Developing Comprehensive Induction in Jewish Day Schools: Lessons from the Field

Published: 
Jul. 03, 2009

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 75, Issue 3 , pages 240 – 257

 

Effective school-based induction for new teachers involves much more than mentoring; it requires a comprehensive array of supports buttressed by a collaborative professional culture. Yet few schools are able to offer such a nourishing environment to their new hires. What would it take to bridge the gap between the real and the ideal? In 2005, a team of researchers and practitioners launched a three-year project with two goals: a) to help the leaders of four Jewish day schools create comprehensive systems of induction for their new teachers and b) to carefully document the process. This paper presents the theory behind their work, their strategies for effecting change and lessons learned along the way.

 

Based on the literature about effective new teacher induction and their own experience in schools, the authors identified a number of structures and practices that they hoped to help the four day schools they worked with develop. They include:

  • an early, information-rich hiring process;
  • summer preparation and formal orientation;
  • access to complete curricula;
  • regular interaction with colleagues and educative mentoring;
  • and ongoing assessment of practice and a transparent rehiring process

The Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education's teacher induction team worked with the schools in the project, requiring each school to designate an induction leader to oversee the work in the school. They provided individualized coaching at each school and cross-school activities for induction leaders, mentor teachers, and heads of school. They also conducted ongoing research in the partner schools to record schools' progress and adjust their interventions accordingly.

 

Research Methods

 

The induction program was accompanied with a research program which aimed to distill lessons from the field about what fostering comprehensive systems of new teacher induction in schools entails.

The data collection was designed to uncover common challenges and facilitating factors in fostering strong school-based induction as well as evidence of the schools' progress in implementing the elements of induction which had been identified at the outset of the project.

 

Coaches documented their work with partner schools through monthly fieldnotes detailing their coaching strategies, goals, perceived outcomes, and dilemmas. They periodically interviewed the beginning teachers, mentors, and induction leaders to inform their own coaching as well as the research component of the project. In addition, the coaches digitally recorded some key meetings with school leaders (with those leaders' permission) so that we could transcribe the meetings and analyze the content. In addition, a Mandel Center researcher assigned to the project periodically interviewed heads of school, beginning teachers, and mentors in each school about current induction practices, what was working well, and perceived roadblocks.

 

The researcher periodically analyzed the extant data to look for trends or common dilemmas that might inform the coaches' work, feeding the findings back into the project during monthly coaches' meetings. At the end of the partnership, the researchers mined the data for evidence of schools' progress and lessons for the field.

 

Findings

Overall, the coaches had varying levels of success in helping their schools create strong systems of induction. In three of the six schools, the coaches made very modest progress in aiding the development of strong, culturally embedded systems of induction. In three of the schools, the coaches helped to implement significant changes that are still in place today.

 

However, even these three schools did not realize the ideal of comprehensive, school-based induction originally envisioned. These schools had made great strides in supporting their novice teachers, yet three years after the partnership began, there were still significant gaps in their support for new teachers' professional learning. These gaps underscore the complexity of the changes involved in creating comprehensive induction, and the fact that school change takes time.

 

School-Level Factors that Facilitate Comprehensive, Schoolwide Induction

  • Committed, savvy school leadership
  • A talented and well-respected induction leader
  • Access to external support and expertise
  • A "critical mass" of willing and experienced mentors
  • An appreciation among school leaders of the importance of a vision of good teaching
  • An acceptance among mentors and leaders that they are collectively responsible for new teachers' success.
Updated: Oct. 14, 2009
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