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Improving teacher induction in Australian schools

Report

The article is based on extracts from the report Building the Right Foundation: Improving Teacher Induction in Australian Schools, prepared by the Hay Group January 2014 for the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), © Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, used with permission.

 

The importance of teacher induction is widely accepted in the education sector, and is supported by a strong evidence base. Yet concerns persist about the effectiveness of existing induction processes. A new report helps to address these concerns. Building the Right Foundation: Improving Teacher Induction in Australian Schools provides an analysis of key research into the induction of new teachers. The report was prepared by the Hay Group for the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). The current article is based on extracts from the report.


The importance of induction

Induction helps to address the distinctive problems encountered by beginning teachers. New teachers face the challenges of establishing their own professional identity, adjusting to full-time teaching, managing classrooms, and negotiating relationships with colleagues. They have to adjust to their physical teaching environment and navigate the norms and rituals of the staffroom culture (Ewing & Smith 2003). In any organisation it is difficult to smoothly and effectively bring new employees in, but new teachers are also required to assume the full pedagogical and legal responsibility of their role – from day one, unlike the graduates of other professions (Tynjälä & Heikkinen 2011).

To help meet these needs induction gives beginning teachers some clarity about their role within the classroom, school and broader community, and also clarifies connections between the teacher’s role and the overall mission of the school and teaching profession.

Induction also plays an important part in new teachers’ transition from provisional to full registration. The Nationally Consistent Approach to Teacher Registration in Australia (endorsed by all Ministers for Education on 14 October 2011) requires new teachers to provide evidence that their teaching performance meets the Proficient career stage of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

Good quality teacher induction may play a role in reducing the attrition of high-potential new teachers. The need to hold onto such teachers is magnified as it converges with the ageing demographic of the existing teacher workforce. If new teachers are not remaining in the profession for the time necessary to develop significant professional capital at the same time as experienced members of the profession retire, then the collective expertise of the broader profession will be slowly eroded.


Existing system support for teacher induction

Support for induction is widespread in Australia (see eg Ramsey 2000; Senate Committee 2013; NSW Government 2013). The OECD's Teaching and Learning International Survey 2008 (TALIS) found that over 90% of new Australian teachers undertake some form of formal induction (Jensen 2012).

Much of this induction is in forms that are supported by solid research evidence. Kearney (2012) undertook a review of both Australian and international literature to determine the characteristics of effective induction programs. He identified the following eight characteristics of effective induction:

  • Provision of a mentor
  • Opportunity for collaboration
  • Structured observations
  • Reduced teaching, and/or release time
  • Teacher evaluation
  • Opportunities for professional discussions and/or communication
  • Professional support and/or professional networking
  • Part of a program of professional development.

These elements of induction feature prominently in Australian education. In the TALIS survey, over 90% of Australian teacher respondents reported that their school had a mentoring program. The NSW Department of Education and Communities currently employs 50 teacher mentors who work across 92 schools that have significant numbers of new permanent teacher appointments. These mentors annually support about 60% of the total number of newly appointed teachers in government schools (NSW Government 2013). In Victoria, mentoring plays an important role in new teacher registration.

According to the Staff in Australia's Schools (SiAS) survey, it appears that a significant proportion of new Australian teachers are participating in structured observations and reduced teaching loads  (McKenzie et al. 2011).

At present, however, not all of these elements of induction are demonstrably effective in supporting new teachers. In the TALIS survey, Australian teachers reported that professional collaboration is relatively weak (OECD 2009, and in the SiAS survey only 60% of respondents rated the assistance provided via teacher collaboration as very helpful or helpful.

Teacher evaluation has received increasing attention in Australia in recent years (see eg Jensen 2011), although it too may be of limited help to new teachers, since teachers more generally view it mainly as an administrative requirement with little impact on the way that they teach (OECD 2009).


Conditions for further improvement of induction

Internationally, the education systems with the most effective systems of induction display three qualities which help existing understandings of induction to be well implemented on the ground.

Induction is one (critical) part of the whole

The highly successful school systems of Ontario, Finland and Singapore have dedicated significant time and effort to establishing a holistic view of the education system itself. The holistic approach means that induction is tied to the goals of improving student outcomes and is aligned to the other initiatives within the system (Darling-Hammond & Rothman 2011).

