et al., 2006). In Johnson et al.s (2005) review of
the research, they found that probationary teachers (0-2 years) left schools at twice
the rate of veteran teachers and were four times as likely to migrate to other districts.
These findings also reflect conventional wisdom that in our current society young
people can take years to find a professional home, while middle-aged employees
typically want to remain stably employed for longer periods.
The more pre-service training and experiences teachers have the more inclined
they are to stay in teaching (Darling-Hammond, 2003). Novice teachers report they
wish their university took more effort in enabling them to have more pre-service
experiences in a variety of schools so their experiences had a broader base. New
teachers also wish for university support after employment to sustain their
professional community of support while they built a new system of support at their
school of employment (Inman & Marlow, 2004; McCann & Johannessen, 2004;
When principals select their staff carefully, the time involved is well spent
(Riehl, 2000). Teachers without certification, with emergency credentials, and
teachers with less-than-adequate pre-service training often end up in low-resource
schools, some of which do not have strong cultures of professional development. In
addition, many of these teachers achieved lower scores on their licensure exams, hold
fewer credentials, and possess increased proclivity to leave (Hirsch et al., 2007)
which exacerbates the proverbial revolving door of teachers in low-resource schools.
The most pronounced content areas for certification issues are the instructional
disciplines of Math and special education (Billingsley, 2004).
Teachers who leave and the schools they leave may not have made a
harmonious match as far as skill, temperament, and goodness of fit (Inman &
Marlow, 2004; Swars, Meyers, Mays, & Lack, 2009). An effective hiring process can
alleviate most discrepancies. Hiring should facilitate an exchange of information for
both the potential teacher and school personnel. Late hiring practices exacerbate poor
performance and inadequate preparation (Johnson et al., 2005).
Working conditions, which include the physical facility, teaching
assignments, curriculum, assessment, and accountability contribute to the emotional
responses teachers have to their work (Swars et. al, 2009). To complicate matters,
each teacher responds to working conditions differently. One teacher may not mind a
strong emphasis on accountability, while another feels professionally insulted to be
told how to assess student learning. All of these elements influence teacher turnover
(Johnson et al., 2005).
The public is adept at recognizing factors that constitute professionalism.
Professionals enjoy a level of respect for their expert knowledge and skills, have the
appropriate materials to conduct their work, are able to demonstrate freedom to make
decisions according to their judgment, and maintain some control of their time
(Inman & Marlow, 2004). Teachers as restricted professionals (Bottery, 2003) do
not enjoy the same privileges as other un-restricted professionals. The luxury of
private space to confer, private telephones, and time to meet and discuss shared
concerns are not part of the teaching profession for many teachers (Inman & Marlow,
Generally, schools do not enjoy the modem, clean, facilities (Darling-
Hammond, 2003; Lewis, Potter, & Meisels, 2007) taken for granted in the corporate
world. Tragically, some students and teachers have to tolerate unclean bathrooms,
uncomfortable classroom temperatures, rats, mice, or cockroaches, as well as
textbook shortages, small classrooms, and lack of computers (Loeb et al., 2005).
Large class sizes (over 33 students), inadequate or noisy classroom space, and
uncomfortable temperatures were strong predictors of turnover in a large-scale study
in California (Loeb et al., 2005).
Many teachers also report having to deal with uncomfortable professional
environments. Johnson et al. (2004) found that migrating new teachers left their
unsupportive buildings which are characterized by ... negative school cultures,
inappropriate or unfair assignments, inattentive or abusive principals, misused time,
inadequate supplies, lack of outreach programs for parents, ad hoc approaches to
student discipline, and insufficient student support services (p. 94). Most teachers
have a heavy workload, large classes, and numerous meetings to attend (Day, 2000;
McCann & Johannessen, 2004). Increased workload also includes pressure to
complete paperwork (Kersaint et al., 2007). Many teachers feel pressured to comply
with mandates for testing that do not motivate them to perform at higher levels (Day,
2000; Elfers, Plecki, & McGowan 2007; Kersaint et al., 2007). Nationally, the focus
is now on an assessment-driven curriculum when our changing world asks educators
to prepare students for successfully living and working in the 21st century.
Teachers decisions to remain or leave teaching hinge on leadership more than
any other factor (Hirsch et al., 2007). All teachers, and especially new teachers, need
strong levels of administrative support, encouragement, and leadership (Darling-
Hammond, 2003; Kersaint et al., 2007; Worthy, 2005). Millennial teachers report
they would trade more administrative support for more salary (Rochkind et al., 2007).
The following discussion explains research that suggests that strong administrative
support includes (a) communicating the vision that leadership champions, (b)
facilitating shared decision-making in the best interest of the students, (c) providing
professional development, (d) providing mentoring opportunities, and (e) leveraging
or acquiring the resources to address needs in the building.
Leadership and vision. The primary role of leadership is to provide a vision,
or shared purpose, for the school community. This includes creating or maintaining a
dynamic, positive, trusting, and learning-oriented culture with a strong set of values
pertinent to the community as a whole (Day, 2005; Hirsch et al., 2007; Lambert,
2003). Sergiovanni (2005) claims, Leadership is about helping people understand
the problems they face, helping them manage these problems, and even helping them
learn to live with them (p. 113). Bottery (2003), on the other hand, is not content to
live with problems and stresses that leadership is about energizing the profession in
confronting controversial issues about the purposes and practices of education.
According to Starratt, (2005), failing to establish processes to challenge the status quo
and move toward authentic teaching and learning, is tantamount to ethical laziness.
In support of ethical, responsible leadership, Goodman, Baron and Myers, (2001)
state that the heart of school reform is the disruption of the traditional ways power is
distributed throughout an organization. Administrators can easily reproduce,
sometimes unwittingly, conditions of hierarchy and oppression by fostering compliant
thinking instead of critical reflection (Riehl, 2000, p. 59). Clearly building
leadership sets an emotional and ethical tone (Day, 2005; Sergiovanni, 2005; Starratt,
2005; Swars et al 2009).
In analyzing new teachers, Smith (2007) defined administrative support as the
manifestation of six characteristics or behaviors. These include (a) the principal lets
staff know what is expected of them, (b) the school administrations behavior towards
the staff is supportive and encouraging, (c) the principal enforces school rules for
student conduct and backs the staff up when they need it, (d) the principal talks with
staff about instructional practices, (e) the principal knows what kind of school they
want and communicates that to staff and (f) staff is recognized for a job well done.
