Embracing Contraries: Combining Assistance and Assessment in New Teacher Induction
by Brian Yusko & Sharon Feiman-Nemser - 2008
Background/Context: Although the induction literature has traditionally recommended separating assistance and assessment, there has been growing recognition that assessment is integral to promoting and gauging teacher quality. This has led to increased interest in approaches to new teacher induction that meld support, development, assessment and accountability.
Focus of Study: This article provides images of mentoring from two well-regarded induction programs that integrate assistance and assessment to promote quality teaching. The programs are the Peer Assistance and Evaluation Program (PAEP) in Cincinnati, and the Santa Cruz New Teacher Project (SCNTP). The article highlights the possibilities and pitfalls of each approach.
Research Design: The research uses a qualitative case study design involving multiple layers of data collection. Program level data included interviews with program leaders, analysis of program documentation, and observations of staff meetings and mentor training. We observed program implementation by shadowing experienced mentors as they worked with new teachers and asked each mentors in our sample to submit documentation of one year's work with one successful and one struggling new teacher.
Conclusions: A comparative analysis reveals that assistance and assessment can coexist. Participating in assessment and evaluation did not prevent mentors from forming trustworthy relationships, although it sometimes made that more challenging. In both programs mentors were highly regarded teachers, carefully chosen, with extensive professional expertise. They earned respect by establishing credibility as useful support providers. Mentors addressed novices� concerns, but they also assessed how new teachers were meeting students� learning needs. In both programs, new teachers set professional goals and were expected to demonstrate progress towards those goals. Mentoring conversations structured around �records of practice� provided opportunities to move beyond self-report and personal opinion. Mentoring can be most educative when mentors engage in assistance and assessment structured by appropriate frameworks and processes, get support from a professional community that upholds professional teaching standards, and receive training and ongoing professional development to carry out their important responsibility.
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