The Four-Capital Theory as Framework for Teacher Retention and Attrition

  •  Sheila Rao Vaidya    
  •  Casey Hanna    


There has been a strong interest in teacher retention and attrition which has been studied extensively over the past twenty or more years. While some researchers have attributed teacher attrition to low teacher salaries, poor working conditions, lack of administrative support and resources, other research focuses on the “emotional” aspect of the profession where educators continue to stay because of their love for teaching, for their students, and how they imagine possibilities for their students’ futures. A more comprehensive theory of retention and attrition is Mason and Matas’ (2015) four capital framework which consists of human capital, social capital, structural capital, and positive psychological capital. In our research with teacher residents in a preparation program, we used interviews, survey, and focus group to obtain data, and found strong prevalence of the four capitals as competing and intersecting phenomenon aiding in understanding the varied and complex factors that contribute to teacher retention or attrition. Additionally, we found that one or more of these four capitals may significantly impact teacher retention or attrition more than others, at any given time and one type of capital may help to overcome limitations in another. Therefore, we found this to be a worthwhile framework to incorporate in teacher preparation.

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