Mentoring in Action: The Interplay among Professional Assistance, Emotional Support, and Evaluation

By Israel, Maya; Kamman, Margaret L. et al. | Exceptional Children, October 2014 | Go to article overview

Mentoring in Action: The Interplay among Professional Assistance, Emotional Support, and Evaluation


Israel, Maya, Kamman, Margaret L., McCray, Erica D., Sindelar, Paul T., Exceptional Children


Teacher attrition in special education is often attributed to the professional struggles of new special educators (Billingsley, 2010; Griffin, Winn, Otis-Wilborn, & Kilgore, 2003). To remedy some of these struggles, districts institute induction programs to address new teachers' professional challenges (Billingsley, Carlson, & Klein, 2004; Glazerman et ah, 2010; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Ingersoll and Strong (2011) explained that the goal of induction programs is to "both enhance and prevent the loss of teachers' human capital, with the ultimate aim of improving the growth and learning of students" (p. 203).

Although induction programs vary greatly, most include a mentoring component (Billingsley, Griffin, Smith, Kamman, & Israel, 2009). In fact, the terms mentoring and induction are often used synonymously as mentors manage the induction supports offered through the school districts. Of the various roles of mentors, the most prominently cited functions involve emotional support, such as strategies for handling job-related stress of the first years (Algozzine, Gretes, Queen, & Cowan-Hathcock, 2007; Feiman-Nemser, 2003; Gold, 1996; Whitaker, 2000), and specific professional supports. Such supports include assistance with instruction, aligning instruction to the content standards, behavior management, compliance processes, and understanding schoolwide policies (Algozzine et al., 2007; White & Mason, 2006).

In addition to the emotional and professional supports provided by mentors, mentoring programs may include evaluative components because of the high-stakes academic accountability pressures increasing within K-12 settings (Griffin, 2010; Sindelar, Heretick, Hirsch, Rorrer, & Dawson, 2010). Despite this trend, research is sparse and inconsistent about how to best combine mentoring and evaluation of new special education teachers (SETs). Some literature reports negative effects of evaluation within mentoring practices (Gehrke & McCoy, 2007; White & Mason, 2006). These studies point to new teachers' discomfort with reporting concerns to the mentors who may also evaluate them. In fact, some state policies--including those of Indiana, Washington, and Oregon--prohibit the use of mentors as formal evaluators (Sindelar et ah, 2010). Other studies point to the usefulness of credible teacher evaluation, as it provides useful feedback that supports ongoing teacher development (Tyler, Taylor, Kane, & Wooten, 2010).

Darling-Hammond (2012) asserts that teaching and learning be viewed as part of a coherent system of teacher development, teaching quality, and evaluation along a continuum for licensure. She suggests that local standards and evaluation be aligned to state standards. Further, evaluations should be a tool for promoting quality, linked to supports and professional learning opportunities. The continuum of teaching quality and licensure would allow for teachers to demonstrate growth over time and not only highlight practice in need of improvement but also recognize exemplary educators who can become effective mentors and coaches.

Emerging research about induction programs with evaluation components and the current accountability climate suggests that more information is needed about mentors' roles as evaluators (Griffin, 2010). The purpose of this study was therefore to investigate how one urban district that includes structured evaluation as part of its mentoring program addressed the emotional and professional development (PD) of beginning SETs. The research questions were as follows; (a) Within the context of a mentoring program with a strong evaluation component, what types of professional and emotional supports are provided to the new SETs? and (b) What is the relationship between professional and emotional supports within this mentoring program?

A Theoretical Framework for Mentoring: Kram's View of Psychosocial and Career Supports

Although mentoring research is fairly new in the context of SET support, it has been well established in other fields, such as business and medicine. …

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