Carol A. Bartell; foreword by Linda Darling-Hammond


Theoretical Research Perspectives



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Theoretical Research Perspectives

Numerous conference papers and journal articles in the United States over the past two decades attest to the rise in importance of teacher induction and mentoring within the educational research community there (Andrews & Martin, 2003; Halford, 1998; Huling & Resta, 2001). In a chapter prepared for the prestigious Handbook of Research on Teacher Education (Houston, W. R., Haberman, M. & Sikula, J., 1990), Huling-Austin set out five basic goals that have typically been included in the many teacher induction programs springing up across America. These were: (1) to improve teaching performance; (2) to increase the retention of promising beginning teachers; (3) to promote the personal and professional well-being of beginning teachers; (4) to satisfy mandated state or district requirements; and (5) to transmit the culture of the educational system to beginning teachers (1990). This list of goals continues to find a place in most educators' rationales for intentional new teacher induction. In particular, programs designed to ease the transition of novices to the profession have been touted for their potential to reduce the rate of teacher dropouts. Qualitative testimonials to the benefits of induction programs in holding on to promising new teachers abound, but convincing empirical studies have been rather less plentiful. Ingersoll and Kralik (2004) have produced the most compelling evidence, based on a critical review of ten existing empirical studies on induction programs. While noting that the impact of the various induction programs differed significantly among the 10 studies reviewed, these authors concluded that "collectively the studies do provide empirical support for the claim that assistance for new teachers and, in particular, mentoring programs have a positive impact on teachers and their retention" ( p.1).

In more recent years, a number of scholars have attempted to raise the bar of expectations. While granting the existence of an emerging consensus among U. S. educators and policymakers that the retention of new teachers can be assisted by effective induction programs, Feiman-Nemser (2003) is critical of most such initiatives because they focus on short-term support designed to help new teachers survive their first year on the job. "Keeping new teachers in teaching is not the same as helping them become good teachers," she has stated. "To accomplish the latter," she believes that "we must treat the first years of teaching as a phase in learning to teach and surround new teachers with a professional culture that supports teacher learning" (p. 25). Similarly, Hargreaves and Fullan (2000) have asserted that the mentoring of new teachers will not reach its potential unless it is guided by a deeper vision of "transforming the teaching profession itself" (p. 50). No longer do models of the autonomous professional, or even the collegial professional, suffice. Teachers must be prepared for the postmodern world of fluid institutional roles, diverse communities and expanding networks of professional learning. With this in mind, successful induction and mentoring programs must be designed "so that they are explicitly seen as instruments of school reculturing" (p. 54).

Moir and Gless (2001) have challenged the designers and implementers of teacher induction programs to look beyond teacher retention to the classroom itself. If done properly, they maintain, induction experiences can both re-orient the teaching profession and help future students be more successful. Moreover, it can build bridges of cooperation by linking university-based teacher preparation with in-service professional learning. Quality induction, however, requires a new set of consciously formulated and clearly articulated professional expectations. Moir and Gless have established five essential components of such an induction program for beginning teachers. The first of these is program vision: "a clear vision of how quality induction can help create a new kind of professionalism among all teachers" (para. 9). It must go far beyond mere survival in the demanding world of today's schools. Otherwise, the induction program runs the risk of perpetuating the traditional norms of isolation, low expectations and ineffectiveness. The second required component, for Moir and Gless, is institutional commitment and support. Teacher learning must be made an administrative priority. This institutional resolve can be shown "by designing programs that ensure adequate time and resources for new teacher learning and mentor development, by establishing policies that protect new teachers during the critical stage of induction, and by making teacher development the centerpiece of educational reform" (para. 11).

The third element of Moir and Gless's model is quality mentoring. This, they see as the most important piece of the puzzle, making it critical "that we think not only about what a new teacher needs to be successful but also what a mentor teacher needs to know and be able to do in order to support a new teacher" (para. 16). Effective mentoring must not be limited to occasional coaching, and hand-holding in times of stress, important as these can be in a particular time and space. The induction program must be focused on the novice teacher's classroom practice. This factor leads directly to Moir and Gless's fourth essential component, professional standards. Thus, "the language and concepts of good teaching must be embedded and modelled throughout the professional environment" (para. 17). For maximum learning, then, the period of induction must extend for two to three years, and it must balance and blend a standardized professional vision with the complexities of a diverse society. Finally, the induction program must focus on classroom-based teacher learning. The beginning teacher must have time for, and encouragement to, become involved in observation, collaborative lesson design, model teaching, reflection, analysis of student work, goal-setting, and assessment against professional standards. This should involve support and critical dialogue, not just with an experienced mentor, but also with other beginning teachers. Effective induction programs, this author team asserts, "help new teachers become on-the-job learners, who are constantly questioning and systematically inquiring into their classroom practice with a focus on student learning" (para. 21). If the five key components come together in a high-quality induction program, Moir and Gless believe it can be a "catalyst for changing school cultures and improving the teaching profession" (para. 25).

Embedded in the exhortations of most academic experts - including Moir and Gless, and Hargreaves and Fullan - is the explicit assumption that a successful new teacher induction program is built around a structured mentoring relationship which brings each novice teacher into frequent contact with an experienced colleague. Informal mentoring of new teaching staff by veterans working alongside them has a long history, but formal programs that establish a one-to-one connection marked by specific expectations and allocated resources are relatively new in North America, dating mostly from the early 1980s. The term itself has much earlier roots, however. Some three thousand years ago, according to ancient Greek mythology, the great Odysseus assigned responsibility for the education of his son Telemachus to a trusted friend and advisor named Mentor (Janas, 1996). Traditionally, the mentoring relationship has been seen as hierarchical, with a subordinate beginner assigned to take advice, and receive support, from a veteran supervisor. Recent thinking points to the reciprocal benefits of a more equal relationship, where mentor and mentee are encouraged to learn together, and from each other. When seen as a two-way learning and teaching process, it becomes a relationship of mutual benefit (Salinitri, 2005). According to Danielson, teachers at all levels of experience "grow professionally when they seek out peers for professional dialogue and turn to each other for constructive feedback, affirmation, and support" (2002, para. 5). If this assertion is true, what better place to begin to embed it into the professional culture of teaching than in the initial mentoring relationship associated with teacher induction?

By the mid-1990s, Dagenais (n.d.) had isolated and labelled five key dimensions of a successful teacher-mentoring program, namely: program scope, mentoring incentives, mentor training, mentor selection and matching, and assessment and evaluation of the mentoring experience. Building upon this beginning conceptualization, but then going beyond it, Hargreaves and Fullan (1999) envisioned four forces for change that would require a new approach to mentoring in the postmodern age. The first of these was a more equal mentor-mentee relationship. In a world characterized by the spread of new information technologies, and with school systems forced to adapt to the needs of students from culturally diverse backgrounds and presenting a range of learning challenges, there is even less reason to assume the old ways are the best ways. "These times call for less hierarchical mentor relationships," the authors have asserted, going on to state that "the mentor relationship should not be the only helping relationship in a school" (p. 20). Veterans and novices alike will need help, often from each other. The second key cited by Hargreaves and Fullan was a continuing emphasis on emotional support. Again, while the beginning teacher is more apt to need this kind of help, there may well be times when experienced veterans also need to express feelings and vent frustrations within a safe, professional relationship. Mentorship, these authors have underlined, "involves more than guiding protégés through learning standards and skill sets" (p. 21). The third change force they identified was the impact that trends toward school accountability, parental choice and cultural diversity were having in the direction of greater connection with the wider community. In this emerging society "teachers are not always the experts" (p. 21), they have noted. And finally, Hargreaves and Fullan highlighted the changing demographics of the teaching profession. After two decades of relatively light hiring, the first years of the new century are witnessing a massive changeover of teachers. The challenge here will involve "harnessing the energies that new teachers bring to the system without marginalizing the perspectives and wisdom of teachers whose knowledge and experience have deep roots in the past" (p. 21). The end result could be a creative community of teacher-learners, but it could also be a balkanized staffroom, where older and younger teachers live and work in separate, even antagonistic worlds.

The implications of these change forces, according to Hargreaves and Fullan (1999), are threefold. First, mentoring relationships must be explicitly conceptualized and designed to serve as "instruments of school reculturing" (p. 23). Second, mentoring programs must be linked to other reform measures with the overt intention of "transforming the teaching profession" (p. 23). Teacher education, induction and ongoing professional development would become a seamless whole. Finally, the time to act is now, given the window of opportunity afforded by the wholesale changeover of teaching personnel. The large cohort of beginning teachers can be shaped into a catalyst for positive change, or allowed to become a reactionary bulwark of the status quo. The ultimate goal, in the view of Hargreaves and Fullan, should be "to incorporate mentoring as part and parcel of transforming teaching into a true learning profession" (p. 23).

