A better startMarch 2010
Moves are afoot to ensure new teachers are well supported in their first two years in the profession
New Zealand has one of the most well-resourced systems for induction of new teachers of any nation in the OECD, yet there is a lot of room for improvement according to the Teachers Council.
With that in mind, the council has created draft guidelines for induction and mentoring programmes and currently has four pilot programmes testing those guidelines in different settings.
Teachers Council director Peter Lind says the guidelines were developed after research showed what was important for effective induction and mentoring, but also that those factors were often missing from the programmes provided in schools and early childhood services.
Lind says the council’s Learning to Teach research in 2006-7 found induction and mentoring was very variable.
“There were very good programmes but also there were teachers who were getting no induction and no mentoring and there is no real accountability on that kind of money.
“Even where there was relatively good induction and mentoring, there was little of the ‘educative mentoring’ that is a hallmark of really effective programmes. Instead, teachers were more likely to provide emotional support and guidance about workplace systems and cultures.”
Lind says this is an important part of the education sector to get right. An effective mentoring and induction programme can help maximise and accelerate a beginning teacher’s learning so that they can make better use of their initial teacher education.
The council’s manager, policy and strategic development, Cynthia Shaw, says the evidence to date from the council’s four pilot programmes is very encouraging. She says the mentor teachers involved in the pilots have found their practice shifting thanks to the guidelines’ clearer outline of their role. School principals are using the guidelines for more than beginning teacher induction, giving them a central role for leading the professional learning and development of all teachers in the school.
Lind notes that this use of the guidelines in whole-school culture is a powerful way of making change in an organisation.
Though the guidelines will not be finalised before the end of the year, Lind hopes they will influence the teacher collective agreements, with recognition of the mentoring role as a career path for experienced teachers to be selected and trained for the role and perhaps rewarded with management units.
“We are hoping there is recognition for this extra level of skill and knowledge these people bring to the school environment.”
He also notes that the guidelines could eventually gain more force if their features were required as evidence of the induction and mentoring required for teacher registration. However, he notes the importance of moving with the teaching sector rather than imposing things on it.
The Teachers Council’s Draft Guidelines for Induction and Mentoring Programmes and Mentor Teacher Support suggests the following components are essential for effective induction programmes:
- A clear vision.
- Institutional commitment and support.
- Quality mentoring is central.
- Clear criteria to guide teacher learning and formative feedback for the teacher.
- Focused on daily practice of teachers with their learners.
- Provides the support and processes needed so the teacher can move toward full registration.
The guidelines suggest the role of a mentor teacher of PRTs includes:
- Providing support to the provisionally registered teacher in their new role as a teacher with full responsibility for their learners.
- Facilitating learning conversations with the PRT that challenge and support them to use evidence to develop teaching strengths.
- Assisting the teacher to plan effective learning programmes.
Observing the teacher and providing feedback against specific criteria and facilitating the teacher’s ability to reflect on that feedback.
- Assisting the teacher to gather and analyse student learning data in order to inform next steps/different approaches in their teaching.
- Guiding the teacher toward professional leadership practices to support learning in the unique socio-cultural contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand.
- Liaising with colleagues to facilitate provision of appropriate support and professional development for the teacher within a professionally focused community of practice.
- Providing formal assessment of the teacher’s progress in relation to the STDs/RTCs.
- Suggesting professional development suited to current professional needs that may be accessed within or beyond the institution.
- Advocating for the teacher if need be in terms of their entitlements as a PRT.
- Demonstrating effective teaching.
- Listening to and helping the PRT to solve problems.