These indicators offer a comprehensive way to conceptualize administrative support,
the lack of which the literature indicates is a strong motivator for teachers to leave
their buildings (Darling-Hammond, 2003; Hirsch et al., 2007; et al., 2007; Worthy,
Shared-decision making. Teachers want to be involved in an integrated,
collaborative, organizational community (Guarino et al., 2006; Leonard & Leonard,
2001) and if they perceive they are excluded from decisions that influence their work,
they are more prone to leave (Darling-Hammond, 2003). Shared decision-making and
feelings of autonomy are vital for teachers to feel they are worthwhile and part of the
school community (Pearson & Moomaw, 2005). Rochkind et al. (2007) echoes those
sentiments regarding Millennial teachers. Administrators alone should not be
responsible for making all the decisions that influence and affect teachers and
Challenges to the conceptualization of collaborative, shared decision-making
are complex, contradictory, and can be highly personal (Johnson, 2003; Leonard &
Leonard, 2001). Collaboration can be a methodology for management and a coercive
strategy to control staff (Enderlin-Lampe, 1997). Johnson (2003) refers to
collaboration as Foucauldian notions of power and govemmentality to position site-
based shared leadership and teacher collaboration as disciplinary practices that
discipline participants through self-regulation (p. 339). Despite this nefarious
sounding prescription, overall Johnsons study found positive correlations between
collaboration and teachers opinions of their work. Teachers report they like talking
in teams about their instruction and their students, yet there were more meetings and
initially increased workloads. Teachers felt overall less stress and more enthusiasm;
they also report (80%) they learned more from each other.
Professional development. For Millennial teachers, it is crucial that they have
choice and flexibility in their professional learning due to their past collaborative
learning experiences (Johnson et al., 2004). Rochkind et al.s (2007) survey of young
teachers indicates that opportunities to grow were paramount to their staying in the
field. Administrators need to offer all teachers professional development
opportunities (Inman & Marlow, 2004) and all teachers need a strong voice in
determining what types of learning opportunities in which they engage. Instead of
exclusively participating in short, event-driven, additive experiences, all teachers
need to be also part of a learning community that honors their whole selves and
addresses their teaching as a career versus short-term reform du jour (Day, 2000;
Emihovich & Battaglia, 2000; Riehl, 2000; Wheelan & Kesserling, 2005).
Recently, in many schools, traditional professional development has evolved
into the development of collaborative learning communities. This development, often
called professional learning community is often credited to Richard DuFour. It began
as a process to improve schools by changing the focus from teaching to learning.
Teachers are to work collaboratively and are accountable for student results. Three
critical questions guide this model of learning communities, (a) What should each
student learn? (b) How is student learning known? (c) What are the next steps if
students have learned, or not learned the material? A professional learning
community implements interventions that are targeted at specific needs of students.
While focusing on student learning, these communities also structure professional
relationships that are ideally characterized by mutual collaboration, emotional
support, personal growth, and a synergy of efforts (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). Learning
communities require a commitment to common values, experimentation, purposeful
staff development, self-efficacy, and monitoring the sustained effort (DuFour &
Eaker, 1998). Millennial teachers would benefit and appreciate genuine learning
communities as well as opportunities to be creative (Johnson et al., 2004, Rochkind et
Another way of examining professional development is exploring the concept
of developing teacher capacity. While Sergiovanni (1998) introduces pedagogical
leadership as investing in (social, academic, intellectual, and professional) capacity
building (p. 46), Lambert (2003) writes extensively about specifically building
leadership capacity among teachers. The result is that teachers can then impart that
same process of generating knowledge among students, which is a cornerstone of 21st
century learning (Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2007). Generating
knowledge requires learners to inquire, reflect, and interact with each other (Lambert,
2003; Sergiovanni, 1998). The original conceptualization of event-driven professional
development has now evolved into school leadership providing the structured
environment to facilitate teachers and administrators collaborative, on-site, inquiry,
and shared decision-making for the sake of their students learning and development
in a culture centered on continuous, sustainable improvement.
Mentoring. Effective mentoring programs raise the retention rates for new
teachers by raising their feelings of efficacy; mentoring can improve teachers
attitudes as well as instructional skills (Darling-Hammond, 2003; Hirsch et al., 2007;
Johnson et al., 2005; Worthy, 2005). However, as Johnson et al. (2005) found in their
review of research, the quality of mentoring programs vary. Millennial employees
crave mentoring and are eager for time to discuss their concerns (Raines, 2002).
Mentoring teachers new to the profession is fundamental to new teachers success and
the quality of the mentoring program determines the outcome (Worthy, 2005). The
careful selection of the mentor to match the novice is essential, as is the need for
novices to have frequent contact with non-threatening peers in a supportive
atmosphere (McCann & Johannessen, 2004). Mentoring teachers new to a school
regarding strategies for dealing with student behavior is critical for the learning
environment of the school (Kersaint et al., 2007) since a calm environment enables
students to learn more readily.
Resources. As teachers work to develop positive classroom conditions and
provide the necessary resources for learning, administrators can also address locating
the necessary resources to support their staff. Teachers and by default, students -
need a plethora of high-quality instructional materials and unproblematic access to
technology. Millennial teachers especially require new technology and cannot
imagine working without what they consider necessary (Hill, 2004; Jenkins, 2006;
Prensky, 2001; Skiba, 2005; Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005). Administrators need to
ensure the building and grounds are clean and well maintained. Additionally, year-
round, multi-track school sessions, amplify facility and resource concerns due to the
sheer number of students, teachers, and building usage (Hirsch et al., 2007). As a
former administrator, I know that administrators carry a complex and heavy load to
support their faculty and staff. Developing and communicating a vision, facilitating
shared decision-making, providing professional learning opportunities and mentoring
while leveraging resources are all major administrative responsibilities that influence
whether teachers stay or leave.
Teachers A ffective Reactions to Teaching
Both administrators and teachers feel emotional reactions to their work
(Sergiovanni, 2005) which can influence their decision to leave their school. In
todays milieu of high stakes accountability, teachers can internalize a sense of
frustration and despair (Kokkinos, 2007). Within the profession, there is strong
consensus that many teachers feel stressed, filled with self-doubt, and tired much of
the time. Teachers may feel micro-managed and concurrently disagree with our
testing culture and constantly changing targets (Bottery, 2003). Teachers report a
discrepancy between what they expect versus what they experience which can lead to
feelings of frustration and hopelessness (McCann & Johannessen, 2004).
Burnout is defined as feelings of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and
teachers lack of feelings of accomplishment. Burnout can have similar results as
teachers leaving their schools; these include lack of organizational stability, low
pedagogical knowledge among staff, and lower rates of student achievement.
Kokkinos (2007) examined burnout among teachers and found a relationship between
job stressors and personality factors. The major job stressors for teachers are
managing student behavior and time constraints. Based on a review of the literature
around occupational stress and burnout from the 1990s, Kokkinos argues that the
factors that contribute to teachers stress include interpersonal demands, lack of
professional recognition, student discipline problems, diversity of tasks required,
excessive bureaucracy, lack of support, heavy workload, time pressures, amount of
paperwork, lack of resources, isolation, role ambiguity, and limited professional
opportunities. Kokkinos found the strongest relationship between work factors,
emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization. Personality factors were more
responsible for the feelings of lack of accomplishment. Looking at the factors that
contribute to burnout, there are clear connections between burnout and the issues that
emerge as reasons why teachers leave their schools.
While local leadership cannot ignore federal policy or political realities, local
school administrators can buffer their staff from external pressures to help ease their
feelings of frustration and mal-content, while encouraging the positive aspects of their
work and accomplishments (Bottery, 2003; Starratt, 2005; Witcher, 2003). Then,
school leaders can initiate and develop the important conversations of how the school
community can flourish within such an externally demanding environment and thus
keep teachers more engaged with school and increase their sense of efficacy and
professional success (Goodman et al., 2001).
Smith and Smith (2006) examined the link between teacher attrition and
teacher perceptions of school violence. They found that the relationship is strong:
teachers leave schools that have higher rates of violence and student conflict and
where teachers feel threatened for their own safety. School leaders have an important
job of developing and maintaining a safe and orderly school environment for all
involved. Student behavior can affect teaching and learning in many ways. If teachers
are unable to maintain students attention for learning, teaching will be an increased
challenge. Conversely, when students are engaged in learning school can be a joy for
all concerned. The lack of positive student behaviors can frustrate the most stalwart
teachers (Kokkinos, 2007). However, when negative student behaviors reach an
extreme level, and of an extended duration, it can drive teachers out of the school
(Guarino et al., 2006; Kelly, 2004; Kersaint et al., 2007; Smith & Smith, 2006).
Although teachers do not select a teaching career for the financial rewards, as
do some other professionals, teachers do report low salary as a reason to leave the
profession (Darling-Hammond, 2003; Guarino et al., 2006; Ingersoll, 2001; Johnson
et al., 2004; Kersaint et al., 2007). Other analysts found that if working conditions
were positive, the effects of low salary were not as significant (Kersaint et al., 2007;
Rochkind et al., 2007), especially for experienced teachers (Darling-Hammond,
2003). As Johnson et al. (2005) so clearly point out in their review of the literature,
high pay coupled with poor working conditions may do little to promote retention
It is interesting to note that the difference between high-resource schools and
low-resource schools is also apparent in teacher salaries. In California, the best-paid
teachers in high-resource schools were earning 35% more than the best-paid teachers
in low-resource schools (Loeb et al., 2005). Young teachers also note that it is
demoralizing that all teachers are paid the same amount regardless of student results
and the only way to increase their salary is to take more classes (Johnson et al., 2004)
In 2003, teachers made 20% less salary than other professions with similar
educational backgrounds such as registered nurses, accountants, and computer
programmers (Dove, 2004) which contributes to the idea that employment in other
industries is more attractive. Salary is a complicated and critical issue in the larger
conversation of teacher attrition and migration. There is a plethora of literature and a
full analysis is outside the scope of this literature review.
Effects of Teachers Leaving
When teachers leave their schools, there are a number of associated costs both
financial and interpersonal. Cost is categorized into three arenas: the direct
instructional cost students pay for the departing teacher, school and district expenses,
and the costs of organizational inconsistency (Johnson et al., 2005). The National
Commission on Teaching and Americas Future (Carroll, 2007) estimates the costs of
the national teacher turnover rate of 16.8%, which totals over $7.3 billion a year.
Carroll points out that these lost funds are a drain to the educational funding system
and could be used to benefit both students and teachers in ways that are more
productive. As Carroll suggests, it would be helpful if school leaders were able to
accurately predict who was at risk of leaving and design intervention strategies to
decrease the number of teachers leaving so students could benefit from experienced,
Students can also feel psychological effects from a constant stream of teachers
new to their building. For students who live with daily high-stress, the lack of trust
with adults, and lack of continuity in their learning environment can be especially
detrimental (Brunetti, 2006). As Corbett (2002) describes, when students experience a
revolving door of new teachers (or long-term substitute teachers) students often think
these teachers are ill-equipped to deal with the complexity and challenge of their low-
resource schools which contributes to students feelings of discouragement and that
their learning needs are un-important.
Schools with more needs and less resources suffer from more problems than
high-resource schools. More teachers leave low-resource schools (Ingersoll, 2001;
Guarino et al., 2006; Hirsch et al., 2007; Kersaint et al., 2007) due to lack of
resources, a challenging student body, crumbling facilities, and negligible community
support. Student motivation, discipline, and administrative support also factor into
teachers decisions to leave low-resource schools (Guarino et al., 2006; Loeb, et al.,
2005). These low-resource schools struggle to gain the momentum necessary to
establish a sophisticated teacher cadre of professional adult learners; thus the learning
cycle can become fixed at low pedagogical levels while the organization attempts to
integrate new teachers year after year. This holds back the more experienced teachers
from reaching their potential (Loeb et al., 2005). The culminating effect is that low-
resource schools often have less experienced educators.
A theoretical framework offers a lens with which to consider a topic or area of
interest. The generational theory of Strauss and Howe (1991, 1997, 2000) is the
theoretical lens used in this study of Millennial-aged teachers as they begin their
teaching careers in public schools. This theory offers a wide perspective to view and
analyze social and political decisions, events, and social patterns. Each individual is
bom in a specific historical and social context and dies in another. As individuals, and
as participants in groups, people invent history, and accordingly are formed by
history. History creates generations and generations create history (Strauss &
Howe, 1997, p. 16). Strauss and Howe (1991) remind their readers When Alexis de
Tocqueville visited America in the 1830s, he observed how generations mattered far
more here than in Europe, how in America each generation is a new people (p. 36).
This is a theory of time, people, and the cycles of history, which can help explain why
groups of people behave as they do or will possibly behave in the future. Looking
back in history, Strauss and Howe (1991) state:
The story of civilization, seldom moves in a straight line, but is rich with
curves, oscillations, and mood shifts. The ebb and flow of history often reflect
the ebb and flow of generations, each with a different age, location, peer
personality, and lifecycle story. By viewing history along the generational
diagonal, by searching the cycle for behavioral clues, we can apply the mirror
of recurring human experience to gaze around the comer of current trends and
say something instructive about the decades to come (p. 39).
Strauss and Howes research stands on the shoulders of many other scholars.
They begin the explanation of their generational theory with the Bible, Homer, and
the ancient myths of Babylonians, Hindus and all ancient peoples who narrate the
passing of time through the passing of generations. While generational cohorts
illustrate the fluctuations of life, they were not specifically written about for centuries.
Instead, historians placed emphasis on the adult lives of individuals as they moved
through time in a linear fashion. After the French Revolution in the 1780s and 1790s,
politically astute philosophers began to discuss the importance of placing a generation
in time, space, and in history to change the traditional structures of power. Later, a
group of Victorian scholars took up the study of generational cohorts, including
Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mills, and Emile Littre. It is interesting to note that Littre
coined the term cohort in 1863. Wilhelm Dilthey also wrote that generations are a
relationship of contemporaneity between individuals (Strauss & Howe, 1991, p.
438). In the 20th century, historians such as Schlesinger, Elazar, Huntington, and
Keller identified generational sequences to analyze American history. While Strauss
and Howe are not the first to theorize about the power of generational cohorts, they
claim to be the first to define, locate, and name each of the American generations
since 1584. Currently, the 20th American generation is just starting to be bom; 2004 is
the approximate starting date for this newest, still un-named generation.
What also separates Strauss and Howes work from other scholars is the
emphasis on private and public lives that embrace an entire life span. Most scholars
focus exclusively on a publicly lived adulthood. Secular crises (e.g. the Great
Depression) and spiritual awakenings (e.g. the Transcendental Movement in the early
19th century) spanning an entire life cycle, are an essential part of the generational
theory of Strauss and Howe. Since the inception of the theory almost two decades
ago, it continues to influence decision-making and analysis by business leaders,
futurists, and scholars.
Time, life, and history are the foundations of this theory. The theory consists
of cycles of the archetypes that generations of people embody, and cycles of history.
These cycles repeat with surprising synchronicity as described in Strauss and Howes
(1991) book, Generations. Four sequential archetypes (Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and
Artist) intersect with four repeating cycles, or seasons, of history (Awakening,
Unraveling, High, and Crisis). Each of these approximately 20-year long cycles
continually moves and evolves so civilization can endure over time; this theory is the
antithesis of linearity.
In their book, The Fourth Turning: What Cycles of History Tell Us about
America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny (Strauss & Howe, 1997), the authors offer
many tables to assist in reading the generational cohorts moving through time. The
theory describes the actions and behaviors of each generational cohort as they move
through time, carrying their shared experiences and beliefs, as they age. It is
important to understand the dynamic flow of passing time as generational cohorts
move as a group through their life span. The table, Moods of the Four Turnings
(Table 2.1) offers an abbreviated representation of the complexity and depth of this
theory (Strauss & Howe, 1997, p. 105). The table delineates the four cycles
(Awakening, Unraveling, High, and Crisis) and subsequent mood of the nation
according to each archetype (Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist), and how they
demonstrate that mood.
Mood of the four turnings
High Cycle Awakening Cycle Unraveling Cycle Crisis Cycle
Generation Entering: Elderhood Mid-life Young adult Childhood Nomad Hero Artist Prophet Hero Artist Prophet Nomad Artist Prophet Nomad Hero Prophet Nomad Hero Artist
Families: Strong Weakening Weak Strengthening
Child nurturing: Loosening Under protective Tightening Over protective
Gap between gender roles: Maximum Narrowing Minimum Widening
Ideals: Settled Discovered Debated Championed
Institutions: Reinforced Attacked Eroded Founded
Culture: Innocent Passionate Cynical Practical
Social Structure: Unified Splintering Diversified Gravitating
World View: Simple Complicating Complex Simplifying
Social Priority: Maximum community Rising individualism Maximum individualism Rising community
Social Motivator: Shame Conscience Guilt Stigma
Sense of greatest need: Do what works Fix inner world Do what feels right Fix outer world
Vision of future: Brightening Euphoric Darkening Urgent
Wars: Restorative Controversial Inconclusive Total
As depicted in Table 2.1, each of the archetypes moves to a new cycle of
history as they age from childhood, to young adulthood, mid-life, to elderhood.
Repeating cycles of sequential generations are at the center of this theory; this theory
does not advocate linear thinking. One cycle represents the four archetypes: Prophet,
Nomad, Hero, and Artist. The second cycle represents the four cycles of history:
Awakening, High, Unraveling, and Crisis. To follow the archetypes through the
cycles of history, as they age, reveals a change in our national mood. The cycles
move together through time every generation, which spans approximately 20 years.
The four cycles of history (Awakening, High, Unraveling, and Crisis) total
approximately 80 years, what the Romans called a saeculum.
In generational theory, a saeculum, which is Latin for a long life of 80-100
years, refers to each major crisis. Like seasons of nature and the life cycle of all living
creatures, the seasons of the saeculum follow a predictable pattern of birth, growth,
and death. American life has revolved around an 80-year cycle in national life,
punctuated by the great crises of the American Revolution, The Civil War, and the
Great Depression (1774-1794; 1857-1868; and 1929-1945). These major cataclysmic
events redefined the nation (Kaiser, 2007). For example, eighty-five years separates
the Declaration of Independence and Fort Sumter. Eighty-five years also separates the
attack on Fort Sumter and Pearl Harbor. Saeculums begin with an Awakening after a
Crisis, which starts the cycle over again. Using the approximate 80-year saeculum,
the nation is now due for another Crisis. Approximately 2020 may go down in history
as the start of another era that redefines the nations history similar to the American
Revolution, Civil War, or Great Depression.
Strauss and Howe (1991, 1997) posit that our nation is currently on the brink
of a major Crisis that will change lives and history. As adults, the Millennial
generation who embody the Hero archetype, are poised to lead the country past this
Crisis into the next Awakening. This has the potential to be similar to their elders
actions earlier in the 20th century. Now popular culture refers to those elders as the
greatest generation (the Veteran Generation) due to their collective actions after the
Great Depression and World War II. Millennials and Veterans share similar locations
on the wheel of history and both represent the Hero archetype. Millennials have the
potential to be dominant builders of institutions with an external focus toward
community for the public good. Strauss and Howe (1991, 1997) predict that the
Millennials may be Americas next greatest generation.
How will the education profession respond to this potentially great generation
of Millennial teachers at school today? As Laine (2007) suggests, the current
education system is incompatible with the youngest generational cohort of teachers.
Will educators and policy makers take heed of their perspectives, and learn from them
now while they are young, or ignore their perspectives and continue with the status
quo? Right now, the profession has the opportunity to move forward by integrating
the Millennial generation of teachers into the design and structure of how students are
educated for life and work in the 21st century. If Millennial teachers stay in the
profession, they have the opportunity to be future educational leaders. If they leave
the profession, their contributions will be squandered. This is the central concern of
this phenomenological study.
The discussion of the contemporary context for schools begins with a brief
explanation of technology and includes how the factors of technological speed,
mobility, and collaboration influence modem life. Web 2.0 implies a sea change for
individuals and groups as they participate in business, education, and leisure
Millennial, having grown up with access to rapidly changing technology,
bring to schools computer fluency and high regard for the connectivity and power of
technology. Millennial also embody many other characteristics due to their
upbringing and historical context. Characteristics include high self-esteem, tolerance
for diversity, respect for parents and authority, a desire for feedback and
collaboration, the yearning to make choices in all aspects of life, and deep concern for
the state of the world.
Strauss and Howe (1991, 1997, 2000), originators of the generation theory
used to frame this study, offer analysts an opportunity to look into the future for
possible generational predictive behaviors. This response is exactly what Johnson et
al. (2005) and Sumsion (2002) recommend when they suggest that listening and
learning from young teachers can inform policy decisions in the future. These young
adults are now entering the workforce, as teachers in schools, and they bring unique
characteristics to work which can lead to positive and productive changes or
conflicts. Indeed, the question Laine (2007) raises, will the profession encourage or
discourage young teachers, forms the foundational inquiry of this research study.
A historical review of teacher retention and attrition research reveals that
todays situation is not significantly different from the previous two decades.
Teachers leave their schools for a variety of reasons such as the teachers personal
characteristics, their qualifications, the work environment, levels of administrative
support, the teachers emotional reactions to their work, student conflict, and
insufficient salary. The discussion on administrative support includes a review of
research on the leaders vision, shared decision-making, professional development,
mentoring, and resources.
When teachers leave their schools, students lose a teacher and opportunity to
relate to and learn from a pedagogically caring adult. In addition, the school must hire
and acculturate a new teacher. Organizational inconsistency and a continual stream of
new teachers do not allow an organization to reach high levels of trust or professional
knowledge. The often-cited analogy used by Ingersoll (2001) refers to a leaky bucket;
student thirst for engagement with learning is compromised when a steady stream of
teachers leave resulting in a near-empty bucket. Students deserve better than that to
negotiate todays complex and changing world.
