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How Does Research Apply to Broader Business Decisions?: Researching Teacher Attrition to Achieve My Learning Objective

As a part of Dickinson’s Internship Notation Program and its Internship Grant, participating interns write three reflective assignments to practice articulating the skills they gained throughout the internship and to begin thinking about how their internship experience impacted their career goals. One of these three reflective assignments asks for interns to write a series of learning objectives using quantifiable terms in order to measure and achieve the intern’s goals.Attrition

One of my personal learning objectives that I was most excited to explore was to begin learning how to apply research to business situations in order to determine what is feasible and sustainable for the organization at the big-picture level. Early on in my internship, I worked on smaller research projects that gave me a sense of how research contributed to organization-wide decisions. With these projects, I worked mainly as a researcher who contributed my findings to a larger team who was tasked with compiling research in order to apply to federal grants. Working as a minor contributing researcher gave me a great idea of how my work could make an impact by helping the organization achieve its broader goals. Further, it helped me gain experience working as a team where each member has different roles and objectives.

Though these projects were successful in allowing me to gain a preliminary understanding of how research applied to business situations and decisions, I was tasked with a larger independent research project that gave me a greater sense of agency with regards to how my work directly impacted the organization’s decision making.

As an organization dealing with educators and education, Facing History is constantly keeping up with national trends in education. One such trend is teacher attrition. Teacher attrition is the rate at which teachers (K-12) leave their profession in a given year. The United States currently has an attrition rate of about 8% among public school teachers. Eight percent may seem like a small number, but the United States has a teacher attrition rate that is almost twice as high as other countries. Further, the attrition rate in the U.S. contributes to a recent teacher shortage. Basically, there are fields in K-12 education which are understaffed because either teachers who teach those fields are leaving the profession (attrition), or there is a lack of entering teachers within these fields (which is a component of the teacher shortage).[1]Cartoon

When Facing History compiles data on its pool of educators every year, it also calculates attrition. My task was to research national trends in attrition so that staff working in Facing History’s office of the President and CEO could gain a better understanding of how national trends reflected our organizational trends. More specifically, we were interested in who was leaving the teaching profession, the regions where teachers were leaving the most, and how high-minority and high-poverty school environments contributed to teacher attrition versus low-minority and low-poverty schools.

This was a fantastic experience for me because the project I was working on was of high importance because it directly related to the organization’s business decisions and sustainability. As the primary researcher of this project, I was in a fantastic place to make significant progress towards achieving my learning objective as an intern.

Throughout the project, I did extensive research for about two and a half weeks, compiled my findings into a report, gained first-hand experiences presenting my findings to staff in the organization and working with them to understand how the findings impacted our own work, and worked with staff to condense the information to the key points that pertained to Facing History. I had an excellent meeting with the Vice President of Facing History, the Director of Evaluation, and my supervisor (the Director of Program Operations and Regional Strategy) to have a conversation about which findings would be most useful to our work and where we needed some more clarity.

Ultimately, I learned that even when conducting independent research that has an impact on an organization’s broader decisions, there’s a tremendous amount of collaboration and cooperation that occurs at all levels. Though one person can find, distill, and present, a lot of information, communication with colleagues allows for new perspectives, opportunities to refocus one’s research, and conversations that serve as mentoring sessions. In addition to being a communal process at times, applying research to business situations is constantly fluid. An organization’s goals, interests, and challenges may shift within a month. At that point, previous research may need to be redone or presented differently to help the organization move forward. In my meeting with my supervisor, the Vice President, and the Director of Evaluation, we asked questions that helped us understand the information on teacher attrition as it relates to the organization’s current status. However, we need to be mindful that where we apply the findings of our research and how we apply the findings of our research may shift in the future.Teacher

[1] https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/A_Coming_Crisis_in_Teaching_REPORT.pdf

Image 1: https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/03/30/teacher-turnover_wide-e753037121dbd49dc43b1e8aadc330957919d890.jpg?s=1400

Image 2: http://rinr.fsu.edu/issues/2006winter/_img/cover02_a.jpg

Image 3: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DGaZ-MXXUAI0M-7.jpg


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