The accreditation* process should not dictate the way beginning teachers receive induction and mentoring, University of Notre Dame Dean of Education Sean Kearney told IE Journalist Sue Osborne.
Dr Kearney was among the cohort of teachers who were the ‘guinea pigs’ of the new accreditation system in 2004 in NSW and he said his experience of induction and mentoring at that time was not positive. He was inspired to undertake PhD research examining best practice induction in NSW independent high schools.
He undertook case studies in six high schools in 2011 and found induction and mentoring haphazard.
“Administrators knew they weren’t doing it well and they blamed lack of time and resources rather than lack of knowledge about induction and mentoring,” Dr Kearney said.
“With professionalisation and the introduction of big’s standards the sink or swim approach to beginning teachers no longer applies.
“Research shows many teachers leave in the first five years of their career, and good induction and mentoring can help stem the flow.”
Key characteristics of effective induction include:
•allowing beginning teachers to collaborate with each other, and
•the appointment of a qualified mentor, not relying on experienced teachers with no indication of quality.
A proper framework in schools for the induction of new teachers is required. Dr Kearney believes education authorities such as BOSTES in NSW should be checking the induction processes in schools.
“Handing the classroom keys to new teachers and wishing them good luck is not protecting government’s investment in their training.
“Schools have to have a vision for how they will transition beginning teachers. The accreditation process should not dictate the induction program.
“Accreditation should be built into it, but its backwards to allow one to dictate the other.
“We need to look at what’s best for teaching and learning and not accreditation.
“Beginning teachers should know what to expect in their induction and that should be done through a research-informed framework that’s accessible to them.”
Research has found that only three lessons are observed by a new teacher on average. While this fulfils the accreditation requirements, it is not appropriate for induction and mentoring, Dr Kearney said.
Training for teachers to become a mentor is not widespread, and often heads of department are given the role by default.
Dr Kearney said having a line manager mentoring a beginning teacher is not the ideal situation. The beginning teacher may be nervous about asking questions or showing weakness to the ‘boss’.
Mentor/mentee relationships that evolve naturally are best practice. Dr Kearney suggest schools have identified mentors and beginning teachers be encouraged to choose from that group in their first five weeks of teaching. Someone from their own KLA may be ideal, but it’s not crucial.
“Principals have a responsibility to make sure the new teacher can get the right mentor, and access a process that is separate from accreditation.”
*Accreditation in NSW has the same meaning as registration in other states and territories.