While this phenomenological study was in the pre-planning stage, I had the
opportunity to conduct a small pilot study. My goal was threefold: to develop
confidence in the two articles I was going to ask teachers read prior to the first
interview, to clarify my initial thoughts about Millennial teachers, and to practice
interview techniques. A group of four Millennial teachers met with me as a focus
group for over one hour. The results were overwhelmingly positive regarding the
selection of one of the articles to read and my initial ideas about what young teachers
experience. The interview technique was also successful. This experience confirmed
my need to conduct this study and in addition assisted sampling decision-making. The
teachers conversation was recorded yet the data is not used as part of the data set for
this study on Millennial teachers.
Overall, the pilot study encouraged me to delve deeper into Millennial
teachers experiences so I could understand their experiences on a deeper level and
potentially mitigate unnecessary professional conflict. The motivating focus of my
professional desire to make it better for teachers and the words of Gene Glass
(2008) resonated in my head: The only reform that stands any chance of making our
public schools better is the investment on teachers... (p. 249). Again, the intent of
this study is to listen and learn from teachers for the sake of student success and
This chapter reviews the phenomenological research design and methods of
the study. After a review of the research questions and overview of phenomenology,
specific procedures for data collection including sections on the (a) setting, (b) study
sample, (c) sampling selection, and (d) data collection are explained. Data analysis is
comprehensively explained along with methods for data management. Descriptions of
the transcription procedures follow; the chapter concludes with an explanation of the
scope and the trustworthiness features of validity and reliability built into the study.
This phenomenological study is about what Millennial-aged teachers think
about their teaching career. With a goal of informing state, district, and building
organizational leaders, as well as the professional practice and academia, this study
adds insight to the issue of retaining our youngest colleagues for the benefit of all our
To guide the study and lend focus to interviews, three overarching research
questions direct this phenomenological study. Each of these questions asks for an
entirely subjective view; each teacher participant will have his or her own unique
feeling, thoughts, and opinions about a career in teaching. What they relate to me in
the interviews about their experience teaching is unique to them and is open to my
interpretation. As I listen to the participants describe their work I will reflect and
sense what they imply from their words, tone, and the context of what they say. In a
later section of this chapter, I will explain a comprehensive description of the analytic
process. The research questions are as follows.
1. How do Millennial, public school teachers experience their teaching career
after they have completed their formal induction program?
2. Are there school and district leadership actions that would encourage
Millennial teachers to remain in teaching?
3. What does teaching mean to Millennial-aged, teachers today?
In addition, through concentrated interviews, this study hopes to answer
several sub-questions including (a) do young teachers today fit the Millennial profile,
(b) What motivates Millennial-aged novice teachers to stay in teaching? (c) How are
their career expectation met, or not?
Qualitative Research Methods
While natural science studies objects of nature, such as weather, atmospheric
pressure, or the physical effects of medical interventions, human science studies
people. Phenomenology, the methodology of this study on Millennial teachers, is
human science, van Manen quotes Dilthey when he writes, We explain nature, but
human life we must understand (van Manen, 1990, p. 4, quoting Dilthey, 1976). The
method for human science is description, interpretation, self-reflection, and/or critical
analysis. A proponent of hermeneutic phenomenology, which has a focus on
interpretation, van Manen explains that phenomenology aims to acquire a deeper
understanding of the nature, or meaning, of our daily-lived experience without
abstracting the subject of the investigation. Thus, it offers plausible insights that bring
us closer to the lived world. Using attentiveness and wonder (van Manen, 1990, p.
18), the researcher acts as a guardian and protector of the subject and has a goal to
remain close and as accurate as possible to that object under investigation. Colaizzi
(1978) shares that view of truth to the phenomenon and states, Objectivity is fidelity
to the phenomenon. It is a refusal to tell the phenomenon what it is but a respectful
listening to what the phenomenon speaks of itself (p. 52). Objectivity is achieved
through the epoche process of bracketing, or setting aside assumptions and prior
thoughts, which is explained more fully in the Data Collection via Interviewing
section of this Chapter.
One of the intents of this study is to learn what teaching means to Millennial
teachers. However, meaning is multi-dimensional and multilayered and not a
straightforward reading of changing air temperature or blood pressure as in a natural
science study. As van Manen exhorts us, to do phenomenological research is to craft
text (van Manen, 1990, p. 78). Moreover, text communicates the essence of the
phenomenon in a description, organized narrative, or literary prose versus charts,
tables or non-verbal, graphic representation. The text needs to be concrete yet rich,
thick with description; ideally, the generated text should engage and elicit a response
from the reader. To obtain material to construct text, the researcher must first
individually and intensely interview participants. Often, the researcher will share and
discuss interview transcripts with the participants for a deeper understanding of the
phenomenon and its meaning. This latter process is also called member checking,
which can also be a useful methodology to deepen comprehension and trust between
participant and researcher.
Phenomenological research offers the reader principled knowledge and
guiding thoughts to assist individuals to make sound and thoughtful decisions. In the
case of this study on Millennial teachers, the findings can help answer the question,
what is the right thing to do to help retain young teachers? School leaders may gain
insight on Millennial teachers experiences and thus be able to make more informed
or sensitive decisions. Phenomenological research allows individuals to be more
thoughtful and attentive because it is not external, top down, or expert research.
Phenomenology does not directly solve problems, determine causation, or analyze
interventions, but instead offers insight and the opportunity to share that wisdom.
This study will be a personal experience, between the Millennial teachers and me, to
explicate subjective meaning from the teachers narratives of their behaviors and
thoughts about teaching. There will be conversation, writing, reading, reflection, and
more writing to discover what teaching means to these young teachers.
While there are many ways to look at human behaviors, phenomenology
claims to be pre-empirical as it seeks to describe and understand human experience.
Moustakas (1995) tells us, Phenomena are the building blocks of human science and
the basis for all knowledge (Moustakas, 1995, p. 26). The word phenomenon comes
from the Greek, phaenesthai, which means to flare up, to show itself, or to appear.
Colaizzi (1978) differentiates between natural and human science when he explains in
the natural sciences the experimenter looks for causal explanation. The
phenomenologist, on the other hand, wishes to identify the investigated topic. The
phenomenologist seeks to understand the phenomenon by staying with it, and
thinking meditatively about its meaning (Colaizzi, 1978, p. 68).
Other education related phenomenological studies have investigated the
notions of teachers meanings of educational practice (van der Berg, 2002), gifted
students (Cross, 2003), the difference between lonely and bored children (Kirova,
2004), facilitating school change (Nolan, 2007), education leadership (van der
Mescht, 2004), and early childhood educator attrition (Sumsion, 2002). The latter
study most closely relates to this study, yet it deals with just one early childhood
teacher in Sydney, Australia. All of these studies have intensively investigated their
topic and added insight and deeper understanding for readers. Sumsion (2002) posits
that understanding the daily, lived experiences of teachers is needed to complement
and extend existing understandings generated from the plethora of quantitative, cross
sectional survey type studies (p. 870). The aim of this study is to understand this
particular, unique set of Millennial teachers in a challenging professional context.
More specifically, van der Berg (2002) concludes his review with questions
for further phenomenological research. He suggests the following seven explorations
might deepen understanding of teacher work.
