Research evidence for 5C model
The process of induction is 'a highly organised and comprehensive form of staff development, involving many people and many components'. Wong (2005).
Without a quality induction, beginning teachers can struggle and experience isolation and stress:
- the early experience for many beginning teachers is one of isolation, of being ‘thrown in at the deep end’, and rarely with satisfactory advice, mentoring or supervision to help them cope with the demands of their first teaching appointment. (Lovat & MacKenzie, 2003)
- stress, self-doubt and disillusionment result from these experiences and in more serious cases, teacher morale and effectiveness are reduced. (Khamis, 2000).
Indeed, initial teaching experiences have a major impact on teacher attrition rates, longer term commitment to the profession and on future teaching performance (Skilbeck & Connell, 2005). Due to these issues, there's a need for an induction that is highly organised, comprehensive and involves many components (Hudson, Beutel & Hudson 2008).
Effective induction programs
It is essential that well-monitored teacher induction programs effectively support beginning teachers as they make their transition from pre-service teacher to beginning classroom practitioner (Ramsey, 2000).
Characteristics of effective induction
- Comprehensiveness: they are highly structured, comprehensive, rigorous, and closely monitored. All personnel have well-defined roles: beginning teachers, principals, supervisors, mentors/ coaches, school-based induction coordinators, buddies and colleagues.
- Professional learning: they focus on professional learning, support professional learning communities and are seen as the first phase of lifelong professional learning.
- Collaboration: they occur in a climate where collaboration is accepted as part of the culture. Teachers share experiences, practices and resources and there is a shared language to talk about teaching and learning. Beginning teachers are treated as equal contributors to these processes, to build a sense of whole group identity.
These characteristics are based on experiences reported from New Zealand, China (Shanghai), Japan, France and Switzerland (Britton et al. 2003, as cited in Wong, 2004).
The 5 components of the 5C model
The department has developed the 5C model of quality induction to incorporate the essential components of induction recommended in the research. Through it, schools can ensure their induction processes are a highly organised and comprehensive form of staff development, involving many people and components.
In line with the research, quality school-based induction processes include:
This means quality induction needs to be customised to suit the needs of beginning teachers in each localised school context, and must be supportive of connections between more experienced teachers and other beginning teachers.
Schools can then use customisation and connections to support each beginning teacher's knowledge, understandings and practices in relation to context, curriculum and classroom.
Goals of induction
The 5C model of induction is a practical research-based model from which schools can build their induction processes. By using the 5C model of induction to plan, monitor and evaluate induction processes, schools will achieve the goals of induction as described by Huling-Austin (1988) and Ashby et al (2008) which are:
- a smooth transition from teacher education to a fully qualified teacher (reduce the ‘reality shock’)
- improve teaching performance
- increase the retention of promising beginning teachers during the 2 induction years
- promote the personal and professional well-being and development of beginning teachers
- support collegiality and teamwork of teachers (becoming a member of the wider school system)
- transmit the culture of the system and school to beginning teachers.
Using the 5C model
The 5C model can be used to:
- design comprehensive school-based induction processes
- refine and modify existing induction processes
- plan personalised support for individual beginning teachers
- regularly monitor induction processes
- evaluate induction processes.
The key themes of the research underpinning the 5 components are outlined here. While the goals of induction processes remain the same, individual schools will provide different pathways for individuals to achieve these goals.
What is customised support?
Customised support for beginning teachers includes modifying, tailoring, adapting or personalising support to better fit the requirements of individual beginning teachers in each particular school context.
It means providing custom-built support at the school level and involves considering the challenges beginning teachers will face in their particular school context. It means using the available school resources flexibly to enable a smooth and stress-free transition from graduate to beginning teacher, and then onto proficient teacher accreditation. Schools can customise support for beginning teachers at:
- the whole school level
- the individual level.
Tailoring induction processes to meet the specific needs of beginning teachers can greatly minimise the ‘reality shock’ that is a major part of the experience for many beginning teachers as they transition from pre-service training to professional practice. (Department of Education Science and Training, 2002).
Customising support at the school level
Research shows the following ways to customise support effectively at the school level.
1. Reduce workload
Beginning teachers enter the teaching profession with specific needs, and beginning teachers can't be expected to assume the same responsibilities as their more experienced colleagues.
Rethinking a school's organisation to lighten the teaching loads of new teachers could allow more structured time for lesson planning, in-school support and classroom observation (Teaching in Focus, 2012/02 OECD 2012). Creating a work-life balance can be difficult for those new into teaching positions so their workloads need to be monitored. (Hudson 2012)
Some ways schools could reduce workload include:
- the initial week is class free
- a lighter teaching load
- reduced playground duty
- student selection (not the most difficult students)
- additional release.
