This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Experiences in the field of education: How perceived experiences lead to teacher exit




Goodrich, Kathleen

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


The ongoing teacher shortage has created major concern across the nation. While much research has sought to understand sources of teacher dissatisfaction, less attention has been paid to how general education (GE) and special education (SE) teachers differentially experience workplace challenges. To construct a more detailed and domain specific approach to teacher retention, this case study examines the experiences of ten special education (SE) and general education (GE) teachers. In order to add to our existing body of research, a more personal approach was employed: studying recently exited teachers to assess self-reflective understandings of leaving the profession. Following interviews of these recently exited teachers, this research asks how workplace (dis)satisfaction was experienced for SE and GE teachers who left the profession, and in what ways did teaching domain contribute to differences in perceptions of workplace (dis)satisfaction? Following a series of in-depth interviews, major themes of (1) lack of support, (2) lack of autonomy, (3) respect of time, and (4) unclear/unmet expectations carried across both GE and SE teachers. However, SE teachers were more likely to experience both satisfaction and dissatisfaction through their student-centered experiences, while GE teachers were more likely to experience satisfaction when they felt supported by their administration and dissatisfaction when they did not feel respected by their peers. These findings help construct a more detailed picture of how teacher turnover operates and allow for more specific strategies to be employed to address the teacher shortage. This research concludes with a series of recommendations, both practical and theoretical, for improving the conditions and retention rates of GE and SE teachers.