1. How teachers accommodate change and their personal identity.
2. How teachers emotions fit into the organizational arena.
3. The relationship between individually determined teacher meaning and
school determined teacher meaning.
4. An exploration of issues regarding teacher efficacy.
5. An exploration of the ongoing intensification of teachers work.
6. Further understanding of teachers desire for change or certainty,
van der Berg (2002) asks important questions and perhaps this study may help
illuminate some of the questions he has raised. The aforementioned
phenomenological studies about teachers were found in preparation for this research.
None of these studies uses a sample of this age group, the Millennials. It is my belief
that school and district leaders, education policy makers, and academics working with
new teachers must acutely and sensitively listen to and learn from our youngest
colleagues in an effort to understand them and respond to their professional needs.
Therefore, this methodology is an appropriate choice for this study.
Study Setting and Sample
This study is located in a large western city; it will include the surrounding
metropolitan area. In the snowball tradition, the invitation to participate spreads
through out a number of circles and networks; moreover, teachers self-select to be
part of the research study. I personally invited 85 metropolitan area teachers,
administrators, and educators to either participate in this study or send my invitation
along to others. Some of these individuals are district or building leaders, some are at
the university level, and some are classroom teachers. I interviewed the first six
teachers who met the criteria. Any teachers who indicated willingness to participate,
but were not selected, were placed on a waiting list. During the course of the study,
22 teachers indicated interested in being part of the study; however, not all were
contacted as to how they met the criteria since I had met initial expectations of
interviewing six teachers. Those additional teachers would have been contacted, and
screened according to the criteria, if someone could not complete the interview
process for any reason. None of the teachers on the waiting list was contacted as all
the original participants fulfilled the interview process. The phenomenological studies
cited in a previous section use anywhere between one to twelve participants. By its
nature of intensity, a small sample is necessary (Moustakas, 1995). Teachers who
participate in this study are public school teachers who teach a core subject of Math,
Reading, Writing, and/or Science to students in grades 3-10.
The rationale for selecting teachers to participate in the study is important
because each participant must have shared experience in the phenomenon under
investigation. The intent is to have teachers in the sample who share common
concerns and teach students of similar ages. The teachers in this study will teach
students aged approximately 9-16 years old in traditional public schools in the
Teachers of 11th or 12th grade students are not invited to participate in the
study due to the lack of state mandated assessments in those grades. Teachers of high
school juniors and seniors also have a different teaching experience than their peers in
the lower grades due to compulsory school law; students in this state may drop out of
school at age 16. In addition, this study will only ask teachers of core content classes
(Math, Reading, Writing, and/or Science) to participate due to state mandated testing
criteria. Teachers of History and Social Studies, Technology, Art, Music etc. teach
subjects that are not currently tested by this state. Math, Reading, Writing, and
Science teachers teach state-tested subjects so those teachers may have similar
There are three more requirements to be part of the sample for this study.
1. This is a study of public school teachers. Private or charter school
teachers and other types of teachers are not included because
participants must have similar teaching positions to determine the
essence of their experiences.
2. All teachers in the study must have completed their formal, state-
mandated induction period in their school district. Typically, this is a
one-year process. Therefore, first year teachers were excluded from
the study. Teachers will need to have some experience to describe to
be part of the study.
3. The last criterion is age. Teachers must be in the generational cohort of
Millennials, bom after 1980 yet under the age of 28 at the time of the
Teachers completed a 13-item demographic survey to help me learn more
about them and the context for their teaching experience. The survey is included in
Appendix D. It was important to ask questions about age, ethnicity, race, and socio-
economic background in case findings indicated differences between groups. I also
asked about educational background and their teaching assignment. A detailed
demographic description of each of the teacher participants can be found in Chapter
IV. These demographic descriptions supplement the narrative summary story of each
participant, the description of themes based upon the research questions, and the
themes that emerged from the transcripts.
The sampling selection method is a snowball or chain methodology as
described by Miles and Huberman (1994, p. 28). First, a letter was sent via email to
all colleagues and friends in the metropolitan area asking them to pass along my
inquiry to enable potential participants to contact me directly. Potential participants
were asked to contact me directly to mitigate any responsibility felt by people who
assist in the participant selection process. The first email communication explained
the rationale, the criteria for participation, the studys timeline, and data collection
procedures. The email communication to potential participants is more specific as to
the procedures as well as positive or negative outcomes for the participants. Both
letters, to colleagues and potential participants, are included in the appendix. After
initial contact via email, some communication occurred over the telephone to finalize
Data Collection via Interviewing
Right before the actual interview begins, I bracketed my thoughts according to
the procedures of phenomenological methodology. Both van Manen (1990) and
Moustakas (1995) discuss bracketing. Bracketing is a way for the researcher to
acknowledge yet set aside assumptions, thoughts, opinions, and pre-suppositions
about the topic, van Manen (1990) explains that is it wise to identify personal beliefs
and make them explicit, otherwise, they infiltrate interpretation of the phenomenon
The procedure of bracketing is part of the epoche process (Moustakas, 1995).
Epoche refers to a Greek word meaning to stay away from or abstain; the world is
placed out of action while the remaining is bracketed. However, the world in the
bracket has been cleared of ordinary thought and is present as a phenomenon to be
gazed upon. Moustakas (1995) reminds researchers that the challenge of the epoche is
to be transparent regarding internal thoughts so the phenomenon is seen with new
eyes and in a completely open manner (Moustakas, 1995). To accomplish bracketing,
phenomenologists refer to different methods of meditatively clearing their minds,
breathing deeply, and becoming focused on the individual to allow the researcher to
be fully conscious of the participants words, story, or description.
Following that advice, I participated in quiet meditative thinking to clear my
head and breathed slowly. I gave myself ample time to be ready for the interviews
and read over the interview questions, articles, my notes, or transcript prior to each
meeting. When I met with the participants, I was very calm and ready to go where
they took me to describe their teaching world. My goal was to be fully present with
them and I was successful. Each interview was completely different in nature and
tone yet, they all centered on the phenomenon of a young teacher at work.
Each interview began in a similar way. I introduced myself and we shared
several minutes of small talk to build some immediate rapport. I then explained our
agenda for the session and asked if they had any initial questions. The first thing I had
participants do was read the Informed Consent Participant Release Agreement (see
Appendix C) and discuss the study before signing. I provided two copies for
participants to sign so they could take one home with them. Next, they selected a
pseudonym from a list of names I provided. I had done some research on the most
popular names the Social Security Administration posted from issuing Social Security
numbers ini 982. The teacher participants read over the list and invariably exclaimed,
Oh, that is my best friends name! or something similar. They wrote their chosen
name on the folder I provided so we could refer to that name during interviews and
maintain confidentiality. This process was a lot of fun for each of them and helped
them relax. Before I turned on the recorder, I asked each of the participants if they
were ready before I actually turned on the recorder. My goal was for them to feel
comfortable and at ease during the interview process.
Interviews need structure otherwise there is an excess of information to read,
understand, and analyze. As van Manen (1990) warns, interviews can go nowhere and
everywhere, additionally he reminds researchers to stay focused on the research
questions. Colaizzi (1978) reminds researchers that the success of all
phenomenological research questions depends on the extent that they tap the subjects 8
8 The list of top baby names is found at
experiences of the phenomena as distinct from their theoretical knowledge of it
(Colaizzi, 1978, p. 58).
