Teacher shortages across the American education system are a growing concern. In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that more than 270,000 primary and secondary education teachers would leave the occupation annually through 2026. And these numbers are holding true: More than 600,000 teachers have quit just the past two years. The pandemic has exacerbated this problem, where 2021 saw a 148% increase in teacher resignations alone.
Teacher staffing has long been at the forefront of education. And if education is to not just succeed–but grow and thrive–it needs to have too many teachers, not too few.
Despite the teacher retention crisis, new online learning strategies are evolving to keep teachers engaged, inspired, and ultimately working. When deployed correctly, online learning can be an impactful way to help teacher retention at your school.
Let’s explore a few specifics.
1. Offer Remote and Hybrid Work Options
Flexibility makes a difference in quality of life. For this reason and others, a study by Rand suggests that one-third of teachers surveyed said they would be open to staying remote at least part of the time. Other teachers who relocated during the pandemic expressed a desire to keep working for their district–which means virtual teaching can make much sense. Districts should consider launching virtual academies or implement hybrid instructional methods at traditional K12 schools. As education evolves, teachers may demand the same flexibility the private sector has now grown accustomed to in a post-pandemic era.
2. Use Retired and Aspiring Teachers to Plug Critical Gaps
Retirement-age teachers reported more desire to leave the classroom than younger teachers during the pandemic. For example, the same 2021 Rand survey found this true at an 11% increase. Teachers over 55 who changed instructional mode correlated to a higher probability of considering leaving their post.
For teachers far from retirement, changes in instructional mode may be easier to manage. Hybrid teaching modalities that increase teacher flexibility may currently favor a younger generation. Districts should build with this in mind. Hybrid education models offer new spaces for the age spectrum to work side-by-side–yet in different ways. Districts can find ways to plug retired and aspiring teachers into existing programs to fill critical gaps–whether through leadership initiatives, advanced curriculum support, or additional online tutoring for select groups of students. A side-by-side full-time and part-time model with a range of educators on staff could help ease the burden of retaining retirement-age teachers full-time.
3. Use Online Learning to Improve Teacher Efficacy
Research has shown that teachers with high levels of self-efficacy report higher levels of job satisfaction, which improves retention and career advancement. And it doesn’t just benefit them but their students too: Higher teacher efficacy is reported to increase student engagement and achievement.
In recent years, the quick shift to online teaching during the pandemic led to a sharp drop in reported teacher self-efficacy. So how can online learning reverse this trend?
A 2021 study from researchers at Brock University showed higher teacher efficacy scores correlated with previous experience with online learning (such as professional qualifications, development, or familiarity with board-approved learning management systems). In short, teachers with classroom technology experience reported higher efficacy in the classroom.
Set teachers up for success. Provide them with technological access points to improve their experience and efficacy levels. Offer guidance, support, and use cases for online teaching and learning tools–before asking them to complete a sizable instructional shift.
This exposure empowers their development and prepares them for future changes in the evolving classroom. Consider introducing online learning in small segments–like specific topical research, classroom discussion boards, or peer-driven class presentations. Beyond segments, ensure your LMS offers resources to maximize their time and talents. This could include automated class rosters, proctored assignments and exams, and student engagement tracking–all available with Class.
4. Online Learning Tools Create Classroom Belonging
Both industry experience and scholarly research have shown that traditional, lecture-based classrooms aren’t always as effective or as engaging at achieving learning outcomes as active pedagogical methods, such as project-based learning. Yet despite this, many teachers had no choice but to re-adopt this outdated lecture-based model during the pandemic with a flat and unfamiliar video conferencing interface.
Online learning offers more than a makeshift lecture model in the post-pandemic era. In today’s dynamic digital learning environment, teachers can and should have access to interactive tools that create and nurture belonging in the virtual classroom, such as enhanced breakout rooms, smart content sharing, and interactive streaming. These tools steer online learning away from a traditional lecture-style classroom–towards group-learning, project-based learning, and methods that build identity and community.
Learn More about Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategies
Online learning is just one way K–12 leaders across the country are rethinking how to attract and keep high-quality educators.
Want to use online learning to improve teacher retention at your school?