Source: Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 20, No. 1, February 2012, 57–74
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this article is fourfold:
(a) to describe some of the current trends and developments in induction and mentoring within the United States;
(b) to identify and discuss program results and evolving views of the purposes of mentoring and expectations held of mentors;
(c) to locate gaps in the research literature; and
(d) to look ahead briefly toward the future of teacher induction and mentoring.
The author will describe induction and mentoring programs in the three most populous states, California, New York, and Texas, and one of the smallest, Utah.
The intent is to show some of the variation in induction programs and mentoring and begin to locate some of the challenges of program design and operation.
In 1998, the Governor of the State of California signed a legislation that restructured teacher credentialing in the state.
This legislation mandated the creation of standards-based routes into teaching, alignment of state adopted academic and performance standards and teacher preparation standards, a performance test for all teachers prior to receiving a teaching credential.
This legislation also required all new teachers to complete a mentoring-intensive two-year induction program.
New York offers the New York State Mentor Teacher–Internship Program (MTIP).
Established in 1986, the intention is to provide peer guidance and support to first or second year teachers.
In New York, participating district superintendents choose mentors from a list developed by a select committee composed mostly of teachers and also are responsible for making intern assignments.
The program offers one year of support to provisional teachers who are given no less than a 10 percent reduction of classroom instructional time to participate.
However in Utah, by law each beginning teacher is assigned a mentor but for many mentoring is hit and miss, often ineffective, and always poorly funded.
Mostly, mentees are entirely dependent on the good will of their mentors, chosen by their principals, for whatever they receive of benefit from the relationship.
School districts may or may not give mentors and beginning teachers released time so they can meet, may or may not make provision for extra pay or offer special training to mentors, and may or may not acknowledge the importance and value of the mentor’s work.
Finally, Texas piloted in 1999 the Texas Beginning Educator Support System (TxBESS).
Mentoring of beginning teachers had been mandated by law but unfunded, and few systematic efforts at beginning teacher induction existed.
Three years later, and with additional funding, a program was developed to certify Master Teachers in reading, science, and mathematics.
Current legislation supporting the Beginning Teacher Induction and Mentoring (BTIM) program provides that funds may be used for mentor stipends, training, and released time to meet with and observe beginning teachers.
The statute allows districts to assign mentors to beginning teachers, defined as having less than two years teaching experience.
Demonstrating the results of the trends
There is great variation in the kind and quality of induction offered to beginning teachers across the 50 states.
In many, mentoring is the single most important component, such that the terms mentoring and induction are often used interchangeably while conceptually, mentoring is but one component, albeit usually the most important element, of a program of planned induction.
While teachers in Utah are by law assigned a mentor, usually by a principal and based as much on teacher reputation than demonstrated teaching skill, very few mentors receive special training for their new role, released time, or even recognition for their professional service as the episode at the copying machine illustrates.
In contrast, every beginning teacher in California not only has a mentor but that mentor is trained and works within a system of clearly articulated standards that give purpose and direction to program efforts.
The author reviews the international literature on induction and mentoring and claims that little is known about the cost-effectiveness of mentoring.
However, recent research in the US has and is addressing issues of cost-effectiveness and there are beginning efforts to determine impact on student learning (Fletcher & Barrett, 2004; Fletcher et al., 2008).
Several studies of mentoring and induction suggest that much of the induction work being done is under theorized.
With some very notable exceptions, most especially studies grounded in social learning theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998), mentoring and induction practices appear primarily to be the result of on-going and site-specific tinkering and testing, even within NTC programs.
The author concludes that the research literature on induction and mentoring strongly supports the conclusion that successful induction programs are wholly people dependent, and that their success rests entirely on how effectively they enable and support learning and engagement.
Fletcher, S. H., & Barrett, A. (2004). Developing effective beginning teaches through mentor-based induction. Mentoring and Tutoring, 12(3), 321–333.
Fletcher, S., Strong, M., & Villar, A. (2008). An investigation of the effects of variations in mentor-based induction on performance of students in California. Teachers College Record, 110(10), 2271–2289.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral practice. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.