To alleviate an excess of data and to stay focused on the three research
questions, the first interview with the study participants focused on a two-page article
by Laine (2007) about Millennial teachers and the participants response to the text. A
companion article, about Millennial and other generations, written by Strauss and
Howe (2007) was given to the participants to ensure shared understanding of the
generational theory used to frame this study. The commentary by Laine (2007) is
specifically used for the interview discussion. After responding to the text by Laine,
participants were asked to tell a story, or describe an event, that comes to mind after
the reading. Participants received copies of the articles prior to the first meeting.
Copies of the articles are located in Appendix E.
Using the articles as a way to ground the participants in language and
experience proved to be extremely helpful. The text of both articles enabled
participants to understand my thought processes and to give us a shared experience
together. Going into the interviews they had a task to complete, which they all did as
evidenced by their highlighted text with notes and questions written in the margins.
Reading text together was a successful way to establish open-ended interviews;
participants felt more comfortable meeting me as they felt more prepared. The text
acted as anchors for conversation. I believe the text also allowed them a feeling of
safety, because I was clearly a teacher advocate, and their levels of trust developed
more quickly due to that initial experience.
Using van Manens (1990, p. 64) interview perspective as a foundation, the
following questions guide this research of Millennial teachers. The following protocol
is more similar to a frame of reference than actual structured interview protocol. It is
loose and open; the purpose is to allow the participants to describe to me their
experiences working as a teacher in public schools.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself, where you teach, and your teaching
2. What are your initial reactions after reading the articles I gave you?
3. Lets talk about the Laine article. What do you think of the authors basic
premise? Can you discuss some examples in the text that support your
4. In general terms, does this commentary describe you as a young teacher?
5. As you think about the article, what can you specifically relate to? What do
you have trouble relating to?
6. Can you describe a specific experience in your daily life as a teacher that
comes to mind because of reading these articles? Try to describe the
experience in vivid terms and try to avoid interpretations, explanations, or
During the interview process other questions, which probed for more
information, were asked. Due to the open-ended nature of the interviews, those
questions stemmed from each of the participants responses. To assist with their
reflection process, after each interview I also described to teachers what we would
most likely start with the next time we met so they left the interview with ideas
already percolating. After transcription of the first interview, there was another
meeting to go over the first transcription, or other thoughts, the participants may have
had. Immediately after I completed the transcription process I sent via email the
actual transcription with a list of follow up questions. This member checking enabled
the participants to have a week or two to read the transcription, and have time to
reflect on the questions we would start with at the next meeting. In hermeneutic
phenomenological tradition, this enables the participant to augment, clarify with
details, or significantly revise their previous comments. Future interviews, if needed,
functioned in a similar manner. If full interviews were not necessary, additional
conversations were conducted via audio- recording speakerphone conversation or via
email correspondence so there is a record of what was said. At the close of the
interview process I emailed participants a final time, asked them what they learned
from the process, and if they had any changes to the last transcript. Each participant
was guaranteed no more than four interview conversations, either face-to-face, over
the telephone, or via email. The total amount of time each participant could spend
with me was five hours. The only exception was if the communication contact was a
logistical concern such as meeting place or time.
Before interviews for the study of Millennial teachers began, I had the
opportunity to be interviewed twice by a professor researching the doctoral study
process. Each session lasted over one hour and each interview was recorded. I also
had the opportunity to read over the transcriptions and comment on them. The process
of her member checking with me was productive as I recalled information I had
temporarily forgotten. I was thus able to add to my previous interview transcription,
which serendipitously directly related to her research questions. Going through this
experience afforded me deeper understanding and consideration for participants in my
study; I felt more compassion and understood the feeling of meeting some one new
with whom to share my thoughts about a topic. I was able to feel the nervousness and
excitement that some of my research participants may have felt as well. Experiencing
the interview process, on the other side of the desk, was a positive experience for me.
I believe I was a better interviewer because of it.
Phenomenological Analysis of Data
When van Manen (1990) exhorts us that doing phenomenology is creating
text he is referring to the idea that gathering and analyzing data are similar processes,
or part of the same process. Before, during and after text is generated, intensive
interviews and reflective conversations must take place. An important distinction of
the philosophy of this methodology is to reflect upon the interviews with the co-
participant and to talk with them about their interview transcript. This enables deeper
understanding of the phenomenon.
However, van Manen (1990) does offer some more concrete guidelines for
data analysis. To find the essence of a phenomenon, researchers must first discover
themes. This is not a process of coding or looking for frequency count of words.
Instead, the process involves insight, invention, discovery, or disclosure (van
Manen, 1990, p. 79). Theme gives order and control to the research and subsequent
writing. Themes give structure of the experience. As I read over the text, I asked,
what is going on here? What is the essence, or eidos, of this phenomenon? I made
notes about each persons experience and continued to work on their data by
reflecting and writing, van Manen (1990) offers three approaches to finding themes
that include (a) holistic which means to read the text for overall meaning, (b) select or
highlight phrases that stand out, and (c) a line-by-line analysis. Once that is complete,
I began to write notes and paragraphs, or engaged in linguistic transformation. This is
a creative and hermeneutic process. Finally, van Manen (1990) asks the researcher to
consider if the theme is essential. This is an exploration of the phenomenons wholes
and parts. Does the essence of the phenomenon change in a fundamental way if a
particular theme is not part of it anymore?
Colaizzi (1978) offers specific guidance for data analysis in the
phenomenological tradition. He outlines a series of steps encapsulated as follows:
1. Read and re-read all the transcriptions (protocols) in order to acquire a feeling
2. Return to each protocol, and extract phrases or sentences that directly pertain
to the investigated phenomenon and research questions. Several protocols may
contain similar statements, which are eliminated.
3. The next step involves formulating meanings or creative insight. This is an
uncertain act because the researcher is moving beyond the protocol statements
to new statements of meaning.
4. The steps above are repeated for each protocol and the researcher aggregates
formulated meanings into clusters of themes.
5. To validate the themes, they are connected back to the original protocols. This
is achieved by asking whether there is anything contained in the original
protocol that is not accounted for in the clusters of themes and whether the
clusters of themes propose anything which is not implied in the original
6. Discrepancies may be noted among or between the various clusters. Some
themes may contradict others; others may appear unrelated. The researcher
must tolerate ambiguity. The researcher must proceed with a solid conviction
that what is logically unexplainable may be existentially real and valid.
7. An important last step is to formulate the exhaustive description of the
investigated phenomenon in as unequivocal a statement of identification of its
fundamental structure as possible.
8. A final validating step is achieved by returning to each subject and asking the
subject about the findings. For example, the researcher may ask participants,
How do my descriptive results compare with your experiences (Colaizzi,
1978, p. 61).