Hargreaves and Fullan have articulated the grand macro-vision for mentoring. By contrast, Feiman-Nemser (2001) has shone a spotlight on the other end of the spectrum, focusing on the impact that a single exemplary mentor in one school system could have. She developed the term "educative mentoring" (p. 17) to describe the approach of this model support teacher (Pete Frazer) whom she studied in depth over many months. The first significant element seemed to be the way this mentor defined his role. "Adopting the stance of cothinker rather than expert," Feiman-Nemser explained, "Frazer tried to balance his desire to share what he knows about good teaching with his concern with helping novices figure out what works for them as they construct their own professional practice and identity" (p. 20). Working indirectly, but not passively, this exemplary mentor sought to assist his novice partner to identify and describe clearly the nature of problems that cropped up. "By working to pinpoint problems," Feiman-Nemser pointed out, "beginning teachers practice talking about teaching in precise, analytic ways. This is a critical tool in joint problem solving and continuous improvement" (p. 22). Frazer frequently complimented his mentees, but in a particular way which he called "noticing signs of growth" (p. 23). Rather than general praise for doing a good job, he tried to provide targeted feedback for specific accomplishments. In the words of Feiman-Nemser, "this practice fit with his view of learning as a process of development" (p. 23). Frazer did not rely solely upon his many years of teaching experience and acquired practical wisdom, but neither did he simply parrot the latest theories. "He believed that teachers need a deep understanding of how children learn, enriched by theoretical knowledge and informed by firsthand experience" (p. 24). He tried to role model this balance of knowledge and experience in his own actions, adding to them a healthy dose of curiosity, what he called "wondering about teaching" (p. 25). Lest we might conclude that the secret to superior mentoring is simply to identify superior mentors, Feiman-Nemser pointed out that this exemplar "worked in an induction program that provided support teachers with the same kind of backing and guidance offered to novice teachers" (p. 26). The macro and the micro levels, then, must be in harmony to produce ' educative mentoring' on a consistent basis.

A Sample of Induction Programs in Practice

While many American states have instituted formal induction programs for new teachers, they are proportionately less common in Canada. One province which does have a well-established program to help novice instructors is New Brunswick. Their "Beginning Teacher Induction Program" (BTIP) was established in 1995 (Gill, 2004). In 2003-2004 there were 278 beginning teachers in 131 schools from all nine Anglophone school districts who took part. Funding was provided by the provincial Department of Education ($500.00 per mentor-mentee pair) and the New Brunswick Teachers' Association (NBTA) (approximately $120.00 per pair). Each school district held an orientation workshop for beginning teachers, a training workshop for mentors and a closing celebration event. Additional meetings varied from district to district. As well, the NBTA held a province-wide introductory workshop for beginning teachers and a province-wide workshop on supporting beginning teachers that was specifically geared for school principals. Most principals reported their main involvement with the program consisted of matching mentors and beginning teachers at the school level, providing orientation to the school, and monitoring the progress of beginning teachers.

Through a survey conducted at the end of the 2003-04 program, one hundred percent of principals and district coordinators, ninety-nine percent of mentors and ninety-three percent of beginning teachers indicated their support for the continuation of BTIP (Gill, 2004). As described in the final report based on this survey, "beginning teachers identified having a mentor and being able to visit other schools and classrooms as beneficial. Mentors felt they had benefited from the program by helping new teachers find their feet in the profession, sharing knowledge and expertise, learning new teaching strategies and techniques and having time for reflection on their own teaching" (p. 3). Among the recommendations in the report, designed to improve the induction program, were these: (1) consider making the program available to long-term supply teachers; (2) extend the program for more than one year;(3) strengthen mentor training; (4) consider providing additional finances; and (5) ensure that all beginning teachers are placed in the best assignment possible, with adequate teaching resources, and not too many supervision duties. Beginning teachers in general asked for more observation from their mentors - not surprising since 40 percent of them reported receiving no in-class observation from a mentor. Yet the pool of experienced teachers, from which mentors might be drawn, will be declining due to projected retirements. At the same time, principals and district supervisors reported increasing workloads which made it difficult to direct sufficient attention to their roles in the BTIP. While everyone involved in the program agreed it was very worthwhile, still it was clear that a shortage of time and funds was threatening to curtail its impact.

