Cultivating High-Quality Teaching Through Induction and Mentoring
reviewed by Naida C. Tushnet - 2005
Title: Cultivating High-Quality Teaching Through Induction and Mentoring
Author(s): Carol A. Bartell
Publisher: Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks
ISBN: 0761938583, Pages: 188, Year: 2005
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Questions related to teacher recruitment, performance, and retention are critical to our current emphasis on school accountability. Without well-prepared teachers who remain in the profession, schools will have difficulty in meeting the demands of the current environment of accountability. Not only does No Child Left Behind contain language related to teacher credentialing, but it also requires teachers to deliver high-quality, demanding instruction. As many have pointed out (Berliner, 1986; Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Grossman & Thompson, 2004), even fully credentialed teachers enter the classroom still in a learning mode. If they do not master their work, they either leave the profession or fail to serve their students well. Consequently, support in the induction years (up to 5 years from entry into the profession) offers promise for improving schools.
Carol Bartell brings to Cultivating High-Quality Teaching through Induction and Mentoring experiences covering key arenas for new teacher support. She has been on the staff ofand then a member ofthe California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC), a faculty member preparing teachers, and a dean of two universities. In addition, she has served on numerous national committees and commissions charged with examining new teacher recruitment, performance, and retention. Consequently, her work is well grounded in both research and practice.
The book itself is both rooted in research and practical. Bartell begins with a chapter that lays out the challenges facing new teachers, followed by chapters relating the stages of teacher development and the components of effective teacher induction programs. The latter draws heavily on Californias Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program. As an evaluator of that program (Tushnet et al., 2002), I can attest to the high quality and thoughtfulness that exist throughout the program. The staff at the California Department of Education and CCTC work closely with regional and district staff members to implement a reflective, research-based program. However, the heavy reliance on a single approach (although others, particularly Connecticuts, are also mentioned) may lead to reader skepticism about the generalizability of the recommendations for programming.
Further, although Bartell acknowledges the importance of the context in which new teachers begin their work, she does so primarily in discussing the characteristics of effective induction programs. In that discussion (pp. 5354), she notes that teachers perceptions of their work are shaped by the context in which they find themselves and that induction into suburban settings may be different from induction into urban and rural settings. Bartell maintains that effective induction programs help new teachers work within whatever context they find themselves. And if that is true, it raises some questions about the purpose of induction: Is it to help new teachers succeed in their current setting? Orand I believe this is the more important purposeshould support be designed so that new teachers are inducted into a profession? Under the latter proposition, it is equally important to help new teachers learn how to analyze settings in general, using their own current placement as an example. Otherwise, the implication is that a teacher requires induction every time he or she changes setting. Although such an approach to teacher induction might be desirable, it is not really economically possibleand one would hope that a teacher with experience in one school would not need the level of support of a new teacher.
Although mentoring, according to Bartell, is one element of an effective induction program, it is key. Bartell is clear about the problems inherent in relying on mentoring: determining whether mentors should be geographically close (in the same school) or teaching the same grade or subject, whether mentors should remain as full-time teachers or be given a special assignment for a period of time, whether each teacher should have his or her own mentor, etc. She discusses the various trade-offs induction program organizers make in designing mentoring programs and recognizes the constraints presented in particular settings. For example, in rural settings, it is probably not possible to match mentors and new high school teachers by subject matter, and in urban settings, the ratio of new to experienced teachers may preclude some types of matching.
Despite my generally positive view of Bartells book, I have two concerns. First, although she acknowledges the importance of social context, the major focus of the book is on the psychological development of new teachers. A recent article in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis points out the limits of the psychological perspective. Grossman and Thompson (2004) study the impact of district policies on new teachers approach to teaching language arts, a field with many policy and practice disagreements. District policy shapes teacher behavior, they argue, more than does their stage of development. I would push the Grossman and Thompson finding further: The existence of multiple reformsat the school, district, state, and federal levelsrequires successful induction programs to attend very carefully to the policy environment. For example, the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP), which are crucial to BTSA, are in some ways unaligned with current policies. CSTP envisions a reflective practitioner, but some (many?) current reforms envision more standardized practice. Induction programs, I would argue, need to help new teachers work through the various dilemmas posed by competing policies.
Second, Bartell notes the importance to successful teaching of knowledge of content and pedagogical content. She also strongly acknowledges that new teachers are still learning content and pedagogical content and argues that induction programs with mentoring are important in their development of such knowledge. However, the book pays little attention to ongoing arguments within various content domains. In history, for example, there are those who believe students should learn the foundation documents and political history and those who believe that social and economic history is equally, if not more, important. Every teacher needs to acknowledge that subject matterlet alone pedagogical-content knowledgeis not fixed. And mentors should help new teachers, who are frequently reliant on textbooks or basal readers, work through the content issues.
Despite my minor quibbles with the book, I believe Bartell has done an excellent job of pulling together the research on induction and mentoring. She writes in a lively style, uses examples drawn from a variety of studies, and provides guidance for those who wish to develop or improve an existing induction program. State and district leaders would be well advised to read this book. If they do so, and take the advice and checklists seriously, they will support new teachers in ways that help build a strong professionretaining the best of them to teach all the children.
Berliner, D. (1986). In pursuit of the expert pedagogue. Educational Researcher, 15(7), 513.
Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). From preparation to practice: Designing a continuum to strengthen and sustain teaching. Teachers College Record, 103, 10131055.
Grossman, P., & Thompson, C. (2004). District policy and beginning teachers: A lens on teacher learning. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26(4), 281302.
Tushnet, N. C., Briggs, D., Elliot, J., Esch, C., Haviland, D., Humphrey, D. C., et al. (2002). Final report of the independent evaluation of the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program. Los Alamitos, CA: WestEd.