A FRESH APPROACH for FRESH FACES

By Molitor, Suzanne; Burkett, Dina et al. | The Learning Professional, October 2014 | Go to article overview

A FRESH APPROACH for FRESH FACES


Molitor, Suzanne, Burkett, Dina, Cunningham, Allison, Dell, Cheryl, Presta, Anna, The Learning Professional


In Ontario, Canada, supporting new teachers and mentors as part of new teacher induction is a mandate for all 72 districts within the province.

The Ontario Ministry of Education estab- lished the New Teacher Induction Program in 2006, ensuring that new teachers in the province receive orientation, mentoring, and continuous professional learning in their first year. Through this pro- gram, districts receive funding and opportunities to sup- port mentors and respond to the needs of novice teachers in their first and second year.

The Peel District School Board embraced this mandate as an opportunity to be intentional, adaptive, and respon- sive to the learning needs of mentors and beginning teach- ers. Serving 153,000 students in 206 elementary and 37 secondary schools, this growing school board is the second largest in Ontario.

The New Teacher Induction Program educational re- form context, together with current knowledge about ef- fective professional learning, has affected how central office staff think about the design and implementation of profes- sional learning according to Learning Forward's Standards for Professional Learning (Learning Forward, 2011).

District leaders have adopted new strategies and pro- cesses for performing their work. Roles have shifted as cen- tral leaders adopt conceptual and interactive roles, including designers of evidence-informed professional learning, fa- cilitators of teacher professional learning, and instructional coaches developing teacher leaders. The program supports differentiated learning for novice teachers and mentors.

CENTRAL LEADERS AS DESIGNERS OF EVIDENCE- INFORMED PROFESSIONAL LEARNING

As designers of new teacher and mentor professional learning, district leaders understand that professional learning is an intentional, ongoing, systemic process (Guskey, 2000). Recognizing the limitations of one-size-fits-all professional learning, the district has developed a differenti- ated model of professional learning that fosters relationships and develops future leaders.

For instance, beginning teachers have choices in ongoing learning opportunities in a variety of formats and content ar- eas (full-day release sessions, after-school networks, school-based mentoring, co- planning, co-teaching, and co-debrief- ing). Mentors, too, have opportunities to learn about the role, about conduct- ing learning-focused conversations, and developing leadership skills in coaching, collaborating, and consulting (Lipton & Wellman, 2003).

District leaders (instructional super- intendents, coordinators, consultants, and school-based administrators) create conditions and develop structures (Ful- lan, 2001) to support daily job-embed- ded learning for beginning teachers and mentors.

Peel District School Board leaders developed a framework that allows for intentional and informed decision mak- ing and invites multiple voices for teacher professional learning. (See diagram on p. 55.) With guiding principles at the core, this iterative process for planning, implementing, reflecting, and redesigning builds mentor and new teacher capacity at many levels through profes- sional learning that is differentiated and responsive.

Continuous reflection by district staff and steering committee administrators throughout the school year enables ongoing revi- sion and redesign of professional learning guided by this theory of action: "If we provide new teachers and their mentors with collaborative, differentiated professional learning to build rela- tionships, confidence, and efficacy in their practice, then they will be able to transfer best practices to support student success."

Data gathering is a constant, yearlong process to evaluate effectiveness of professional learning (Guskey, 2000) and to in- form decisions about future designs. Gathering feedback in the form of exit tickets, electronic survey systems, verbal feedback, observations, and focus groups helps the district create profes- sional learning that is responsive to teacher needs. …

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