Faculty of Education

Faculty of Education
Faculty of Education

Ph.D. Research Initiative on International School Hiring

Ph.D. students Launa Gauthier and Stefan Merchant have taken the initiative in undertaking an independent research project on international school hiring of first-year teachers.

Launa and Stefan in the Library

The first phase of the project focuses on the factors that motivate international school administrators to hire first year teachers, and the second phase will focus on the experiences of those school administrators with first-year teachers. At the same time, Launa and Stefan are both interested in supporting teacher professional learning in international schools through research.  To help develop this initiative, Launa recently traveled to China to do a case study on teacher-driven professional learning at international schools in Shenzhen, China.

These projects have nothing to do with their individual Ph.D. dissertation research or with any courses that they are taking.  According to Launa and Stefan, they decided to work on the projects because of their own interests and background in teaching at international schools. While their experiences were very different – hers was in Beijing and Seoul and his was in Singapore and Jakarta – Launa explained that “these experiences are part of who we are.”

When they met at our Faculty as PhD students and became TAs for our Educators Abroad course last year, they soon found that they shared interests and experiences. They also discovered “quite a group” of graduate students who have taught overseas and this group “got together informally and talked about their interests and the gaps in the research.”

Launa further explained:

“There’s a lot of information that first-year teachers need to know about going overseas to teach, but there is not a lot of research on what they should know. Part of our interest in this research is in supporting teacher candidates and first-year teachers interested in teaching abroad.”

For the past two years, Launa and Stefan have volunteered for our Teachers’ Overseas Recruiting Fair (TORF). They collected the data for their hiring study at the TORF last year with the help of our Education Career Services advisors and Fair organizers. Stefan explained that “TORF is the only fair that advertises that they hire first-year teachers. Some other fairs and websites may in fact arrange jobs for some first-year teachers, but they don’t advertise it.” 

The two researchers are now in the process of transcribing and analyzing their data. They are grateful to TORF organizer Elspeth Morgan for putting them in touch with administrators. They also expressed their thanks for the support and encouragement they have received from their supervisors and the Faculty.  Launa explained the importance of being in this environment where they can pursue research “on the side” with the support of their supervisors, who helped them refine their research questions and prepare their ethics application.  Launa added that they were “even awarded travel funding for it” [from the Elliott/Upitis/Bamji/Hajee Travel Fellowship for travel to China for their case study.]

Preliminary findings from the first phase of the hiring study show that international schools are in fact interested in hiring first-year teachers and there are several factors motivating this interest. Stefan stated:

“There’s a perception among administrators that first-year teachers are more likely to engage in extracurricular activities, have more energy, and are more willing to take the initiative and lead.  More importantly, administrators expect that first-year teachers will be more flexible and adaptable. They are looking for first-year teachers who can fit in with the particular culture or ethos of the school because they hope to be able to retain them for years to come.”

Launa explained that the concept of “fit” is one of the core themes among administrators because international schools are often “a hub for expats” who have children at the schools. There are high expectations for schools to provide experiences for students and their families. Stefan added that “fit” and parents’ expectations are also a reason why the hiring opportunities and face-to-face interviews at TORF are so crucial to administrators.

More good news for teacher candidates, first-year teachers and our Faculty is that the two plan to share their research with the organizers of TORF and to publish and present their findings at conferences in the upcoming year. Stay tuned!