Across the continent in California, one of the earliest and most successful teacher induction programs has been the Santa Cruz New Teacher Project. Begun in 1988, it had by 2003 served over 9,000 beginning teachers. So successful has it been that many other school districts across the United States have adopted it as their program model. The New Teacher Project is built around an extensively-structured mentoring process (Moir and Bloom, 2003).

Mentors work with individual novices for one to two hours every week and offer a seminar to their group of approximately 15 novices once a month. Mentors observe instruction, provide feedback, demonstrate teaching methods, assist with lesson plans, and help analyze student work and achievement data. This intensive support is possible only because participating school districts release veteran teachers to serve as full-time mentors for two or three years each (para. 4).

One key to the success of the program is the rigorous process followed to select mentors. Applicants must present clear evidence of outstanding teaching experience, top-notch interpersonal skills, exceptional knowledge of subject matter, and success working with culturally diverse students. A second key to success is the extensive training in which the selected mentor applicants must participate. Topics include identifying new teachers' needs, selecting appropriate support strategies, utilizing observation skills, and the application of peer coaching methods. A weekly half-day mentor forum then provides them with ongoing professional development, and participation in a community of learners with whom they share strategies, concerns and successes. Mirroring the behaviour expected of novice teachers, the mentors set goals, conduct periodic reviews of progress, and revise their practices based upon this reflective assessment. At the end of their three-year terms as mentors, these educators return to their school systems, although many of them have become administrative or curriculum leaders within their school districts. If teacher development is the key to student success, then this program, while considerably more costly than the low-key New Brunswick initiative, appears to focus successfully on the crucial element of new teacher induction: high-quality mentoring.



Meshing with Ontario's Political Environment

While methodological considerations of program design and cost-effectiveness are important, ultimately the decision to implement a new educational policy in a representative democracy is a political one. On the one hand, there are partisan considerations to weigh - will the proposed program please more of the electorate than it offends? Does it spike the guns of opposition parties, or provide them with new ammunition to attack the Government? On the other hand, how will this new reform be received by those influential interest groups who traditionally follow developments in the field of education? Will it enlist their support, thus smoothing the way for implementation, or provoke their antagonism, thereby endangering the ultimate success of the policy initiative? The area of teacher development, and specifically new teacher induction, is no exception to the rule. As important as program validity in the final equation is the question of political validity (Miles & Lee, 2002). Will the proposed change attract general support from the voting public, and at the very least, avoid alienating powerful groups with a particular interest in the topic? Governments ignore this question at their peril.

Given this background, one cannot help but notice a sharp contrast in political style between the current Liberal government in Ontario, led by Premier Dalton McGuinty, and its predecessor. Under the leadership of Premier Mike Harris, the Progressive Conservative (PC) government did not shrink from confrontation with major interest groups in its determination to implement policy changes. For example their teacher testing policy, first announced in the thick of the 1999 provincial election campaign, was designed as much for its popular appeal with PC-leaning voters as it was to bring a visible form of public accountability to the teacher development process (Glassford, 2005). The PC cabinet knew that the policy would provoke outright hostility from the organized teachers, but went ahead anyway, confident that the measure would gain them even more support, elsewhere amongst the electorate. This calculation proved accurate, at least for a time. The Harris-led Conservatives won the 1999 election with a clear majority, and proceeded to pass legislation that created the Professional Learning Program (PLP) of mandatory recertification for experienced teachers, and the Ontario Teachers Qualifying Test (OTQT) for novices. However, the concerted opposition of the teacher federations hampered the smooth implementation of the PLP, and called into question the advisability of the OTQT. Four years later, at the next provincial election, the PC party was defeated by the opposition Liberals, who received strong support from these same teacher unions. Shortly after the Conservative defeat, the PLP was unceremoniously axed, followed a year later by the less dramatic demise of the OTQT. The only substantive aspect of the Harris government's teacher testing policy that remains in place is a province-wide system of standardized teacher performance appraisal (TPA), conducted on a periodic basis with all practicing teachers by their school principals.

