Teacher Preparation

Here’s What Gen Z Teachers Around the World Want in Their Jobs

By Madeline Will — January 16, 2020 4 min read
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Young teachers want to use technology to make a difference in the classroom, but they don’t feel like their preparation programs have adequately equipped them to use do so. They expect to work in diverse classrooms, but they don’t feel properly trained. And they are worried about stress and burnout.

These are some of the findings from Microsoft Education, which, in partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit, surveyed 1,034 student-teachers and early-career teachers around the world. Most of those teachers are part of Generation Z, which covers people born from 1995 to 2015.

“The younger generation of teachers are digital, global, social, mobile, and visual,” said Mark Sparvell, an education leader at Microsoft. “They prioritize social-emotional learning, ... they prioritize global issues. This is a very values-oriented generation—they seek to work with purpose and passion, and without that, they’ll leave.”

See also: Millennial Teachers: Things to Consider in Trying to Recruit and Retain Them

The survey found that more than half of incoming teachers chose the profession because they enjoy working with children, and 46 percent said they want to make an impact on future generations. When asked what factors deterred young people from going into the teaching profession, 45 percent said salary and 45 percent said stress and burnout.

(In the United States, where the national average salary for public school teachers is $61,730 and where teachers have been protesting en masse for higher wages, nearly 70 percent of respondents chose salary as the top factor preventing young people from becoming teachers.)

The top investment priorities of early-career teachers are: improving physical learning spaces, increasing the size of the workforce, and having more technology in the classroom.

Young teachers “see technology as a tool to expand and amplify their capacity to solve problems that are relevant and meaningful,” Sparvell said. “These preservice and early-career teachers have high aspirations to use technology for higher-order tasks. ... They have this high expectation, [but] the reality is a lot more challenging.”

Only 38 percent said they felt like their training had equipped them to use digital technology for instruction. Teachers also said the top barriers to achieving positive outcomes with technology included a lack of sufficient technology tools and inadequate technical support.

According to survey data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which was released last summer, just about 45 percent of U.S. teachers said they felt “well prepared” or “very well prepared” for the use of information and communication technology for teaching. Yet only 10 percent said they felt a high need for professional development in that area.

The Microsoft survey also found that nearly all early-career and preservice teachers expect classroom diversity to increase by 2030, but only 38 percent said they felt like they were adequately trained to teach in a multicultural classroom. (OECD data found that nearly 48 percent of U.S. teachers felt prepared to teach in a multicultural or multilingual setting, and only 6 percent said they felt a high need for professional development in that area.)

Half of respondents in the Microsoft survey said they think new teachers will focus more on teaching about inclusion and diversity. Early-career and preservice teachers also said they wanted to increase the focus on social and emotional learning and devote more teaching time to global issues like climate change.

Getting Younger

Right now in schools, there are teachers who are Boomers (born between 1946-1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976), Millennials (born between 1977 and 1999), and Generation Z. That creates an interesting dynamic for school leaders, as they try to meet the needs of the different groups, Sparvell said.

But as the older teachers near retirement, the overall profession is getting younger. According to research done by University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Ingersoll, the most common age of a public school teacher now ranges from the mid-30s to the mid-40s. In 2007-08, the most common age was 55. In 2015-16, about 60 percent of newly hired teachers in public schools were younger than age 29.

Young teachers tend to want ongoing support and professional development, Sparvell said. They value coaching and mentoring, as well as feedback and face-to-face conversations. Still, he said, virtual communities where young teachers can get support from other educators might be a cost-effective solution for school leaders.

There are plenty of online support groups for new teachers, including Twitter chats, Reddit, and private social media groups. Roxanna Elden, a former teacher and a writer who provides resources for beginning teachers, told Education Week in 2016 that new teachers want advice, but they are often intimidated to admit that they are struggling or don’t know everything. Online communities can give them concrete, nonjudgmental advice, she said.

“This generation of teachers, they grew up as students who had voice, choice, and agency,” Sparvell said. “They want opportunities to lead straightaway—not because they want the leadership for ego; they want the leadership for a chance to drive change. And when they don’t have the leadership, they essentially leave the profession.”

Image via Getty

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.

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