Providing new teachers with opportunities for collaboration, for example, is likely to be of most benefit as part of a larger approach that encourages school-wide collaborative practices. At the same time, system and school leaders need to think about how school-wide collaborative opportunities will be experienced by beginning teachers, and how they can be adapted, where necessary, to new teachers’ needs.

Induction is founded on teaching as public practice, rather than private practice

High-performing education systems provide opportunities for teachers to learn from each other in their schools (Barber & Mourshed 2007). Instead of having teachers cloistered in the individual classroom, teaching becomes a public practice. When public teaching practice operates within a holistic approach to schooling, it has implications for induction. As Carroll (2007) writes, new teachers should be incorporated into ‘a network of relationships with colleagues that supports their continued learning and growth – ending sink or swim placements for novice teachers’.

Induction is an investment

Effective induction initiatives will take time and resources. In this sense they are like all initiatives designed to drive improvement. The best performing schools make this time available, and support teachers to engage in practices such as professional development and collaborative lesson planning. Many Australian schools already invest in training mentors or coaches, however leading schools internationally recognise that other initiatives require special skills to be most effective. For example, Shanghai trains teachers in classroom observation and Singapore provides training in performance management for newly appointed middle managers (Jensen 2011).


How these conditions can improve the effectiveness of induction strategies

Establishing these three conditions facilitates the effectiveness of potentially successful induction strategies. Mentoring relationships, for instance, are improved when they move beyond the traditional idea of a mentor and mentee meeting together away from the classroom, and incorporate classroom observation and feedback.

High performing school systems provide opportunities for new teachers to interact with their peers, as well as with more experienced teachers. While Finland is currently looking to improve the approach to in-service professional learning, it has long recognised the importance of bringing teachers together in different fora. Teachers and other staff members in Finland are routinely involved in decision making; teacher and administrator teams work together to develop syllabi, select textbooks, develop curriculum and assessments, decide on course offerings and budgets, and plan and schedule professional development. These deliberations are themselves a form of professional development, as teachers study issues and share their ideas.

The Ministry of Education in Singapore established the Beginning Teacher’s network to facilitate valuable peer support and the pooling of teaching–learning resources, and to provide a platform for professional sharing. The Ministry sees such networks, which are also in place for more experienced teachers, as important in helping to foster a culture of collaborative learning and promoting a teacher-led culture of professional excellence.


School leaders are central to success

The need to target a deep shared meaning and purpose highlights the central role of school leaders in leading improvement efforts in induction. Leaders are the champions of culture, as they are uniquely positioned to develop and bring the organisation together around the shared meaning and purpose. They must then role-model the attitudes and behaviours necessary to drive the change.


References

Barber, M and Mourshed, M 2007, How the world’s best performing school systems come out on top, McKinsey & Company

Carroll, TG 2007, ‘Teaching for the Future’ in Bob Wehling & Carri Schneider (eds) Building a 21st Century U.S. Education System, National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future

Darling-Hammond, L & Rothman, R 2011, Teacher and Leader Effectiveness in High-Performing Education Systems, Alliance for Excellent Education, Washington DC and Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education

Ewing, R & Smith, D 2003, ‘Retaining quality beginning teachers in the profession’, English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 2 (1), 15–32

Jensen, B 2011, Better Teacher Appraisal and Feedback: Improving Performance, Grattan Institute

Jensen, B et al. 2012, The Experience of New Teachers: Results from TALIS 2008, OECD Publishing

Kearney, SP 2012, New Scheme Teacher Induction in New South Wales Independent School: challenges and opportunities. Ph.D Thesis, University of Wollongong

McKenzie, P, Rowley, G, Weldon, P & Murphy, M 2011, Staff in Australia’s Schools 2010: Main Report on the Survey, Australian Council for Education Research

Mourshed, M, Chijioke, C & Barber, M 2010, How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better, McKinsey & Company

New South Wales Government 2013, Great Teaching, Inspired Learning: A blueprint for action

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2009, Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments: First Results from TALIS, OECD Publishing

Ramsey, G 2000, Quality Matters: Revitalising Teaching: Critical times, critical choices, Report of the Review of Teacher Education in New South Wales

Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee 2013, Teaching and learning - maximising our investment in Australian schools

Tynjälä, P & Heikkinen HLT 2011, Beginning teachers’ transition from pre-service education to working life, Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylän Yli­opisto, Finland

KLA

Subject Headings

Teacher induction
Teaching profession
Beginning teachers
Educational planning
Education policy