Beginning teachers’ support needs for professional development

Tutkimustuotos: OpinnäyteVäitöskirjaArtikkelikokoelma


In this doctoral dissertation, I investigate the needs of beginning teachers for support in professional development. The first aim is to examine, how support needs are experienced by new teachers in four European countries: Finland, England, Portugal, and Flanders (in Belgium). The second aim is to examine how Finnish beginning teachers and principals experience early-career teaching support needs.

In the study, teaching is considered to be a profession with widening responsibilities in schools and society. Along with this assumption, a theoretical framework is built upon the concepts of professional competence and continuously developing expertise. These elements are considered to be integral parts of teachers’ work that influence their support needs at the beginning of their careers.

The dissertation consists of three sub-studies that were carried out as part of a European-funded Erasmus+ Key Action 2 project. The first sub-study examined the essential support needs and the support need profiles among beginning teachers in four European countries. The second sub-study focused on investigating the topic from the perspective of Finnish principals in particular. The third sub-study combined the viewpoints of Finnish beginning teachers and principals. A mixed methods approach was used in the dissertation. The data were collected via an electronic questionnaire, and quantitative and qualitative methods were used to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomena related to the support needs of beginning teachers.

The results of this dissertation show that the support needs of beginning teachers are simultaneously individual and common. They are partly connected to certain professional tasks, practices, or challenges of teachers’ work, but at the same time are linked to the wider processes of developing routine and adaptive expertise. The identified support needs also reflect the complex and broad requirements and challenges set for the teaching profession today.

Furthermore, the results suggest that the focus of beginning teachers is not on themselves but rather on students’ learning and on collaboration in the school community. In particular, the results from both the transnational and Finnish contexts indicate that supporting students’ comprehensive individual growth, differentiating teaching, and acting in conflict situations are a key area of support. In total, three broad perspectives of support needs are identified: (1) supporting students’ comprehensive individual growth, (2) working in the school community, and (3) developing one’s own work. These are all part of the wider process of developing expertise that can be understood as a holistic continuum of professional development relating to the teaching profession.

To conclude, the present doctoral dissertation finds that beginning teachers’ support needs are related to several aspects of professional competence, suggesting that, at the beginning of a teaching career, professional development occurs simultaneously across several dimensions of professional competence. Support needs are strongly related to the characteristics of the teaching profession, as well as to practices in schools, and their complexity and context- and time-specificity must be considered when planning and implementing support activities for beginning teachers.
  • Niemi, Hannele, Valvoja
  • Pehkonen, Leila , Valvoja
  • Multisilta, Jari, Valvoja
Painoksen ISBN978-951-51-6812-2
Sähköinen ISBN978-951-51-6813-9
TilaJulkaistu - 2020
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG5 Tohtorinväitöskirja (artikkeli)


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