NAIS Research: Jobs-to-Be-Done Study on Independent School Teachers

Executive Summary

Independent school leaders often lament that it is difficult to find quality candidates to fill their open teaching positions and that those who do take the job may not stay very long. It’s true that fewer college students are choosing to become teachers, while more and more current teachers are leaving teaching entirely. Some
are burned out by the stress of the job, unable to afford to work for stagnant wages with student loans and rising housing costs, and some are simply retiring with the wave of baby boomers.

However, there are many incredible teachers and teachers-to-be who would appreciate the opportunity to work at an independent school. Understanding why they do or don’t make this switch is crucial to attracting—and retaining—top talent. What contexts are pushing teachers to leave their current jobs? What outcomes are they hoping for when they make a switch? Answering these questions is critical if you are to bring teachers to your school and foster an environment where they want to stay for years to come—making your hiring process more effective for everyone.

With this in mind, NAIS conducted research to explore why teachers left their old positions to start new ones. Using the Jobs-to-Be-Done methodology, we spoke with teachers, current and former, who had recently switched jobs and with new teachers transitioning from other fields or just graduating from college.

Jobs-to-Be-Done (JTBD) Methodology

The Jobs-to-Be-Done (JTBD) methodology is based on the theory that consumers do not purchase a product or service for the sake of it, but rather they “hire” or “fire” a product or service to fulfill a particular Job to Be Done. For example, consider the parents whose two children attend different schools. While the parents’ demographics, values, and beliefs remain constant, they may be in very different contexts with regard to each child. One child might not be challenged enough in academics, while the other child might be struggling with bullying and fitting in at school. Given these differing contexts, the parents will likely have very different outcomes they are seeking to accomplish in their school choice for each child.

Jobs-to-Be-Done interviews seek to uncover what people in certain contexts really value as revealed by the decisions they make, as opposed to what they say they value. For example, consider parents’ response to an admissions director who asks whether they strongly value diversity in their choice of schools. It is safe to assume that the majority would answer “yes” to this question. However, if you traced the school decisions these parents make, you might find that some were willing to trade diversity for other factors—for example, choosing a school that wasn’t particularly diverse, but offered a great deal of individual attention to their child or a school that would improve the child’s ability to get into a prestigious college. In other words, what people value and what they say they value are often two very different things.

In this study, NAIS used the JTBD methodology to identify teacher Jobs to Be Done. We conducted interviews to learn teachers’ context, their desired outcomes (functional, social, and emotional), and the trade-offs they were willing to make in their decision to switch to their current job. These factors were then abstracted and clustered together in order to group teachers who came from similar contexts and hoped to accomplish similar things. These groups were fleshed out to define the three teacher Jobs to Be Done that are presented in this report.

The teachers we interviewed were from different areas of the country; came from different demographic backgrounds; taught different grade levels or subject matters; and had varying amounts of teaching experience at public, charter, and private schools. All had begun teaching at a new school, had become teachers following a career switch from another field or graduation from college, or had left teaching entirely within the past five years.

This report presents our findings from these interviews.

Downloadable Content

Additional Resources

More NAIS Jobs-to-Be-Done Research