So you have a teacher induction program in place, but can it produce better results? Is it doing what you had hoped and how do you know?
The vast majority of districts across the country have induction programs to support their newest educators, yet many still see new teachers struggle and find that the practice of novice educators is not delivering the required results in student learning. Will these beginning teachers end up leaving before they have had the chance to become effective? Why is this so and what can be done about it?
Research by Richard Ingersoll from the University of Pennsylvania has shown that high-quality teacher induction programs can advance teaching practice and student learning and support teacher retention. The key though to getting results is the quality of program. Below we recommend four ways education leaders can set about creating and/or improving teacher induction programs for greater impact.
1. Set your mentors up for success
New teachers who receive mentoring support for the first two years of their career will be successful in advancing student learning. But mentoring must be done right and mentors must be set-up for success too. There are three key ways to do this. First, there should be a rigorous mentor recruitment protocols that include specific selection criteria and an explicit process. Second, invest in high-quality mentor professional development that helps mentors make the shift from teaching students to coaching adults. Thirdly, sanction and protect time for mentor/mentee interactions.
2. Focus on data of practice and advancing instruction
Mentor-based teacher induction programs that improve teaching practice and student learning are data-based and centered on professional teaching and content area standards. Emotional support for new teachers is important but insufficient if improving instruction is the goal. Informal conversations and inexplicit feedback such as ‘you’re doing a great job’ does little to help a new teacher grow professionally, whereas when feedback to beginning teachers is data-driven and directly related to evidence of practice and student learning, it can highlight a path toward increased classroom effectiveness.
3. Contextualize professional development and customize for new teachers
Novice educators are in a unique developmental phase. When new teachers are exposed to district-wide ‘one-size fits all’, district professional development, no matter how well-intended, it often only further overwhelms new teachers rather than fostering their professional growth. Customized professional development and tailored learning communities are much more effective. Similarly, take efforts to ensure district initiatives and communications are aligned and not contradictory, and that select, relevant information is provided to new teachers and released to them gradually in stages at key points in the academic year.
4. Involve all school stakeholders
Ensuring new teachers are provided with the resources and conditions they need to be successful from the start must be seen as the responsibility of all stakeholders in the school community. Everyone has a role to play: district leaders, principals and fellow teachers. Strong communication about the goal of the induction program and the roles and responsibilities of those directly and indirectly involved can do a great deal toward improving the success of teacher induction programs.
New Teacher Center’s Induction Resource entitled ‘High Quality Mentoring and Induction Practices’ highlights nine key program components to move away from and nine program components to move toward and is designed for district leaders looking to take their teacher induction program to the next level.