GRADUATES: EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES,
CURRENT POSITIONS, AND VIEWS ON PREPARATION
Ern Cluett, Leroy Klas, Joan Netten
Summary Report Prepared by
A study of recent graduates of the Faculty of Education was undertaken in the Fall of 1992 in order to determine their employment status, degree of satisfaction with current employment and satisfaction with preparation for teaching. Recommendations for revisions of the teacher preparation program at Memorial were also sought.
A questionnaire was developed and mailed to the home addresses
of all graduates of the Faculty of Education for the three years 1986,
1988 and 1990. Difficulties were experienced in tracing graduates,
and further measures were undertaken in an attempt to locate additional
graduates through cross-reference with the Department of Education.
As indicated in Table 1, a 25 percent sample of the total population was
attained. Characteristics of the respondents were compared with those
of the total population, and an analysis of a random sample of late responses
Results of the survey give some interesting insights into employment patterns, current positions and views of recent graduates. However, conclusion must be treated with some caution.
Profile of the Respondents
Respondents to the survey represented the geographic distribution
of the teaching force in the Province, with the exception of the Avalon
region. This result may be indicative of the difficulty of obtaining
positions in this region for recent graduates. Respondents also tended
to be somewhat older than might have been expected. Over 40 percent
of respondents were 31 years of age or older, and nearly 30 percent of
this group were 36 years of age or older. Since a considerable number
of respondents were recipients of a second degree or diploma, these results
suggest that many recent graduates of the Faculty of Education are not
Results of the survey indicate that respondents may be divided into three broad categories. About one-third found employment prior to graduation; some respondents in this group are graduates who are not first-time graduates and would not be actively seeking employment as they could well have been on leave of absence from their school districts. Another one-third obtained a permanent position within a year after graduation, while a further one-third found only temporary positions, or are unemployed. These data are summarized in Table 2. About 10 percent of respondents had been employed outside of Newfoundland, primarily in other Canadian provinces.
Information gathered by the survey suggest that there are basically two types of career patterns: one for those who obtain a position prior to or within a year after graduation and another for those who do not find a permanent position in the same time frame. Most recent graduates have held several positions, those in the first category holding an average of two before finding permanent employment. Those in the latter category have generally held three or more positions. As the time elapsed since graduation increases, the probability of finding permanent employment decreases. It may be hypothesized that this result is caused by competition from even more recent graduates.
* due to rounding
However, there is also evidence to suggest that the younger graduates, that is those from age 20 to 30, who are also first-time graduates, have experienced considerably more difficulty in obtaining positions than did their older colleagues. Respondents in the 20-30 age groups have held a greater proportion of substitute, replacement and part-time positions than their older colleagues. They have also already held more positions, generally, and more positions in rural areas, than their older colleagues. There are also indications that more of the youngest age group, that is those 20 to 25 years old, have experienced even more difficulty in finding employment than was the case for those who graduated five or fewer years previously. These findings suggest that more of the most recent graduates find themselves in the second career pattern.
Subject area specialization may facilitate obtaining permanent employment, particularly at the high school level. There is evidence to suggest that recent graduates prepared for French, particularly French immersion, mathematics, religious education and special education have experienced the most favorable employment opportunities. However, it is interesting to note that a number of special education graduates are not working in their area of specialization. Teachers of religious education spend only about 50 percent of their time teaching in their time teaching in their area of specialization, yet are amongst those who find employment most quickly. It must be assumed that recent graduates in these two areas are considered desirable for reasons other than their academic area of specialization. It should be said, however, that the areas of specialization targeted by the school system will change with priorities, and the finite number of positions available. There are indications, for example, that recent graduates prepared to teach entrepreneurship find employment quickly, but the incidence of such instances was very low.
It is also worthy of note that a number of graduates have obtained positions prior to the completion of their qualifications. Many of these positions have been in the substitute, replacement or part-time category, and the larger proportion appear to have been at the primary or elementary levels. A number of graduates who return to university for a second degree or diploma have also held positions before receiving the appropriate qualifications for the area of specialization. These findings suggest that, once graduates enter the school system, they are able to stay in the system and adjust to meet its needs. Because of this situation, gaining entry into the system may appear to some a more important consideration than completion of the appropriate qualifications. These data also suggest that there is a continuing need in the school system for qualified teachers who are able to accept temporary positions.
Several other characteristics of the career patterns of recent graduates also emerged. Age is a distinguishing factor; regular classroom positions are held by those recent graduates under 40. Special education teachers and those associated with guidance and counselling tend to be in the mid-age range from 31 to 40. The largest number of positions per respondent have been held by the 26 to 30 age group, which also has a higher proportion of positions as all-grade teacher and multi-grade teacher. The largest number of graduate students and the largest number of unemployed are those in the 20-30 age groups.
