MENTORING GRADUATE TEACHERS
CAREER progression is part of every teacher’s role mandated by the National Professional Standards for Teachers.
How does a teacher achieve career advancement and have fun in what might seem like a game of snakes and ladders dreamed up by bureaucrats?
Graduate teachers need to be regarded as potential champions rather than patronised as inexperienced beginners; mature-aged graduates, for example, bring life or industry experience to the job.
“Practice-focused mentoring” is a key strategy that research shows can give graduates the impetus to grow rapidly and contribute to national aims in education.
What is often seen in schools is criticism of weak practice, randomly assigned mentors, advice given based on personal past experience, or learning opportunities unrelated to the early career teacher’s well-being.
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) organisation, the national peak body for educators, suggests graduates should seek multiple mentors that play a role in supporting their well-being, access networks with regular discussions taking place between mentor and graduate.
The vast body of teachers who fall into the “proficient” category need to review their practice as the group offers a great possibility for change in schools if given caring, explicit direction.
Any principal wanting to effect change needs to encourage every teacher to develop an individual professional identity where each teacher identifies an area of expertise and links it to the school or system’s aims to build excellence.
AITSL’S research on Australian guidelines for teacher induction suggests that the benefits are many and include developing a reputation as a teacher expert in a particular area sought by formal and informal networks.
Career development from proficient to lead teacher need not be complex, but it does require reflective planning, public relations, marketing, and a plan that has national implications.
Laureate professor John Hattie, Director of the Melbourne Research Institute, University of Melbourne, in his research Building Teacher Quality published by the Australian Council of Education Research, shows what makes a lead teacher as opposed to a “proficient” one.
“Expert teachers engage students in self-regulated mastery learning to achieve lifelong learning outcomes,” Hattie stated.
“We work on the absurd assumption that all teachers are equal which is patently not true to any child.
“Every other profession recognises and esteems excellence but in teaching we reward primarily by experience irrespective of excellence,” Hattie said, showing how outstanding teachers go unrewarded.
Hattie’s Visible Learning research, when adapted to career development, shows that three questions are critical for career planning: Where am I going? How am I going there? Where to next?
Hattie synthesizes 800,000 research studies to state that lead teachers influence outcomes not just test scores, create an optimal classroom climate for learning, and identify important ways to represent their subjects.
Teachers can fast track careers by observing the impact of their contribution on children and establishing state or national networks to apply ideas, provide feedback and make changes.
AITSL suggests that teachers can develop a compact for professional learning.
“Teachers should create an environment in which professional learning and achievement can flourish and nurture a community of learners,” it suggests in its Australian Charter for Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders.
Hattie’s research of the top 10 teaching strategies should inform any teacher who wants to make an impact on a national scale.
They include direct instruction, study skills, space practice, feedback, metacognition, problem solving, reciprocal teaching, mastery learning, concept mapping and worked samples.
“Every other profession recognises and esteems excellence but in teaching we reward primarily by experience irrespective of excellence.”
What will you do?