Teach for America Corps Members’ Perceptions of Classroom Self-Efficacy Open Access
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There is an unyielding relationship between poverty and underperforming classrooms (Flores, 2007; Harding, 2003; Kopp, 2011; Lauen & Gaddis, 2013; South, Baumer & Lutz, 2003). Research concluded that quality teachers make the biggest difference in underperforming classrooms (Chester & Beaudin, 1996; Eckert, 2013; Faez & Valeo, 2012; Hill, Konstantopoulos, & Hedges, 2004; Konstantopoulos & Sun, 2012.) Yet, these urban and rural classrooms experience teacher shortages as many teachers leave these challenging spaces for suburban venues or leave the profession definitively. In this way, Teach for America’s goal was to fill these classrooms with candidates that would counteract this problem. TFA recruited high-achieving recent college graduates without education degrees and trained them for eight weeks during a Summer Institute and placed them in underperforming classrooms (Kopp, 2011). This qualitative interview-based study including 17 TFA corps members and alumni examined the levels of preparedness and self-efficacy that they had during the first years teaching in underperforming classrooms. In addition, the interviews elucidated the perceived training mechanisms that TFA employed during training. This study drew on the conceptual framework involving Bandura’s Social Learning theory (1977) and self-efficacy (1993) as well as Bourdieu’s (1977) concepts of social reproduction, “organization habitus” as proposed by Horvat and Antonio (1999) and “institutional habitus” (Roofe & Miller, 2013).Participants described the ways in which they perceived themselves to be prepared for their classrooms both from TFA training and from their own background and prior work and classroom experiences. Although participants acknowledged the value of TFA training especially in lesson planning and some basic pedagogical theories they noted that they did not always perceive themselves to be fully prepared or have a high self-efficacy and therefore acted as agents by seeking additional training and colleague observations to enhance their self-efficacy. Based on participants’ lived experiences, this study offers a deeper understanding of Teach for America’s corps members’ perceptions of preparedness of self-efficacy after their Summer Institute training and during the beginning of their teaching careers.