3.2.5 Qualification, induction of new teachers, mentoring and probation
Successful completion of initial teacher training, including the practicum, leads to qualification or obtaining Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). In practice, this is only the beginning of a teaching career, which will involve ongoing development. Before certification or licensing, newly qualified teachers may be required to successfully complete a probationary period. This provides an opportunity to encourage and induct new entrants in the world of teaching and learning, establish and maintain proper professional standards, and develop teachers’practical teaching proficiency. While not all countries require a probationary period, it is increasingly viewed as an essential step prior to confirmation in a teaching career and should be considered a vital part of teacher policy. The normal duration of probation – usually ranging from several months to as much as three years (OECD, 2005) should be laid out in advance, and the conditions for satisfactory completion should be strictly related to professional competence. If a candidate teacher fails to complete the probation period satisfactorily, more professional support should be provided for a second chance, but ultimately a failure to successfully complete probation indicates a lack of suitability for teaching. Procedures should nevertheless be in place to ensure due process for those who want to appeal a negative assessment (ILO/UNESCO, 1966: Art. 39).
Where a probationary period precedes teacher certification, this may be associated with ongoing professional training or a formal induction programme, assessed by a formal examination or by the teacher, demonstrating the teacher meets the standard for certification. In Scotland, for example, the induction process lasts one year and ends with a formal assessment of a ‘Final profile’ submitted by the teacher to demonstrate fulfilment of 23 professional standards (European Commission, 2010: 33; see also Section 3.6 8). Where induction periods are used, the requirements and criteria governing them should be realistic and context- appropriate so they do not add disproportionately to the burden on newly qualified teachers and their supervisors.
Ideally, whether or not probationary periods are used, newly qualified teachers should undergo induction programmes where they can further the knowledge, skills and attitudes developed during initial training, supported by mentors who are experienced teachers. Along with other forms of professional support and mentoring programmes, induction for beginner teachers can enhance job satisfaction, increase the effectiveness of new teachers (as measured by higher learning gains) and improve retention (ILO, 2012: 22; OECD, 2014a: 88). Where there is little or no induction or other professional support, particularly in isolated contexts such as remote or minority language areas, teacher motivation and effectiveness suffer and teacher attrition is more likely (Bennell, 2004; Bennell and Akyeampong, 2007; VSO, 2008).
It is important that induction be regarded as one stage in lifelong learning, building on initial education and feeding into CPD; effective links must exist between the providers and coordinators of these different aspects (European Commission, 2010: 23).
Induction may be school-based (the school is responsible for supporting a new teacher); community-based (teacher unions provide support programmes); municipality- or cluster-based (municipalities or school clusters implement induction programmes); or based on a cooperative approach between schools and teacher education institutions (mentor training or group/individual mentoring organized by the teacher training institution; this approach is most commonly found within formal induction programmes during a probationary period). School clusters – which link a number of schools to promote the professional development of the teachers within the cluster – are a common form of professional development in the developing world, normally led by a co-ordinating school (which can be designated on a rotating basis) that initiates and promotes professional development. Teacher clusters share experiences and problems, and provide professional support. The key issues for clusters are ownership and control over the cluster.
Induction should provide new teachers with personal, social and professional support; it may include mentoring, inputs by expert teachers or teacher educators, peer support and self-reflection (European Commission, 2010: 16–21; ILO, 2012: 245–246). Research has found that successful induction programmes are comprehensive, collaborative and focus on professional learning:
- Comprehensive: the induction process is ‘highly structured, comprehensive, rigorous and seriously monitored’; the roles of staff developers, administrators, instructors and mentors are well defined
- Collaborative: the teaching culture is based on collaborative group work; the creation of a group identity is fundamental; new teachers are treated as colleagues, who share experiences, practices, tools and language.
- Professional learning: seen as one phase in a lifelong professional learning process, inductions focus on the growth, professional learning and professionalism of teachers (European Commission, 2010: 41).
Mentors play a key role in induction programmes and are growing in importance; in Singapore, structured mentoring programmes extend induction and the formative initial years for new teachers for up to two years (OECD, 2014a: 90, 93). Where experienced teachers act as mentors for newly qualified colleagues, criteria for their selection should be clear and based on competency frameworks; there should be adequate support to and training of mentors, their mentoring should be regularly appraised, and they should be given a reduced teaching load and/or incentives, such as a responsibility allowance (UNESCO, 2014a: 244). Where competency criteria are respected, using retired teachers to mentor newly qualified teachers can ensure their valuable experience and expertise are not lost to the education system once they leave teaching.
The absence of induction in many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, may be one of the reasons for high attrition rates. Having a mentor from the same field or common planning time or collaboration with other teachers are factors that are most likely to reduce teacher turnover, with “teachers participating in combinations or packages of mentoring and group induction activities [being] less likely to migrate to other schools or leave teaching at the end of their first year” (Smith and Ingersoll, 2004: 706).
Policy-makers may consider a number of key questions when designing an induction programme tailored to the local context:
- What are the policy aims of the induction programme?
- Does the policy cover the key aspects of induction?
- Have all actors been involved in defining the policy?
- Are the roles and responsibilities of each actor clearly defined?
- Have all actors received the preparation they need to fulfil their responsibilities?
- How is the induction process integrated into the continuum of teacher lifelong learning?
- Have adequate financial and time resources been allocated?
- What measures can ensure that the policy is implemented consistently?
Box 3.4 contains a checklist for policy-makers.
BOX 3.4: A CHECKLIST FOR POLICY-MAKERS
Aims and objectives
- In what specific ways could a systematic induction programme benefit learners in your country, and fit in with your national policy goals?
- What are the expectations of stakeholders? (Minister, beginning teachers, serving teachers, school leaders, teacher educators, local authorities, unions, professional bodies)
- What will the policy aims of your induction programme be? What concrete measures will you use to measure progress towards these aims?
- In what ways do you want the induction programme to link to school development, or to the professional development of experienced teachers, teacher trainers and school leaders?
- What kind of induction programme would fit your goals and national context? E.g,. one that is linked to a probationary period before registration as a teacher, or a non-formal programme? Will it be compulsory for all beginning teachers?
- What exactly are you looking for in a teacher? Does your country have an explicit statement of the competences that teachers must possess at each stage in their career?
- In what ways will your induction programme provide personal, social and professional support to all beginning teachers? Which people and institutions will have responsibility?
- In your context, how can you best provide interlocking systems for: mentoring, peer support, expert support and self-reflection?
- Have you secured adequate financial support, especially for the training of mentors, and for reduced timetables for beginning teachers and mentors?
- Do you intend to introduce a pilot programme to test out your ideas?
- Does each of the stakeholders support the proposed scheme?
- Is the role of each of the actors (stakeholders) in the proposed scheme clearly stated?
- Have you put in place adequate structures for communication and cooperation between all relevant stakeholders? Is there a relationship of trust?
- Have school leaders been adequately trained and supported to create a culture of learning in schools?
- Have mentors been adequately trained?
- Does the induction programme build on the curriculum in initial teacher education and prepare for CPD?
Have you an effective system of monitoring, review and quality assurance of the policy and procedures once implemented?
Continuing professional development (CPD)
3.2.6 Training in inclusion and equity