Last week the NFER (National Foundation for Education Research) and TDT (Teacher Development Trust), published a really useful piece of research – ‘Teacher autonomy: how does it relate to job satisfaction and retention?’ Researchers used data from two large-scale surveys, which explored autonomy in relation to different aspects of a teachers’ job, but also how this compared to other professions. This research is the first large-scale quantitative study to look at teacher autonomy and its importance for retention in England. The main findings from the research are summarised below:
- Teacher autonomy is associated with higher job satisfaction and intention to stay in teaching.
- Teachers’ perceived influence over their professional development goal setting is the area most associated with higher job satisfaction and a greater intention to stay in teaching. Increasing teachers’ reported influence over their professional development (PD) goals from ‘some’ to ‘a lot’ is associated with a nine‑percentage‑point increase in intention to stay in teaching.
- The average teacher reports a lower level of autonomy compared to similar professionals.
- Teachers report relatively high autonomy over classroom activities, including the teaching methods they use and how they plan and prepare lessons, but lower autonomy over curriculum, assessment and their professional development goals
NFER have worked in partnership with Teacher Development Trust (TDT) on this project, and TDT have published a very useful resource: Guidance on Teacher Goal – Setting for school leaders to accompany the research. In addition, various articles, resources and podcasts have reviewed this research:
- Teacher Autonomy – Shaun Allison, Director of Research School for Durrington Research School
- Teacher autonomy: how does it relate to job satisfaction and retention? – Jack Worth from NFER
- Can professional development help improve teacher retention? – Jack Worth in Schools Week
“Autonomy plays a significant role in teachers’ motivation. Giving teachers greater influence over how they do their job has the potential to increase job satisfaction, which in turn is important in tackling teacher retention. At a time when the school system cannot afford to lose valuable teachers, improving autonomy, workload, satisfaction and retention could help address the teacher supply challenge.” Jack Worth NFER
“There has been a welcome recent focus on teacher workload, but we know that what concerns teachers is not just the amount of time worked, but the relevance of tasks they’re being required to carry out. School leaders and policy makers need to carefully consider how accountability and performance management systems are supporting the right types of teacher autonomy, raising morale and improving retention.” David Weston TDT