The newly elected Liberal government, with Gerard Kennedy as Premier McGuinty's choice to serve as Minister of Education, moved quickly to replace the openly confrontational approach typical of the latter-day PCs with a consultative and consensual style that hearkened back to the premierships of John Robarts (1961-71), Bill Davis (1971-85), and David Peterson (1985-90). At the macro level these three leaders - the first two Progressive Conservatives, and the latter a Liberal - sought to position their governments near the middle of the spectrum, with broad appeal to most segments of the population. At the micro level, and with specific regard to education policy, they consulted broadly with all significant interest groups in the field. Public policy in education between 1961 and 1990 frequently resulted from ongoing dialogue and specific consultations involving Ministry of Education bureaucrats, representatives of the various educational interest groups - teachers, boards, parent groups - and other individual experts from the universities and the media. While sharply divisive issues could arise - the province-wide one-day teacher walkout in 1975 over collective bargaining rights, and the acrimonious controversy over full public funding of Catholic high schools in the mid-1980s are two examples - these were not allowed to poison the general atmosphere of discussion, consultation and basic trust. The Canadian political scientist, Pross (1992), has termed this approach to governance the policy community model, and historically it has been the norm in Ontario.

Traditionally in parliamentary systems, new governments use the highly symbolic Speech from the Throne as a means to establish an overall tone for their term of office. The McGuinty Liberals were no exception, choosing to stress excellence in education as one of their themes. Alongside this broad generality, they were careful to stress the need to bring stability and peace to the public education system, and to treat educators with due respect (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2003, November). The Minister made use of the close ties he had forged as Opposition critic with the teacher federations and parent groups who were opposed to the PC education policies, in order to establish a pattern of direct communication and frequent consultation. An Education Partnership Table, consisting of representatives of the major interest groups, was established to investigate key areas of concern. Mini-discussion papers on topics such as continuing professional development were mounted on the Ministry website, with an invitation for public feedback (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2004). Ministry officials fanned out across the province to the usual meetings with Board officials, teachers, faculty of education professors and teacher candidates, carrying a new message of dialogue, partnership and common interests. The most egregious PC policy in the eyes of the organized teachers, the hated PLP, was quickly terminated. As the Liberal government pursued its goal of excellence in education, it was careful to include all the major stakeholders in consultations leading up to the formulation and announcement of new policies. While differences of opinion remained on some key issues - province-wide literacy and numeracy testing, for example, and reform of the Ontario College of Teachers, to name two - there can be no doubt that the general atmosphere surrounding educational policy-making and implementation in the province changed dramatically. Stability and peace do seem to have returned to Ontario's public education system. Indeed, on May 29, 2006 the newly-appointed Education Minister, Sandra Pupatello, lauded the creation of a new Student Success Commission, "which puts teachers' federations, school boards and the government on the same side of the table to reach consensus on how to improve our education system." (Ont. MOE, 2006, May 29, para. 2).

The clear commitment of the Liberal government to the re-creation of an era of good feelings within the Ontario educational policy community has provided the New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP) with a fair degree of political validity. Certainly, it has been launched amidst general commendation from the major stakeholders. Nevertheless, there are subtle differences of opinion emanating from two of the larger teacher unions that will bear watching. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) welcomed the replacement of the old entry-to-the profession test with an induction program for new teachers. Nevertheless, it expressed certain misgivings in its newsletter to members (OECTA, 2005, November).

The new induction program links mentoring, professional development and Teacher Performance Appraisal, and requires that a teacher's successful participation in all three be reported to the Ontario College of Teachers and recorded on the teacher's certificate of qualification. OECTA is opposed to a mentoring program that is mandatory, evaluative or tied to professional certification (para. 2).

The same article voiced doubts about the adequacy of funding earmarked for the professional development and release time needed to make NTIP work effectively. Similarly, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) characterized the creation of NTIP as a good news item, but it decried the "lack of governmental clarity, detail and direction" as far as province-wide implementation (OSSTF, 2006, February 15, p. 10). Their criticism had merit - Minister Kennedy did not announce until October a program starting retroactively six weeks earlier, in late August. Furthermore, the nuts-and-bolts details were not published till the following March, and enabling legislation for significant parts of the program were not approved till June (Ont. MOE, 2006, June 2). Subsequent resources and guidelines issued by the Ministry were labelled as non-prescriptive (Anthony, 2006, September 14). Their voluntary nature constituted a collaborative gesture toward the Boards, perhaps, but others might view such local autonomy as a further blow to program cohesion. Nonetheless, though two of the influential teacher unions have voiced misgivings about details of the policy and its implementation, the important thing to note is that their critiques were offered in an overall context of civilized dialogue. Gone are the confrontational threats and divisive tactics of the previous era (1995 - 2003). Within a general atmosphere of support and approval for the new teacher induction program, a few minor caveats have been raised. Unlike with the Conservatives' teacher testing policy, no major interest groups were determined to bring it down, right off the bat.





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