Preparing Novice Teachers for Success in Elementary Classrooms through Professional Development

Article excerpt

In response to teacher attrition, many school districts have implemented induction programs that include mentoring, professional development, and special monitoring for a teacher's early years. Much literature exists discussing mentoring as one tool of the induction program, but little is provided about professional development specific to teachers new to the profession. The researcher surveyed all elementary teachers with less than 5 years of teaching experience in a large urban school district regarding the methods and delivery of professional development, as well as perceptions of general support through professional development based on their experiences in the induction program. A mismatch between high stress areas and appropriate professional development became evident. The author provides suggestions to administrators and school districts for improved professional development based on teacher needs identified in this study.

Each school year administrators at the campus level welcome new teachers into the classroom only to experience their permanent departure at the end of the year. According to Quinn (2005), the estimated attrition rate "hovers at 20-30%, and may approach 50% in urban school districts" (p. 225). No matter how well prepared a teacher may be, some aspects of teaching can only be learned on the job (Feiman-Nemser, 2001), and many teachers do not stay in teaching long enough to experience success. As a response to the attrition rate and teacher struggles, about half of the states in the United States have mandated mentoring and induction programs. Andrews and Quinn (2005) suggested that providing support to beginning teachers not only assists with teacher retention but also assists beginning teachers in becoming effective practitioners as soon as possible.

The purpose of this study was to identify challenges for novice teachers and to evaluate the availability of professional development for identified issues. Additionally, this study evaluated the preferences of novice teachers for delivery of professional development. For the purposes of this study, a novice teacher had less than 6 complete years of inservice experience as an educator. This term applied to teachers in all areas, including special services and enrichment courses.

Literature Review

Research regarding induction programs has focused on mentoring as a tool for decreasing novice-teacher attrition. The mentoring aspect of the induction program has gained in popularity; however, mentoring is only as strong as the mentors provided. According to Brill and McCartney (2008), improvement of teachers' work environments and professional development is more influential in convincing teachers to remain than mentoring programs alone.

Professional development on a campus and district level is needed in conjunction with mentoring programs to provide a solid foundation of support for a new teacher. Educators and administrators must "create the structures and culture that enable all teachers to continue learning in and from practice as they address the complex challenges of public education" (Feiman-Nemser, 2001, p. 29). Mentoring alone cannot support new teachers.

Research indicates, furthermore, that a successful induction program must include a professional development support system tailored to teachers' needs, years of service, and experiences (Hahs-Vaughn & Scherrf, 2008; Kilgore, Griffin, Otis-Wilborn, & Winn, 2003). Developers of professional development programs must also take into consideration the responsibilities of novice teachers. "Although some programs have few requirements, others require novices to complete workshops (e.g., technology, discipline), create portfolios, take part in online discussions, and attend district-based meetings while trying to navigate their 1st year in the classroom" (Hahs-Vaughn & Scherrf, 2008, p. 25). Too much professional development can be just as ineffective as too little; a balanced professional development plan is crucial. …