April 25, 2024 •

6 min reading

8 effective strategies for retaining and motivating teachers

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Today’s education sector is marked by a constant struggle to retain and motivate teachers. As teachers leave the field and succumb to stress and burnout, students are the ones who pay the price. To address this issue, administrators and policymakers are coming up with new strategies to attract, retain, and motivate their teaching staff. This article will delve into these strategies, providing a comprehensive guide of the most effective solutions for retaining and attracting teachers, based on extensive research and expert insights.

Understanding the global teacher shortage

The impact of teacher shortage

The global teacher shortage is a significant obstacle to achieving equitable and quality education for all students. It's estimated that the world needs to recruit 68.8 million teachers by 2030 to provide education for every student. If not addressed, this shortage threatens to undermine the aim of providing quality and equitable education to every student globally, as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goal 4.1. And these shortages are not just hitting nations with fast-growing populations, they concern countries everywhere, for both the replacement of retiring teachers and hiring new ones. 

The ripple effects of teacher shortage

A lack of teachers doesn't just impact student learning. It also worsens working conditions for other teachers, leading to longer hours or larger class sizes. These adverse conditions can lead to higher attrition rates and ultimately drive down retention numbers. Moreover, persistent teacher shortages can result in missed policy targets at local, national, and international levels, threatening the foundations of lifelong learning, sustainable development, global citizenship, gender equality, and peace.


Why is teacher retention important?

The biggest contributing factor to the current teacher shortage is not the growing need for teachers, it’s the fact that teachers are leaving the profession in droves and for many different reasons. Young teachers leave to pursue other fields with better pay and perks. Older teachers leave to pursue less stressful jobs or simply to retire. Altogether, the teaching profession is having trouble retaining talent, making retention the most viable solution for the issue.

By retaining experienced educators, schools can substantially mitigate the costs associated with recruiting and training new teachers. This financial saving enables schools to reallocate resources toward bolstering facilities, integrating advanced technology, and enriching educational resources, thereby fostering a more conducive learning environment.

Furthermore, stable staffing provides a stable foundation for effective policy development and implementation, facilitating the seamless delivery of reforms aimed at enhancing educational outcomes. They also ensure the preservation of invaluable institutional knowledge and expertise, vital for identifying and addressing the evolving needs of students and schools alike.

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8 Strategies to attract and retain teachers

The reasons for teacher shortages are highly complex as they vary from one school to the next and depend largely on the regulations, requirements, and pay scales established by agencies and governments. Therefore, the solutions for attracting and retaining teachers must be tailored to address the issues at various locations and levels for different stakeholders. By addressing the specific needs of the teachers, the education centers, and the regional and country needs, these scalable strategies are the starting point for improving the situation. 

1. Utilizing and retaining contract teachers

One short-term solution to the teacher shortage problem is the use of contract teachers. These teachers typically have a temporary or fixed-term agreement and minimal pedagogical training or teaching certifications. This strategy has proven effective in some places, as shown by one study in India, where the introduction of contract teachers led to improved test scores for students. While this approach offers high levels of flexibility, it comes with its set of challenges, such as constant teacher turnover, high replacement costs, and a cycle of recruiting new participants. 

However, a more effective long-term approach involves offering opportunities for contract teachers to move out of a temporary contract and into the permanent teaching force. This could involve requiring degrees or advanced training, offering a competitive application process, or allowing contract teachers to become civil service employees after serving for a set period.

2. Increasing teacher compensation

Raising teacher pay to a level competitive with professions that require similar training can be an important step in improving the status of the job. In many countries, teaching is considered a 'profession of last resort' due to low pay or low prestige surrounding a teaching career. By raising salary levels, systems can build towards a more attractive teaching career.

3. Improving working conditions

Much like low salaries, poor working conditions can lower teacher motivation and reduce the overall attractiveness of the profession. Examples of poor working conditions can vary from system to system. For teachers in conflict or crisis situations, it could mean a lack of safety and security or struggling to meet basic needs. Teachers in low- and middle-income countries may lack educational necessities such as desks, books, internet access, or other instructional materials.

However, improving working conditions doesn't just mean providing better resources. It also involves creating a more supportive work environment, which includes providing teachers with the resources and support they need to be successful in their roles, such as technology and classroom supplies.

4. Providing professional development opportunities

One of the most effective strategies for attracting and retaining talented teachers is to provide them with professional development opportunities. This could include workshops, training sessions, and other opportunities for teachers to learn new skills and stay up to date on the latest teaching methods and technologies. By providing teachers with opportunities to grow professionally, schools can help to keep them engaged and motivated to stay in the profession.

One such professional development program for teachers is the Train-the-Trainer (or TTT) program. It allows teachers to update their skills to become learning facilitators, which entails using teaching methods adapted for modern learning environments and learner’s expectations and needs. The TTT program is based on the premise that the most powerful type of learning is not passively being taught what to do, it’s about learning how to find a solution on your own.
Learning facilitators are more like coaches or trainers who guide and help students to learn on their own. The "Train the Trainer" program gives teachers the practical skills required to become adept facilitators, giving them the tools and experience to develop methodologies, invent classroom activities, use diverse technology, and implement verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Overall, this program gives teachers the means to improve their own classroom experiences and find greater satisfaction in their roles, without changing jobs.

5. Encouraging collaboration

One of the biggest threats to a teacher’s well-being is the feeling of being isolated and unsupported. So, facilitating exchanges and collaboration among teachers is a relatively easy and low-cost way to boost their morale and motivation. Collaboration allows teachers to share their ideas, support one another, and lead the way to effective student education. This can be facilitated through official, informal, and virtual configurations, allowing teachers from the same subject and grade level to confer on content, curriculum development, and teaching strategy.

6. Providing comprehensive guidance

School administrators and leaders must effectively communicate the school's mission and student learning objectives so teachers and staff can work toward these goals. This guidance can significantly impact their feelings about continuing to teach. Support from colleagues and administrators is crucial, as teachers should always feel the administration will support them in achieving their mission and that their personal objectives are aligned with a greater purpose.

7. Tackling gender imbalances in teaching

Gender imbalances in teaching can also impact teacher retention. Indeed, women are significantly over-represented in the pre-primary and primary teaching sector and significant discrepancies in wages exist between male and female teachers. Providing equitable and enabling working conditions and compensation for women, on par with men, is the place to start. Offering targeted incentives to get more women teachers into secondary, tertiary, and leadership positions can help reduce these imbalances. At the same time, efforts should be made to encourage more men into pre-primary and primary education.

8. Allowing for innovation

Teachers are not just people in the classroom. They know each student and how their learning styles differ. Allowing and encouraging teachers to be innovative in their teaching strategies can build a sense of motivation and satisfaction among the teaching staff. Innovation can take the form of incorporating student input that emphasizes creativity, mixing teaching strategies to include different student learning styles, and creating flexible learning environments within the classroom.


Final thoughts

Attracting and retaining talented teachers is crucial for the success of any educational institution. It requires adopting comprehensive strategies that address various aspects of the teaching profession. These strategies must be tailored to the unique needs and challenges of each educational system. By focusing on improving pay, working conditions, professional development opportunities, and fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation, educational institutions can enhance their ability to attract and retain high-quality teaching staff.


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