Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

School District and University Co-Teaching: Toward Instructional Synergy in an Induction/M.Ed. Program

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

School District and University Co-Teaching: Toward Instructional Synergy in an Induction/M.Ed. Program

Article excerpt

All courses should be taught like this. We need the college professor to help us think broadly about our subject areas. I didn't realize until I took this course how important it would be to me to also have the district instructor there, too, connecting everything to the classroom where I teach every day.

Introduction

What happens when a district teacher assumes the role of university student? What happens when two instructors from two different institutions are at the helm of a single graduate-level university course? The duality of these situations is recognized in the notion of what we termed instructional synergy, drawing upon synergy as both "the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect was greater than the sum of their individual effects" and as "cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect" (retrieved from www.dictionary.com, October 12, 2006). This article, which describes one model of a district/university partnership offering an induction program to new teachers while striving for instructional synergy, will consider how the two identities of the teacher as a student, the two instructors, as well as the two institutions, could bring to bear the combined efforts of a school district and university in order to ease a new teacher's transition into the classroom and help provide these teachers with a solid platform from which to launch successful careers as educators.

Induction Programs

High quality education depends upon high quality teachers, with some researchers arguing that teacher quality is the most significant factor affecting student achievement (Darling-Hammond, 1997). As with any profession, teaching relies on the successful installment of new members, and education is strained in this area. Much attention is given to pre-service education and in-service teacher education to the neglect of beginning teachers, even though these induction years are a vital phase of teacher development. Neither pre-service nor in-service programs are specifically geared for beginning teachers who are still negotiating many of the critical basic elements of teaching. Luft (2007) refers to this as "the gap," and believes the retention of good teachers will rely on researchers and practitioners directly addressing the induction phase of teacher development. In the first five years of teaching, close to 50% of teachers leave the profession (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003) and several studies have suggested that those who were successful students themselves are the most likely to leave (Vegas et al., 2001; Henke & Zahn, 2001). First-year teachers deliver narratives of exhaustion, countless administrative meetings, problematic encounters with parents, too little planning time, intense learning of new curriculum content, lack of support, and classroom management issues (Bigelow, 2004).

The call for induction programs to help with these beginning teacher concerns has been heard and by 2003, most states offered some form of mentoring or induction support intended to help school systems with teacher retention. The objectives for these induction programs are, in general: helping new teachers acculturate, facilitating communication about teaching concerns and questions, and strengthening new teachers' knowledge base. As of 2003, eight of 10 beginning teachers in the United States had participated in a formal induction program (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003). The majority of these induction programs are conducted at the district level and designed to meet the generic needs of all teachers regardless of their previous pre-service training, grade level, or subject assignment (Roehrig & Luft, 2006). Still, new teachers continue to leave the profession at an alarming rate.

Many school systems are beleaguered to the point of addressing teacher shortfalls by lowering their standards for teacher quality or implementing a variety of external incentives to increase the teacher workforce (National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1996; Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 2003). …

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