A teacher graduating from university commences teaching with the same responsibilities as more experienced teachers in the school; yet it is widely recognised that beginning teachers need support in their first few years of teaching (Darling-Hammond, 2010, and Le Maistre & Par?, 2010), particularly with teachers leaving the profession in those early years with a seemingly 'sink or swim' approach from many schools. (Howe, 2006, and Hudson, 2012)
2. Consider smaller class sizes
To make life less stressful for beginning teachers, schools can reduce the number of students in beginning teachers' classrooms, refrain from assigning them the most challenging students, and minimise their extracurricular and committee assignments. (Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2000)
Half of the countries surveyed in TALIS (Teaching and Learning International Survey) help facilitate new teachers' success by providing them with significantly smaller-sized classrooms. (Teaching in Focus, 2012/02 OECD 2012)
3. Avoid multi-grade classes
At the primary school level, in particular, schools can avoid assigning combination grades. (Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2000)
4. Monitor course schedules
At the secondary school level, schools can make sure that new teachers' course schedules require as few separate preparation efforts as possible. They can also avoid assigning schedules that require new teachers to change classrooms during the day. (Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2000)
5. Consider modifying professional learning expectations
Schools can protect beginning teachers from being spread too thin by helping them prioritise their time and by excusing them from all but the most essential activities.
They can also help beginning teachers choose and focus on a single, important theme that might run through multiple events such as literacy instruction. In addition, beginning teachers need:
... time to think about their teaching in order to grow in their craft. Induction programs must make sure that beginners' time is not filled with formal activities that have little relationship to their teaching, that leave little room for their immediate concerns, or that deny them a reasonable personal life. (Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2000).
Questions to consider for school level support
Schools can begin thinking about school-wide, customised induction processes by asking questions that include:
- What are the challenges of our particular school context?
- What 'lifelines' can the school offer to beginning teachers?
- How can current resources be used flexibly to provide support?
- Who can assist in providing this support?
- How will the school monitor the effectiveness of its support?
- How will it be possible for the school to adapt support to cater for changing and emerging needs?
Customising support at the individual level
Customised support at the individual level involves adapting support to meet an individual's needs. This requires regular discussions with beginning teachers and a commitment to adapting and modifying the induction processes to accommodate and support the needs expressed.
Regular individual meetings need to be scheduled with beginning teachers to 'touch base' and keep on top of issues and concerns.
Some individual support will relate to curriculum and classroom areas, but schools need to be mindful that not every beginning teacher responds in the same way to their new school circumstances, so each will require different support. For example, one beginning teacher may require a lot of support to settle in a remote community while others will settle quickly into the new community.
This sort of individual customisation also requires the beginning teacher to reflect on and articulate their challenges and needs without fear of being seen as 'needy' or unable to cope. It also requires them to be prepared to accept advice and support in a professional way.
What schools can do
Schools can customise support for beginning teachers at an individual level by:
- offering the support of a buddy
- listening to each individual's challenges
- observing and monitoring each individual's well-being
- developing a personalised Professional learning plan (PIP) for each
- scheduling regular meeting times with individual beginning teachers
- providing opportunities for classroom observations
- organising co-teaching sessions
- providing constructive feedback.
Questions to consider for individual level support
Schools can pose questions to beginning teachers to prompt individual induction processes, for example:
- What challenges have emerged for you in this particular school context?
- What lifelines could be offered to support you to meet these challenges?
- Have you thought about how current resources could be used flexibly to provide these lifelines?
- Who do you think might be able to assist in providing these lifelines?
- How will the school know whether these lifelines have been effective?
- How will the school know about your emerging challenges as they occur?
More than one person needs to be responsible for induction processes and supporting beginning teachers. A cohesive induction process involves several members of staff working together as a team, to allow for timely, ongoing and appropriate support for each beginning teacher.
Making connections is about linking people to form an interconnected relationship with the beginning teacher and support them through their induction processes. These people could be the principal, supervisor, mentor/ coach, a school-based induction coordinator, buddy teacher, colleagues and networks.
The principal and school staff need to assess their contribution to a beginning teacher's development regularly, and within the specific school context. This includes allocating a mentor to discuss key issues and share practices, scheduled time for collaboration with colleagues, support for continued professional development, and clear guidelines for mentor support. (Hudson 2012, Beutel and Hudson 2008).
Balancing support ensures that induction processes are comprehensive and encourage a collective responsibility for supporting each beginning teacher. Eisenschmidt identifies three dimensions for induction to focus on - the personal dimension, social dimension and professional dimension.