As part of the epoche process, both van Manen (1990) and Moustakas (1995)
use the concept of bracketing, or setting aside thoughts before interviews, a concept
that was discussed in a previous section. Beyond bracketing, Moustakas (1995) goes
deeper and discusses horizonalizing (p. 95) whereby every statement is treated as
having equal value. Later, statements irrelevant to the topic, repetitive or overlapping
comments are deleted, leaving only the horizon. The next analytic procedure is
clustering the horizons into themes. Finally, the researcher organizes the horizons and
themes into a coherent textural description (Moustakas, 1995).
Interviews were digitally recorded; brief field notes substantiate the
recordings. Digital notes, recordings, and transcripts were saved on a mobile device
called thumb drive, or memory stick, and were kept in a locked filing cabinet.
Furthermore, any additional information in paper format about each teacher was
stored in a locked cabinet. In the phenomenological tradition, as I undertook the
research, I also kept an electronic journal of my thoughts and insights. This journal
was treated in the same manner as interview transcripts and notes.
The interviews were transcribed using the voice recognition software, Dragon
Naturally Speaking, version 9.5. After recording the interview, and saving the digital
recording file, I played back the recording on a slower speed wearing earphones with
a microphone attached then repeated, or echo dictated, the interview into the voice
recognition software. This echo dictation procedure facilitates highly accurate
transcriptions without undermining the data by the interpretation of a professional
transcriptionist. The transcriptions of teachers words are verbatim. Echo dictation
also affords repeated listening to the interview. When the interviews were finished,
each teacher participant received a copy of their transcripts and a copy of the digital
recording of their interviews. Moreover, transcripts, recordings, and other interview
documents will be destroyed, or shredded, after three years.
While a national agenda with global implications is central to my interests,
this study is small and focused. This study is located in a major western metropolitan
area; teacher participants are public school teachers who teach students in grades 3-10
the core subjects of Math, Reading, Writing, and/or Science. The study participants
are under the age of 28 and have taught for more than one year. Due to the
phenomenological methodological design, this study is not widely generalizable and
only offers insights to the shared truth and resultant implications that the participating
Millennial teachers disclose. This study does not aim to speak for all Millennial
teachers in the United States, but does aim to inform the education profession with
gleaned wisdom and understanding.
Human science has a different perspective regarding the issues of validity and
reliability which Miles and Huberman (1994) call standards for the quality of
conclusions. As van Manen (1990) explains, human science has its own criteria for
rigor, precision, and accuracy. The intent of hermeneutic phenomenology is
interpretive descriptions that fully describe and illuminate the detail and explore the
phenomenon. Moreover, phenomenological interpretation is just one interpretation. It
does not start without context or a reason; the phenomenon, or lived experience, is
always the starting place of phenomenology research. This focus is part of a real
persons life and not a manipulated or replicable test environment. However, issues
with reference to validity and reliability are germane to all research studies.
To clarify the validity of this study, however, requires a brief discussion of
salient features. Internal validity refers to the authenticity or credibility of findings.
Do the findings of the study make sense? Miles and Huberman (1994) list a number
of queries to determine the internal validity of any qualitative studys findings.
Questions include asking how context rich and thick are the descriptions. Does the
account ring true, or enable a vicarious presence for the reader? Is the data linked to
the categories of prior theory? Are areas of uncertainty identified? Were the
conclusions considered accurate by the participants (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p.
279)? This last aspect of internal validity, which related to member checking
discussed in previous sections, is discussed at length by Colaizzi (1978), Moustakas
(1995), and van Manen (1990). All three phenomenologists advocate sharing
transcripts and findings with participants for greater understanding and depth of
meaning. In this study, participants had the opportunity to share and discuss
External validity refers to transferability. How far can findings be
generalized? Again, Miles and Huberman (1994) offer a number of queries to test for
external validity. Questions include asking if the characteristics of the original sample
are fully described enough to permit adequate comparison with other samples? Does
the report examine possible threats to generalizability? Does the researcher define the
scope and boundaries of the study? Do the findings include a thick description for
readers to assess transferability or appropriateness for their own setting? Likewise,
does a range of readers report the findings to be consistent with their own experience?
Finally, is the study replicable to assess robustness (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p.
Reliability is often considered a synonym for dependability and in qualitative
research is considered the consistent quality of care undertaken by the researcher. The
primary questions Miles and Huberman (1994) raise concern the integrity of the
research design. Are the research questions clear and is the studys design congruent
with the questions? Another significant issue has to do with transparency regarding
researcher bias or deceit. Moreover, peer review can assist with the reliability of any
study. The interviews that comprised this research study were all conducted in a
similar manner. All participants read the corresponding text and all had the
opportunity to read their transcripts. When participants asked me questions, I
answered them in straightforward fashion and hid nothing from them. I was
completely transparent in my intentions and actions. Moreover, I communicated with
my professional colleagues along the way and consistently reported on my progress.
This research study is a phenomenological study of the daily-lived experience
of young teachers. The purpose of the study is to inform the education profession
what these young teachers think in order to assist in retention efforts. Three research
questions guide this study. How do secondary level, Millennial-aged public school
teachers experience their teaching career after they have completed their formal
induction program? Are there school and district leadership actions that would
encourage Millennial teaches to remain in teaching? What does teaching mean to
Millennial-aged teachers today?
Human science, as differentiated from natural science, forms the foundation
for this phenomenological study as espoused by Colaizzi (1978), Moustakas (1995),
and van Manen (1990). This type of research design asks about the daily, lived
experience of individuals in order to gain wisdom and insight into their reality. It is a
subjective and inductive type analysis that seeks to find the essence of a phenomenon.
While preparing for this study, some teacher or education related literature was found
using the phenomenological tradition. However, none used the Millennial age group
as participants and none used the generational theory of Strauss and Howe (1991,
1997, 2000) to frame the research.
The study is located in a large western metropolitan area; interview
participants are public school, teachers under the age of 28 who have completed at
least one year of teaching. Additionally, these teachers teach Math, Reading, Writing,
and/or Science to students in grades 3-10. The sampling methodology is of the
snowball variety and letters to educators are included in Appendix A and B. The
chapter also includes discussion on data collection and data analysis in the
phenomenological tradition. The chapter concludes with discussion of data
management, scope, validity, and reliability. The trustworthiness features offer
analysis and understanding of how this study is both credible and dependable. The
following chapter. Chapter IV, reveals findings and individual summaries as well as
themes with ample quotes to accurately describe the participants experiences
The purpose of this phenomenological study is to understand the daily-lived
experiences of young teachers who work in metropolitan area public schools. The
primary goals for the research are to understand what young teachers have to say
about their work. My intent is to listen and learn from them. Prior to our first
meeting, each participant read two articles (see Appendix E) to stimulate and
focus their thinking. Several research questions guide this work and include:
1. How do Millennial, public school teachers experience their teaching career
after they have completed their formal induction program?
2. Are there school and district leadership actions that would encourage
Millennial teachers to remain in teaching?
3. What does teaching mean to Millennial-aged, teachers today?
In addition, through concentrated interviews, this study hopes to answer
several sub-questions including (a) do young teachers today fit the Millennial profile,
(b) What motivates Millennial-aged novice teachers to stay in teaching? (c) How are
their career expectation met, or not?
Two, private, in-depth, personal interviews with six teachers provide data in
an attempt to address these questions. What follows in Chapter IV is a presentation of
data from hours of interviews over several months time. After I transcribed the