Who are they and What do they Need: Characterizing and Supporting the Early Childhood Assistant Teacher Workforce in a Large Urban District

Travis Cramer, Elise Cappella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Scholarship and policy emphasize strengthening the early childhood education (ECE) workforce, but this work neglects a large segment of the workforce: assistant teachers. This study responds to gaps in knowledge by examining the demographic characteristics, qualifications, professional supports, and workplace experiences of assistant teachers (N = 120) in a representative sample of ECE centers (n = 35) in a large urban district. In addition to studying assistant teachers’ receipt of in-service training and coaching, we draw from social network theory to investigate the professional support assistant teachers provide and receive via their collegial networks. We use a variance decomposition approach to explore how on-the-job supports, such as training, coaching, and networks, contribute to assistant teachers’ work-related stress and job satisfaction—two key predictors of ECE teacher attrition. Results indicate that few ECE staff members seek assistant teachers for work-related advice. Coaching is found to be an important contributor to assistant teachers’ job satisfaction; professional advice via collegial networks is a meaningful but under-examined source of support for stress and job satisfaction. We consider implications for supporting and retaining assistant teachers and propose next steps for research on this understudied segment of the teaching workforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-323
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican journal of community psychology
Volume63
Issue number3-4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Keywords

  • Assistant teachers
  • Early childhood education
  • Professional development
  • Social networks
  • Teacher retention
  • Teacher stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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