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Tool: Assessing your school's culture and its capacity for induction - Part I

The purpose of this tool: This tool will help you to assess your school's culture and to determine the strengths that you can build on and the challenges you will need to address to create a strong induction program. What beginning teachers learn and the types of teachers they become depend on the messages about students and parents, and about teaching and schooling, that they gather from interactions with and observations of the principal and veteran teachers.  What are beginning teachers learning in your school? 

How to use this tool: Individuals can use this tool to reflect on their school's culture, their role and relation to it and their school's capacity for induction. It will be more powerful, however, to use this tool with a group that involves the principal, administrators and teachers with a range of experience levels within the school. After reading what the research says about the relationship between school culture and induction, work with your colleagues to complete the School Culture and Induction Assessment


School culture and induction: What the research says

Research shows that new teachers benefit from and stay teaching in schools that:

  • Offer new teachers novice status;
  • Provide new teachers curricular guidance and resources;
  • Create school-wide conditions that support student learning; and
  • Create a supportive professional culture.

These schools take the learning needs of beginning teachers seriously. They do not assign beginning teachers the most challenging classes to teach. Some even reduce beginning teachers’ course loads to provide them time to plan, to observe and to work with veteran teachers. 

Teachers and administrators in these schools do strike a balance between respect and support.  They expect beginning teachers to have difficulties and encourage them to seek assistance. At the same time, they expect that beginning teachers will learn from their mistakes in ways that will benefit students. 

In order to ensure that this happens, these schools provide beginning teachers:

  • structured, on-site professional development that involves beginning and experienced teachers;
  • both formal and informal interactions with principals and veteran teachers focused on teaching and learning;
  • the opportunities to prioritize their professional learning, observe expert teaching and work collaboratively on problems of practice with colleagues across experience levels.


These schools share an integrated professional culture

Researchers at Harvard’s Project on the Next Generation of Teachers have identified three types of school cultures that affect beginning teachers’ learning and effectiveness.

Veteran-oriented culture: Schools with a veteran-oriented culture typically had a high proportion of veteran teachers who set the norms and modes of interaction and teaching. Teachers in these schools valued independence. While collegial interactions could be cordial, they did not engage teachers in sharing and working collaboratively to address the problems of practice they encountered in their classrooms. Beginning teachers in schools with veteran-oriented cultures received little support, encouragement or guidance. They were left to sink or swim because the school did not provide them with any way to access the expertise of highly skilled veteran teachers. The mentoring that did occur in these schools seldom provided beginning teachers with the support they needed. Beginning teachers felt isolated from their mentors. Their interactions with mentors were limited to occasional meetings and with offers to share materials. Mentors did not have the time or take the time to observe beginning teachers or to talk with them about their teaching and their learning.

Novice-oriented culture: Schools with a novice-oriented culture typically had a high proportion of beginning teachers. Teaching staff in these schools were highly energetic and committed to their students.  Because these schools had few highly skilled, veteran teachers, however, beginning teachers lacked the guidance about how to teach that they wanted and needed to develop as teachers. Schools with a novice-oriented culture typically did not provide beginning teachers any mentoring or organized professional development. Beginning teachers did work together, but they remained very uncertain about their development as teachers.

Integrated Professional Culture: Teamwork and collaboration distinguished schools, and subunits, that had an integrated professional culture. In these schools, veteran and beginning teachers worked together across experience levels in on-going professional development activities. Interactions among teachers were frequently open and reciprocal. They focused on sharing and jointly addressing the problems of practices the teachers encountered in their classrooms. Both beginning and veteran teachers in these schools viewed mentoring as an opportunity for their learning. More importantly, in these schools, most veteran teachers acted as mentors, whether or not they were officially assigned.


References

Moore Johnson, S., & Kardos, S. (2002). Keeping new teachers in mind. Educational Leadership,  12-16.

Birkeland, S., & Moore Johnson, S. (2002). What keeps new teachers in the swim? Journal of Staff Development, 18 –21.

Ingersoll, R.,  & Kralik, J. (2004). The impact of mentoring on teacher retention: What the research says. Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States.

Lee, V.,  & Smith. J. (1994). High school restructuring and student achievement. Issue Report No. 7.  Madison, WI: Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools.