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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Induction: Keeping Early-Career Teachers
Perspectives from Stronge & Associates Educational Consulting By Xianxuan Xu 18-Jan-19
All who have ever taught know that the first few years of teaching are challenging. When the rubber hits the road, beginning teachers are confronted with the reality of the classroom and encounter unexpected situations. The good news is that quality mentoring and induction programs positively increase teacher retention. A solid body of empirical research documents that support and mentoring by veteran teachers has a positive effect on beginning teachers’ quality of instruction, job satisfaction, commitment, retention, and capacity to improve their students’ academic achievement (Ingersoll & Strong 2011). Beginning teachers who receive induction have an easier transition into teaching and also tend to be more effective in classroom management and instruction than beginning teachers who do not benefit from induction. A culture that promotes collegiality, collaboration, and interdependence can make beginning teachers’ experiences more positive than a culture that creates comparison, competition, and isolation (Devos, Dupriez, & Paquay 2012). For novice teachers, satisfaction in their careers is directly related to their sense that they are able to engage students. Therefore, it is essential to provide them with support that can empower them to excel in the area of student involvement (Burke et al. 2013). Researchers have found that matching mentors and mentees by teaching specialty—by subject or grade level—appears to reduce turnover rate. A practical step involves establishing a common planning time for collaboration, which has proven to be effective in retention efforts. Finally, being part of an external network of teachers also reduces turnover. Thus, providing a culture of learning in which new teachers are supported by all staff can reduce new teacher attrition (Gary, Taie, & O’Rear 2015). Recent research has found that comprehensive approaches to teacher induction can reduce teacher turnover by more than 50 percent (Carroll 2012; Gary, Taie, & O’Rear 2015). By comparison, districts that use a minimalistic approach to teacher induction—for example, those that assign an untrained mentor or buddy who makes occasional visits to check in on new teachers—only reduce new teacher turnover by just two percentage points. However, comprehensive induction that provides a package of support systems—including (1) a mentor; (2) supportive communication from the principal, other administrators, and department chairs; (3) common planning or collaboration time with other teachers in the field; (4) reduced preparations (course load) and help from a teacher’s aide; and (5) participation in an external network of teachers—can reduce teacher turnover by half and increase teacher effectiveness (Carroll 2012). Ronfeldt and McQueen (2017) also found that teachers who received induction supports are less likely to migrate to other schools or to leave teaching. Novice teachers, it seems, do not do well in “egg-crate” settings—an image meant to evoke the sort of compartmentalized school structure where teachers work in isolation within their classroom, focus on their students, and have little time to interact with their peers or with mentors (Strauss 2011). Oftentimes, assigned mentors do not teach the same subject or grade level as their novice teachers and may not even work in the same building. In comparison, teachers in Japan are provided with a yearlong induction program when launching their teaching careers. Instead of being left to “sink or swim” in the critical first year of teaching, new teachers are mandated to have one day off per week for 30 weeks, allowing them to participate in activities directly linked to their induction. Moreover, master teachers are given a full year off from their teaching responsibilities to mentor new teachers (OECD 2011). Once Japanese teachers are inducted into the profession, they find themselves in an integrated professional culture with formal time reserved for interacting with colleagues. In fact, teachers in Japan typically spend 60 percent of their time with students and the remaining 40 percent with teacher colleagues. Classes are regularly videotaped, allowing senior teachers to more readily mentor junior teachers (CBS News 2010). Another example of quality teacher mentoring comes from Ontario, Canada, where a well-designed teacher induction program extends through the first four years of a teacher’s career. As a result, the retention rate of beginning teachers is 98 percent in Ontario (Strauss 2017). The new generation of teachers seeks a variety of roles and opportunities for advancement, and wants to collaborate and find support within a professional community (Kraft, Marinell, & Yee 2016). Research has indeed found that when teachers receive support, they feel empowered and experience more job satisfaction (Bogler & Nir 2012). Creating and sustaining a culture of support appears essential in attracting and retaining the best and brightest new teachers.
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