Source: Teacher Development, Vol. 17, No. 3, 362–379, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
In this article, the authors explore which factors support or constrain professional learning during initial years of teaching.
The study drew on secondary analysis of data from a longitudinal study of new teachers’ experiences of the Ontario New Teacher Induction Program.
The larger study generated data through web-based questionnaires with new teachers, mentors and פrincipals over three consecutive years (2006–2009). Interviews were conducted with over 300 new teachers, 150 mentors and 110 principals over this period.
The findings reveal that novice teachers generally experienced a positive welcome into their schools and the support of well-meaning colleagues. Other begging teachers were proactive in connecting with colleagues. They also were comfortable approaching administration for help and guidance. In these cases colleagues supported the new teachers as they learned about students, the curriculum and the school community.
The majority of the new teachers perceive their initial induction to be useful and, in particular, they credit mentoring with assisting their transition into teaching.
Furthermore, the authors argue that a new teacher should have the ability to bring together knowledge of content, pedagogical knowledge and knowledge of particular students, to decide what and how to teach and to respond to student engagement. However, it was found that many new teachers were still coming to know their students. Hence, while they acknowledged that they had been taught about diversity and differentiated instruction in their teacher education courses, they were not prepared for the immediate reality of designing responsive instruction.
The participants reported that a major challenge is finding appropriate ways to address what they perceived as a general lack of motivation on the part of students to engage with the activities within the classroom.
The authors also found that new teachers’ professional learning occurred when they used teaching practice as a site of inquiry in collaboration with their mentors. In other cases, mentor teachers, vice principals or principals observed classes taught by the new teacher and provided critical feedback.
The authors conclude that providing opportunities for the new teacher to observe other teachers and to be observed by a mentor emerged as central tasks of learning to teach for these new teachers.