The Learning to Teach Research Programme 2006-2008
The Learning to Teach research programme was commissioned to provide a broader and more in-depth evidence base for the development of policies and advice to schools, kura, early childhood centres, initial teacher education providers, PRTs themselves and others in the education community who have a role in the support and professional education of newly qualified teachers.
The Learning to Teach research programme is comprised of the following:
Learning to Teach: A Literature Review of Induction Theory and Practice
Marie Cameron, 2007
This review of international and New Zealand literature describes best practices, theories and approaches to induction, including mentoring and assessment of newly qualified teachers. Key findings included:
The purposes of induction programmes
Induction programmes both support new teachers to cope with their responsibilities and roles as teachers, and help them to learn how to teach in ways that promote the successful engagement and learning of all of their learners.
Characteristics of effective induction programmes
- Induction should be part of a continuum of teacher professional learning, instead of a one-off event occurring early in a teacher’s career.
- Graduating teachers should be aware of their requirements and entitlements in relation to their advice and guidance programmes.
- Induction programmes should build on the knowledge and skills that have been developed in programmes of initial teacher education.
- Fundamental to the success of induction is intensive, sustained support from a skilled mentor.
- Most studies recommend a broad number of components in induction programmes that collectively promote consistent and aligned teacher professional learning.
Characteristics of effective mentors
Studies have identified a wide range of personal, interpersonal, and professional skills required for mentors to assist with focussing new teachers on their classroom practice, and moving it forwards.
Researchers frequently emphasise that mentors need training and ongoing support to do this effectively.
There is a need for more systematic research into the goals, content, and approaches that tutor / supervising teachers currently use when mentoring PRTs, as well as knowledge about the kinds of professional learning environments that support both the learning of mentors and of PRTs.
Assessment of beginning teachers
Research has identified a number of tensions in assessing beginning teachers. The evidence points to the need for valid and credible approaches that promote high quality teaching, without creating extra work for teachers where it does not contribute to their learning.
Research on induction of PRTs in New Zealand
While many countries are only realising the importance of induction for newly qualified teachers now, New Zealand has had a history of more than 22 years of providing such programmes and it has received much favourable international commentary.
Research on induction in the school sector identifies uneven induction practices across schools. Beginning teachers in primary schools were found to be more likely to experience comprehensive and supportive advice and guidance programmes than beginning teachers in secondary schools.
A gap in the research has been identified on induction in early childhood and Māori medium settings.
Learning to Teach: A Survey of Provisionally Registered Teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand
Marie Cameron, Rachel Dingle and Keren Brooking, 2007
The second stage of the research programme involved a national survey of PRTs on the advice and guidance practices and programmes they experienced during the first two years of teaching. Key findings included:
A significant number of newly qualified teachers are not receiving the degree of support, mentoring and assessment they are entitled to.
Only about half of the PRTs in schools had their advice and guidance requirements and entitlements explained to them as part of their orientation, and this dropped to only 41% in early childhood education.
PRTs from primary settings were more satisfied with their induction experiences than those from secondary settings.
Fewer than half of the respondents from the early childhood sector were strongly positive about the impact of their advice and guidance programmes in developing their confidence and skill in teaching.
While induction programmes appeared to support new teachers to cope with their responsibilities and roles as teachers, those who worked in contexts with a focus on improving pedagogy (as well as “coping”), were more likely to include induction activities that enhanced student learning.
Induction appeared to be conceptualised as a discrete process undergone at the beginning of a teacher’s career, rather than as a process that builds on the professional learning that begins during initial teacher education, and serves as a foundation for continuing professional learning.
The high numbers of teachers who changed teaching positions during their induction was a barrier to achieving an appropriate start to teaching. Schools and centres that do not make a long-term commitment to supporting new teachers appear to be less likely to invest time and resources in induction programmes.
Release time and time allowance
The system of providing 0.2 induction funding to primary schools appeared to result in the majority of primary teachers having access to a mentor, release time to support their teaching and learning, and time to extend their learning beyond their own classroom and school.
In secondary schools there appeared to be inadequate time for Head of Departments to be released to provide the consistent one-to-one monitoring that secondary PRTs think they need.
Teachers in primary and secondary schools did, however, generally report receiving reduced teaching load and non-contact time. Early childhood teachers generally found it harder to access non-contact time, sometimes because they were needed to maintain the required teacher: child ratio.
The funding of induction in early childhood centres is still new. There appears to be confusion among both PRTs and employers about how the funding should be used.
Although the majority of teachers in schools and in early childhood education services reported having an assigned mentor / tutor teacher / supervisor, 12% of secondary teachers, 8% of early childhood education teachers and 5% of primary respondents did not have anyone specifically assigned to support and supervise them during their induction.
The choice of personal mentor is important in all sectors. Primary teachers found that mentors who taught in their area of the school were most able to offer targeted assistance, while secondary teachers thought it was important that their mentor be a teacher in their subject area.
While individual mentors were important, it is clear that PRTs also valued help from their collective learning community; their teaching colleagues, specialist teachers and advisors, and a workplace that genuinely wanted them to thrive as a teacher.
Advice and guidance programmes tended to rely on the knowledge and skill of individual mentors, resulting in the lack of a consistent approach to supporting new teachers.
Teachers who were already experienced as workers in early childhood centres before beginning their provisional registration programmes, however, tended to consider that the processes recommended for full registration should better reflect their previous learning.
Satisfactory Teacher Dimensions and assessment
Only about half of primary and secondary teachers reported that their mentors used the Satisfactory Teacher Dimensions as a focus for feedback on their teaching. Early childhood teachers were much more likely to use the Satisfactory Teacher Dimensions in this way (76%).
The criteria used for formative and summative assessment was inconsistent within and across the different sectors.
Around one third of teachers in the school sector indicated that they did not know what set of criteria was being used to assess them.
Assessment of beginning teachers was generally the responsibility of mentor teachers. These appeared to be based on direct observations of teaching, and they did not appear to use written or other documentation to inform their judgements.
Many PRTs resented the time they spent on this task when they considered that it was “on-top” of their teaching, rather than work that they would do anyway as part of their everyday teaching. They also wanted their evidence to be externally assessed.
Professional learning and support
Teachers wanted to be able to have input into the direction of their professional learning, and to be able to attend courses that they perceived as being helpful to their teaching.
PRTs who attended professional support groups for beginning teachers, usually found them supportive, both in terms of providing peer group interaction, and targeting programmes to address the demands of the provisional registration period.
Few teachers in the primary and secondary sector had contact with professional associations or subject associations. This means that their development in teaching was largely restricted to what they learnt in their own schools.
Learning to Teach: Success Case Studies of Teacher Induction in Aotearoa New Zealand
Helen Aitken, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Fiona McGrath, Eileen Piggot-Irvine and Jenny Ritchie, 2008
The case study research aimed to identify good induction practices in early childhood education services, Māori medium settings and in other primary and secondary schools. A total of 20 case studies were chosen from throughout the sector as exemplary practice. Data collection involved focus groups with key stakeholders, interviews with PRTs and mentor teachers, analysis of key documents and observations. Key findings included:
Exemplary practices and enabling conditions
A strong culture of support was provided to the PRT and collegial relationships between staff was evident. In addition, collaboration and working as a team was found. Support and guidance for the PRT varied across the organisations and involved both formal and structured support, and informal guidance.
The supervision and support of an experienced mentor teacher was provided. All PRTs were allocated a mentor teacher which provided them with consistent one-to-one support. Efforts were also made to ensure a good ‘match’ between the mentor teacher and PRT.
Dedicated time for discussion and learning was made. Amongst organisations the importance of setting aside time for meetings between the PRT and mentor teacher was recognised.
Organisations provided internal and external professional development. Opportunities for development were available for both PRTs and mentor teachers and viewed as essential by the organisations. Examples of professional development included attendance at external courses and workshops and internal whole of organisation development.
Constructive feedback is given to the PRT. Mentor teachers within the organisations provided positive feedback to the PRTs and encouraged reflective practice.
Challenges and constraints
A lack of time was the most pertinent issue found in the organisations. Specifically, it was sometimes a challenge to find time to meet or observe the PRT’s teaching practice. Ways of dealing with the time pressures included a reduction in extra-curricular commitments, and increased collaboration and support.
In the early childhood organisations a lack of fully registered teachers was an issue for PRTs and led to the occurrence of off-site mentor teachers. In this situation group support and the sharing of ideas and resources was evident.
A lack of professional development for mentor teachers targeted to this specific role was found. Mentor teachers primarily relied on their own experiences in the profession, support from colleagues, and written guidelines and curriculum documents to aid their role.
Contextual support, development and assessment
A range of contextual supports that aided PRTs throughout their induction programmes were found including: support and training was provided to the mentor teacher; additional roles and responsibilities for the PRT were limited; and the PRTs were assured of job security, even when tied into short-term contractual employment arrangements.
Within each organisation a shared understanding regarding good teaching and learning, and clear accountability practices for reporting on PRTs progress was evident. This was shown through the acknowledgement of the importance of ongoing learning and a commitment to reflective practice.
Various strategies and practices were found when evidence was gathered on PRT’s progress towards the Satisfactory Teacher Dimensions. Mentor teachers across all the sectors commonly mentioned the ‘toolkit folder’ as a key reference. In the early childhood education organisations a portfolio approach was common.
Māori medium experience
The most pertinent difference of induction within a Māori setting was that mentoring involved a whole whānua focus rather than being centred on individuals or a dual relationship.
There was a lack of external professional development specific to those in the Māori medium organisations and limited kaupapa Māori support materials.
For copies of the Learning to Teach research reports, contact the Council via firstname.lastname@example.org.