General self-efficacy and teacher sense of efficacy of Generation Z teacher candidates: An explanatory sequential mixed methods inquiry
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Generation Z individuals born between 1995-2012 currently represent 25% of the population and will soon exceed the Millennials as the largest generation (Dill, 2015). Thus, lack of practical knowledge and understanding may lead to employee turnover (Flippen, 2017). This study addresses how teacher education programs, cooperating teachers, principals, superintendents, university faculty, and hiring committees might have a limited understanding of Generation Z Teacher Candidates. With this limited understanding, issues arise. This study utilized the theoretical underpinnings of Strauss and Howe’s Generational Theory (1991) and Albert Bandura’s Self-Efficacy Theory (1977) in order to determine the general self-efficacy and teacher sense of efficacy of Generation Z Teacher Candidates. Teacher candidates, both field-based students and clinical teachers, were recruited for the study. The sample size consisted of 42 field-based students and 17 clinical teachers for the quantitative research phase of the study. All participants were enrolled in the teacher education program during the fall semester of 2018 at a regional four-year university in South Texas. Participants completed two surveys via their mobile devices: General Self-Efficacy Scale by Schwarzer & Jerusalem (1995) and Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale by Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk-Hoy (2001). The data was exported into the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) and was analyzed using descriptive statistics. For the qualitative phase, two focus group interviews were conducted. Each focus group was comprised of eight field-based students and clinical teachers. The interviews were completed during the fall semester 2018 at the same regional four-year university in South Texas in which these students were enrolled. Upon completion, the qualitative data was analyzed and synthesized. The findings from the quantitative data suggest Generation Z Teacher Candidates have a moderately high self-efficacy. Field-based students had an overall mean of 3.15 out of 4.00, while clinical teachers had an overall mean of 3.08 out of 4.00. Combined, the mean was 3.12, representing a moderately high self-efficacy. The findings from the qualitative data revealed three major themes related to their general self-efficacy and teacher sense of efficacy: the caring characteristics associated with Generation Z, their instructional beliefs, and their perspectives on diversity. Each theme unveiled subthemes and are examined in detail. The findings from this study could be used to help facilitate professional development opportunities and prepare teacher education programs, cooperating teachers, principals, superintendents, university faculty, and hiring committees to be prepared for this new generation of teachers. It offers insight into the characteristics, beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of Generation Z. Finally, the conclusions might help education programs target areas of improvement and provide cooperating teachers with an understanding of the perceptions and characteristics of teacher candidates that may be assigned to them as field-based students or clinical teachers.