Geographic region was a more important factor than rural/urban distinctions for respondents. The problem of the need to find a position in a particular geographic region was explored. Only 16 percent of respondents indicated that they were limited to a position in an urban or a rural area, but 30 percent indicated that they were limited to a particular geographic area. About half of these were limited to the Avalon region and another 20 percent to the Western part of the Province. More respondents indicated that they were limited to a position in another Canadian province than to the Central, South or Labrador regions of the Province. The smallest number of positions per respondent was reported in Labrador and the South; however, the largest number of positions in excess of the normal proportion of the teaching force has occurred in the South. This finding suggests that a large number of recent graduates have been employed for a short period of time in the South, and that the teaching force in this region tends to be more transient.
Some rural/urban differences were apparent. More positions per respondent are held in rural areas. It is also interesting to note that more positions in rural regions require the teaching of some subject areas for which respondents were "not-at-all" prepared.
Some gender patterns for employment are evident. Certain
positions, such as that of primary and elementary teacher, are generally
held by females. While an increasing number of administrative positions
are held by women, special education, guidance, and other counselling related
positions appear to be the preferred career choice for recent women graduates.
Females also held a higher number of positions per respondent than most
males. Women graduates are also more likely to be restricted to finding
employment in a particular geographic region, most often in an urban area
or in the Avalon region of the Province.
Employment in Non-School Settings
It appears that a very small proportion of recent graduates have been employed in a non-school setting. There were 95 instances of recent graduates holding positions in what were described as "non-school" settings. Sixty percent were actually employed while 40 percent were graduate students. Only 34 instances were in settings "not-at-all" related to education, the other instances being related to some sort of child care or preschool. The majority of respondents indicated that they had accepted such employment either because they were married/engaged or because they preferred to live "in a large centre." About one-third of those recent graduates who described themselves as employed in non-education settings would like to return to education.
Recent graduates employed in education were also asked if they
wished to change to a non-education setting. About one-quarter of
the respondents (118) indicated that they would like to change. Reasons
for preferring a non-education setting were requested, but only 16 respondents
answered this question. Half of the reasons given were associated
with the need to obtain a permanent full-time position rather than a temporary
one in education.
Degree of Satisfaction with Current Position
Satisfaction levels were relatively high, as about sixty percent of recent graduates appear to be content with their present position. About one-quarter of respondents indicated that they would have preferred to work in another community. Of these respondents the two most frequent preferences were "hometown" or a "larger community." About one-fifth indicated that they would prefer to work in another school. Of this group, the largest number were seeking more compatible working conditions. Less than 10 percent of this group (14 respondents) wanted to change in order to obtain a full-time position. About 30 percent of respondents indicated that they would prefer another type of school position. It is interesting to note that nearly one-quarter of this group would like to be either a special education teacher or a guidance counsellor. This finding suggests that these positions appear to be very attractive. However, three-quarters of those desiring another type of position indicated that they desired a position as a regular classroom teacher. Of these respondents over three-fifths were in the 20 to 30 age categories. These findings suggest that it is the most recent graduates who are most dissatisfied with their current position and that a large proportion of this group may not as yet have found permanent employment in the school system. It may be hypothesized that they have accepted a position because it was the only one available.
For those who would like to locate elsewhere but do not do so, reasons were requested. The main reason given for not being able to relocate was that the respondent was married or engaged.
Respondents were also asked if they would be willing to accept a teaching position outside of the Province. Forty percent of those who responded to the question indicated that they would be willing to take a position elsewhere in Canada, but only 17 percent indicated that they would be willing to take positions outside of Canada. It is important to note, however, that only one-half of the respondents answered this question.
Degree of satisfaction with employment is also a factor of adequacy
of preparation. When teachable subject area was cross-tabulated with
the degree to which the respondents' current position was related to subject
area specialization (i.e. - directly, partially, or not at all), some interesting
differences were found. Respondents teaching at the primary and elementary
levels reported a greater congruence between preparation and current position
than did teachers at the secondary level. Of this second group, almost
70 percent of those prepared for mathematics and French and 60 percent
prepared for science are directly employed in their area of preparation.
Only about half of those prepared teach English and social studies teach
directly in their area of specialization. The degree of comfort of
the teacher with the other areas taught, it may be hypothesized, would
be a factor in assessing degree of satisfaction with current employment.
Effectiveness of Preparation
Recent graduates rated their overall preparation for employment as fair to satisfactory. Some differences in components did appear in the data analysis. Respondents felt that the internship prepared them significantly better for both their initial and subsequent positions than did their course work. Respondents did, however, feel that their course work prepared them for subsequent positions better than for their first-position. It is possible that a number of recent graduates were faced with teaching different subjects and/or grade levels in order to get their first position, but were subsequently able to move to a position more closely linked with their preparation.
In their evaluation of their field experiences, the number, duration, and quality of these experiences were generally rated poor to fair. The only component which the respondents rated highly was the adequacy of their field supervision. The role played by the university supervisor was rated satisfactory, but the supervision of the co-operating teacher was rated significantly higher than that of the faculty supervisor.
The role played by faculty in the delivery of courses was rated satisfactory.
Of the various skills addressed by the teacher preparation program in the Faculty of Education, respondents indicated the two most important components to be general classroom techniques and subject specific ones. The nature of the learner (i.e., development, needs, exceptionality) ranked third.
Those skills which respondents felt to be most lacking in their
preparation included classroom management strategies (i.e., discipline),
sufficient field experiences, scheduling and organization. Counselling
and inter-personal relationships were also frequently cited as areas needing
more attention in the pre-service preparation.
Feelings of Competence in Current Positions
Recent graduates of the teacher education program consider themselves to have good levels of competence on nearly all competencies questioned. Almost all scores were close to 4 (good) on the Likert scale. Five items whose scores were less than 3.5 were still above 3 (lowest = 3.2). These items represented a very mixed set of competencies: knowledge of the Canadian and Newfoundland school systems, knowledge of governance of schools, competence to assist students in selecting their own learning objectives and activities, competence to use the results of system-wide tests to plan instruction, and ability to meet the needs of special needs students. As might be anticipated, graduates from special education rated themselves much more positively in the last two categories than did those from non-special education programs. However, it should be noted that system-wide tests are much more likely to be intended to support instructional decisions for those involved in special education than are such tests in other areas which tend to be primarily summative.
Graduates of high school training program options scored lower
than others on a number of items. Of particular interest are those
which dealt with planning and sequencing of instruction. These findings
would suggest differences in the preparation program of the high school
trained respondents, as compared with the preparation of respondents who
followed other programs.
Seven stressors were suggested to respondents who ranked their importance. Discipline and time management received the highest rankings. Respondents also indicated that meeting professional and personal goals was a third aspect which caused them considerable stress. By far the least stressor was getting along and working with other teachers.
Some differences across teacher groups did emerge for the ranking
of stressors. The most important was that counsellors found parent-teacher
interviews much less stressful than regular classroom teachers who has
had no preservice preparation in this aspect of their work.
Components of a New Program
Respondents were also asked to make suggestions for areas to be included in the revision of programs currently being undertaken by the Faculty. Respondents indicated that any new program in the Faculty should maintain the internship and other field experiences. The other two major areas which should be included were subject specific methodology and the category described as "other" which included such examples as testing, counselling, and classroom management.
Respondents suggested some changes for the arts and science component of their program. Of the sixteen categories mentioned, items such as better laboratory experiences, more on computers, and more French were cited. However, all of these suggestions were of relatively low incidence.
Changes suggested for the professional component of the program
highlighted practice rather than theory. Respondents felt that more
field experiences should be added, and that there should be more emphasis
on practice. A number of other aspects were mentioned, such as training
in classroom management, integration of special needs students, computers,
and stress management, among others. However, the incidence of these
latter categories was relatively low.
The results of the survey give a positive picture of teacher education programs at Memorial.
Of the recent graduates who responded to the survey, eighty percent have found employment in the Province. Slightly over ten percent have found employment elsewhere, primarily in other Canadian provinces, and less than ten percent remain unemployed. However, twenty percent of recent graduates have found only temporary employment, and about ten percent have found employment in non-education settings. Thus, about sixty percent of recent graduates have found permanent employment in the education system of the Province.
Most recent graduates have filled at least two temporary positions before finding permanent full-time employment, and those graduates who do not secure employment prior to or within a year after graduation are much less likely to obtain a regular classroom position. Recent graduates specializing in French, mathematics and religious education have found employment more quickly than those secondary teachers specializing in other areas.
Two-thirds of recent graduates express satisfaction with their current positions. The largest number of those desiring another position appear to be those who have not yet obtained a regular position as a classroom teacher. Other reasons for desiring change are related to inter-personal relations or to the desire to be located closer to home or in a larger community.
Most recent graduates appear to be satisfied with their preparation. They consider themselves to have good competencies in most skill areas. Special education graduates appear to be better prepared to deal with interpersonal relationships, as well as special needs students. Graduates of the high school options report some deficiencies in lesson planning and organizing instruction.
Respondents consider their field experiences as more beneficial to them overall than their course work. However, courses in subject specific methodology and the nature of the learner are felt to be of particular importance, as well as general classroom techniques. The skills respondents felt needed more attention in preservice preparation included classroom management, time management, organization of instruction and interpersonal relations. Classroom management and time management proved to be the highest stressors.
Recommendations from respondents indicate that program revision should address primarily the need for more emphasis on practice in the degree programs of the Faculty of Education.