“Generation Y” Teachers Want More and Better Feedback from Principals and Their Peers, A New Study Finds

New Orleans – A new report issued jointly by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) finds that three out of four Generation Y (Gen Y) teachers support the idea of more rigorous and frequent feedback from their principals and peers on the effectiveness of their instruction.

The study, “Workplaces That Support High-Performing Teaching and Learning: Insights from Generation Y Teachers,” provides insights into the attitudes of Gen Y teachers – those born between 1977 and 1995 – as well as the implications for school policy and practice. The report was released at the annual conference of the national Education Writers Association in New Orleans on April 7, 2011.

Gen Y teachers represent a rapidly growing proportion of the teaching workforce. Research shows that Gen Y will make up nearly half of all workers by 2020 as the Baby Boomer generation transitions out of those positions. These generational shifts have significant implications for teacher workforce development, which education leaders need to be aware of in order to develop and sustain high performing schools.

The study, funded by the Ford Foundation, found that:

  • Gen Y teachers tend to desire more frequent feedback on their teaching and impact from peers, mentors, and principals. They want to know when they are on track and if not, how to do better. Seventy-five percent of Gen Y teachers preferred a principal who frequently observed their classrooms and provided feedback on how they were doing, versus a principal that conducts one formal evaluation per school year with general feedback. 
  • Gen Y teachers tend to desire differentiation in rewards and sanctions for themselves and their colleagues based on effort and performance. A total of 75 percent support efforts by their unions to negotiate for adding performance considerations into salary decision-making. However, Gen Y teachers would also like poor teacher performance addressed more effectively for colleagues not putting in enough effort to their profession or meeting expectations. For them, treating those teachers the same as their colleagues who go above and beyond their expected duties has a demoralizing effect.
  • Gen Y teachers tend to be more open to, and have more experience with, shared practice than do their more experienced colleagues. However, the structures that exist in schools to support collaboration vary widely. Gen Y teachers especially want the opportunity to observe other teachers and learn from their other teachers’ practice, as well as be observed themselves.?
  • Gen Y teachers want to be evaluated, but tend to be very concerned about equity and validity in teacher evaluation. Only about a third of Gen Y teachers felt their most recent formal evaluation was effective in helping them become a better teacher. Many also had concerns about relying on standardized student test scores in their evaluations, which the study notes may be related to a lack of experience with using high-quality student assessment data to understand the impact of instruction. Most teachers believed multiple measures of student learning and performance measurement instruments should be used to evaluate teachers.
  • Gen Y teachers tend to be very enthusiastic about instructional and social networking technology, but expect more from technology than what many schools can deliver. Access to computers with internet and instructional devices helps teachers engage students, teach them important skills, and catch them up faster when they have been absent. It also supports collaboration among teachers (virtual conferencing) and shared practice, and enhance the ability of school leaders to provide meaningful data-based feedback.

“This study offers new insights into the thinking and motivations of an important part of the nation’s teaching workforce. Gen Y teachers are increasingly shaping how our children learn, and it is important for education leaders on both sides of the bargaining table to understand their needs,” said Sabrina Laine, an AIR vice president and expert on teacher quality issues.
The study included an analytical review of 11 existing, nationally representative teacher surveys, the analysis of seven scenario-based focus groups with Gen Y teachers around the country, and three case studies profiling local AFT affiliates that partnered with school districts to implement important aspects of high performing workplaces. The districts were in Austin, Texas, Philadelphia, Pa., and St. Francis, Minn.

The study is available on the AIR and AFT websites.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit www.air.org.


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