Match games: exploring the match between novice teachers and induction coaches

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Published: 
May, 2021

Source: Teachers and Teaching, 27:1-4, 246-268

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study investigates the perceptions of how novice teachers and their coaches describe their match throughout induction.
Using teacher and coach responses gathered throughout a -year induction programme, the authors explore how each group characterises their match as well as potential predictors of their perceptions.
The research questions that guide their study are as follows:
(1) How do novice teachers and induction coaches describe their match?
(2) How do novice teacher and coach perceptions of match compare with one another and over time?
(3) How do demographic characteristics, network characteristics, induction beliefs, and time predict for novice teachers and their coaches’ perception of being well matched?

Methods

Context
The Center of Teacher Induction (CTI) is a 2-year induction programme for primarily first-year teachers who upon completion, receive a clear teaching credential for a western state in the United States.
Induction is mandatory within this state for all teachers entering the profession and is typically offered by local county programme such as CTI.
However, this county is one of the largest counties in the world, servicing nearly 4 million residents.
Thus, CTI trains approximately 2,500 novice teachers a year, mostly within the local area, but they also serve districts and individual teachers across the state, country, and world through their online induction programme.
Coaches are required to meet with their mentees for at least 1 hour a week (face-to-face or virtual) and often are veteran teachers within the district who receive a small stipend for this work. CTI requires all Coaches to attend a half-day workshop once a semester for coaching-specific development.

Data collection
The Candidate/Coach Satisfaction Survey has been electronically administered at the end of each academic year since 2015.
The surveys have 15 base items, several with multiple sub-questions, measuring constructs of respondent satisfaction with their coaching pair, coaching communication, induction programme experiences, coaching support, and technology; separate but substantively identical questionnaires were given to both Candidates and Coaches.
One open response question about coaching pair satisfaction was used for qualitative analyses and nearly all items—with the exception of questions about technology—were used for quantitative analyses.
Data were collected from the 2016–2017 (Year 1) and 2017–2018 (Year 2) academic years and merged by Candidates’ unique identification number to analyse one cohort of novice teachers who matriculated through CTI.
The analytic sample for this study includes all Candidates enrolled in CTI starting in Year 1 and had the same Coach across both years in the programme.
A total of 913 total participants were enrolled in Year 1, with 762 of those individuals having completed both annual surveys for an 84% response rate.
Of the 762 individuals, 559 of those Candidates, or 73%, had the same Coach over the 2 years.
There were 395 Coaches who worked with those Candidates and who filled out the survey in Year 1, with 359 of those Coaches completing the survey in Year 2.
The authors utilise both samples of Coaches for their respective year.

Data analysis
A mixed methods approach was used to explore the research questions.
The open response prompt asking a rationale for match goodness was processed through an emergent qualitative lens, while quantitative analyses modelled participant characteristics as a function of their perceptions of being well matched or not.

Results and discussion
This mixed methods study explored novice teachers’ and induction coaches’ perceptions of their match throughout a 2-year induction programme.
The authors qualitatively analysed participants’ comments of what they believe is important for their match and quantitatively modelled their survey responses to search for whether demographic characteristics, network characteristics, and induction beliefs predict for respondent perceptions of being well matched in their coaching pair.
Results suggest three findings, discussed below.
First, logistical components remain important to perceptions of match.
Participants who were satisfied with their match consistently stated how similarities in grade level, subject area, and school were important.
This was consistent over both years and for both respondent groups, though Coaches more so than Candidates.
This was partially complemented by quantitative analyses, which identified that having the same subject area was a significant predictor throughout models, though Candidate models had grade level as significant while Coaches had school type as a significantly positive predictor.
These findings reiterate the importance of matching various logistical characteristics throughout teacher coaching as a whole (e.g., Polikoff et al., 2015), even amidst large-scale induction programmes (Kraft et al., 2018).
Second, interpersonal characteristics could enhance coaching.
Pedagogical and dispositional similarities, albeit less prominent, were discussed as salient characteristics of their match.
While these attributes were not reiterated in quantitative analyses, this finding builds upon the limited amount of previous evidence that stated the utility of matching according to these types of characteristics (Wang & Fulton, 2012; Wang & Odell, 2007).
Future studies could collect follow-up interviews or observe coaching interactions to identify the role and construction of these characteristics throughout the year.
Third, and most importantly, perceptions of match from the novice teacher perspective are dependent on quality interactions.
This was the one of the most striking differences between respondent groups—regardless of time—as Candidates emphasised professional and emotional support that their Coaches provided as a defining characteristic of their match.
Results from logistic regression models also indicated that ratings of coaching skills, a potential measure for available coaching support, was a significant positive predictor for Candidate perceptions of being well matched.
That is, the more Candidates believed their Coaches were good at their job, the more likely they were going to think their pairing was well matched.
This finding suggests the importance of meaningful interactions, alongside matched characteristics, throughout induction coaching relationships.
Authentic activities that facilitated their pedagogical growth were most relevant for novice teachers, and to them, were indicative that they were working with a capable and competent coach. Relatedly, coaches should also feel efficacious, as opposed to modest, about their abilities to promote novice teachers’ positive perceptions.
These findings complement previous evidence by stating the importance of the quality of coaching, through coaching activities and professional support (e.g., Desimone & Pak, 2017; Gibbons & Cobb, 2017), as a potential way to promote novice teacher development.
When both the teacher and coach feel competent of the coaches’ skills, the interpersonal dynamic can facilitate greater ease in learning.
These results have implications for considering matches to support novice teacher development.
Programmes should not assume that matching logistical characteristics alone is sufficient and should incorporate additional strategies to strengthen the coaching relationships.
For small programmes in particular that may not have as many match options to pair novice teachers, there might be alternatives means of support.
Matching dispositional and pedagogical characteristics could be an option, that while may require more effort, may be beneficial.
Additionally, these programmes should focus on providing structures for high-quality coaching activities, including getting to know one another and focusing on the qualifications of the coach and the type of skills that they intend on enacting in the upcoming year.
Opportunities for coaches to exhibit their knowledge and make it applicable for novice teachers could be particularly beneficial.
Such opportunities will encourage novice teachers to buy-in to the skills that the induction coaches have to offer and further maximise their own learning.

References
Desimone, L. M., & Pak, K. (2017). Instructional coaching as high-quality professional development. Theory into Practice, 56(1), 3–12
Gibbons, L. K., & Cobb, P. (2017). Focusing on teacher learning opportunities to identify potentially productive coaching activities. Journal of Teacher Education, 68(4), 411–425.
Kraft, M. A., Blazar, D., & Hogan, D. (2018). The effect of teacher coaching on instruction and achievement: A meta-analysis of the causal evidence. Review of Educational Research, 88(4), 547–588.
Polikoff, M. S., Desimone, L. M., Porter, A. C., & Hochberg, E. D. (2015). Mentor policy and the quality of mentoring. The Elementary School Journal, 116(1), 76–102.
Wang, J., & Fulton, L. A. (2012). Mentor-novice relationships and learning to teach in teacher induction: A critical review of research. REMIE: Multidisciplinary Journal of Educational Research, 2(1), 56–104.
Wang, J., & Odell, S. J. (2007). An alternative conception of mentor–novice relationships: Learning to teach in reform-minded ways as a context. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(4), 473–489 

Updated: Mar. 02, 2022
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