Working Through Problems: An Investigation of the Problems and Problem-Solving Approaches of Beginning Teachers


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Virginia Tech


The purpose of the present investigation was to determine what professional and personal problems elementary-school teachers face during their initial years of teaching and how they cope with or solve these problems. Beginning teachers abandon the teaching profession at alarming rates causing grave financial burdens to school divisions, schools, and tax payers. The phenomenon has also contributed to the current teacher shortages in particular subject areas and certain geographic locations. Many teachers who left the profession before their fifth year of professional teaching reported the problems associated with teaching as primary reasons for their exodus. Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with six in-service elementary teachers. The interviews were conducted in three parts. All of the six participants were between their fifth and tenth year of teaching, and they all taught at the elementary level. The results indicated that they had problems with (a) personal issues and life experiences, (b) school curricula, (c) children with special needs, (d) differentiation of instruction, (e) discipline, (f) workload and time management, (g) parents, (h), student poverty and students' home issues, (j) relationships with students, (k) teacher training, and (l) administration. The participants coped with these problems by using pattern matching indicating that their own life experiences and backgrounds had significant roles in their problem-solving processes. Recommendations are made for preservice and beginning in-service teachers to focus on their educational experiences and biographical information to recall relevant information that will help them to cope with and solve professional problems.



problems, problem-solving, beginning teachers