Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Sharon Zumbrunn


Teacher attrition, particularly in hard-to-staff urban schools, is a problem addressed by many researchers. Although this research often focuses on novice teachers, those with three or fewer years of experience, there is a growing body of literature that examines second stage teachers, those with between four and 20 years of experience. Like their novice colleagues, these second stage teachers are also at risk of leaving the profession, which can have negative consequences for students. While much of the research focuses on reasons why teachers leave the profession, there is a growing interest in understanding how teachers reach the decision to remain in the profession. Psychological theory and existing scholarship on the work lives of teachers provides one conceptual framework for exploring the topic of teacher retention. The theory of basic psychological needs explains that teachers, like employees in all other professions need to feel fulfillment of the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness in their professional lives. This contributes to their sense of job satisfaction, or enjoyment, which then makes it more likely for them to remain in the profession. One potential way to help second stage teachers meet these needs and experience job satisfaction is through teacher leadership roles, such as mentoring.

The current exploratory study used qualitative methods to interview urban second stage teacher leaders to learn how their experiences fulfill their needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, lead to a sense of job satisfaction, and influence their decision to remain in the profession. The participants in this study all had between four and 20 years of experience and all served in a leadership role as a mentor to pre-service teachers through an urban teacher residency program. They shared details and experiences of their professional lives from their decisions to become teachers in the urban school district, through their novice stage of teaching, and into their second stage of teaching, including the decision to take on the complicated leadership role of serving as a mentor to a pre-service teacher through a yearlong residency program.

The participants shared experiences which indicated fulfillment of the three basic needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. They also shared that they felt a sense of satisfaction both from their work as classroom teachers and their role as mentors. Although they experienced need fulfillment and job satisfaction, participants also shared sources of dissatisfaction, and many explained that they were contemplating leaving the profession, with some feeling that teaching is no longer a long-term career. One noteworthy finding is that participants expressed a desire for feeling like a professional, which played a large role in the career decisions they made.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission