Perceptions of Novice Elementary School Special Education Teachers Regarding the Impact of Professional Learning Communities on Teacher Retention

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


The retention of special education (SPED) teachers is problematic throughout the United States. Many SPED teachers are leaving education due to burnout which can be caused by feeling isolated and having a lack of collegial support. Studies suggest that collegial support is a main contributor to the retention of SPED teachers. Induction programs, mentoring, and professional learning communities (PLC) have been widely used; however, there is not much research showing how professional learning communities impact the retention of special education teachers.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify novice elementary school SPED teachers' perceptions regarding PLCs. Specifically, this study examined how elementary school SPED teachers' perceptions of PLCs affect the retention of this group of teachers. Themes from this study may indicate what schools can do to make their PLCs more meaningful for the SPED teachers participating in them. The study was guided by the following research question: What are the perceptions of novice SPED teachers regarding professional learning communities and their impact on teacher retention? Twenty SPED teachers with between 0 – 5 years of experience participated in online focus groups. Data from the focus groups were analyzed and themes were developed.

The results of this study indicated that SPED teachers stay at their current schools due to support provided by colleagues such as SPED teachers, general education teachers, and reading and mathematics specialists. In addition, SPED teachers are more likely to stay at their current schools if the PLCs they attend are relevant and are more likely to leave when they miss instructional time with their students due to attending mandatory PLCs. The results from this study may help school and division leaders implement PLC support for SPED teachers that will positively impact the retention of SPED teachers.



Special Education, Teacher Retention, Professional Learning Communities