These 3 dimensions are useful for a school to view when considering and determining which connections they can make available for beginning teachers, as they will need more than one support.
1. The personal dimension
The personal dimension is important as research shows that beginning teachers entering the profession will face situations which may lead to reduced self-confidence and extreme stress and anxiety - and may even cause the beginning teacher to question their competence as a teacher and as a person.
...Quality connections can support teachers through the initial survival stage and throughout the induction process as new personal hurdles are encountered. Other challenges at the beginning of one's career include lack of time, inadequate feedback and recognition, unrealistic self-expectations and difficulties in finding the right life-work balance. (Sorcinelli,1992).
2. The social dimension
The social dimension is important, and research shows that effective induction processes help beginning teachers in becoming a member of their school and professional community.
It is well known that collaboration with others stimulates feedback and the exchange of new ideas. Beginning teachers can feel much more readily accepted within a team that is open to new ideas and innovations, and that works collaboratively to solve problems. Social support encourages a collaborative learning environment within the school and between the school stakeholders.
...Many new teachers went through their first months of school believing that they should already know how their school's work, what their students need and how to teach well. When they had questions about their schools and their students, they eavesdropped on lunchroom conversations and peered through classroom doors seeking clues to expert practice. Having no access to clear answers or alternative models compromised the quality of their teaching, challenged the sense of their professional competence, and ultimately caused them to question their choice of teaching as a career. (Moore, Johnson and Kardos, 2005).
3. The professional dimension
Research shows that good professional support during induction processes starts a lifelong process of learning as a teacher. Professional support helps beginning teachers and can also upgrade professionalism in the school as a whole.
It is important that during induction processes the focus does not rest with only personal and social support. To be truly comprehensive, induction processes need to provide adequate and appropriate professional support as well.
...It is important to keep in mind, as you begin your career as a teacher, that proficiency comes with practice. We don't learn to teach. Rather, we learn from our teaching. It is through the professional relationships and conversations that you will have with colleagues, which will expand your knowledge, and through applying and adapting information and strategies within the context of your own classroom, that you will continue to refine your expertise as a teacher. (Ontario Ministry of Education. New Teacher Induction Program 2010).
How to provide connections
To comprehensively provide the personal, social and professional support needed by beginning teachers, schools should share the responsibility for induction processes between:
- beginning teacher/s
- mentor/ coach
- school-based induction coordinator (present in larger schools)
- buddy teacher
Context refers to the school setting, the school background, its situation, the social environment or milieu, climate and environment.
Schools vary in terms of location, size, staff, student cohort, parents and carers - and even schools that have many similarities will have differing contexts.
...Every school context is different, particularly with the economic-socio status, geographical location, population input, and the school-community culture. Beginning teachers are placed in schools where they need to learn about these contexts along with staff social dynamics, individual student needs, and specific school policies and procedures. It would be unrealistic to expect pre-service teachers to graduate with these experiences that require contextually - specific knowledge and skills without further assistance and guidance from schools. (Hudson, 2012).
Aspects of context
Two elements that make up school context (Vicki Boyd-Dimock) are ecological context and cultural context.
1. Ecological context
Ecological context is the first element. These are the aspects of the school that are not living but combine to affect the people within it. These include the size of the school, the resources available and the policies, rules and so on.
2. Cultural context
Cultural context is the second element. These are the attitudes and beliefs, the school norms, the relationships within the school, and relationships between the school and the community. There are both visible and invisible aspects to this:
- the visible aspects are 'the climate' of the school
- the invisible aspects are 'the culture' of the school.
Introducing aspects of context
Often during orientation sessions, beginning teachers are superficially introduced to the ecological context and the visible cultural context of school 'climate'.
Frequently, aspects of the invisible cultural context of school 'culture' are overlooked. Yet it is the invisible aspects that are often vital for a beginning teacher to understand - so they can find out how the school works and how to things get done.
The cultural context takes longer for beginning teachers to understand and cannot be learned during orientation alone. A deep understanding of both elements of context can only be understood through multi-faceted, long-term and school-based induction processes.
What the research says
Beginning teachers require considerable support to understand both the ecological and cultural contexts of their particular schools. The most appropriate way to provide this support is through customised school-based induction processes that provide opportunities for connections with appropriate school-based personnel, the students and the community.
Hudson (2012) found that it was evident that the beginning teachers in his study required more support in school culture and infrastructure.
Renshaw (2012), in discussing the importance of context for pre-service teachers, notes that different geographical and community contexts need to be foregrounded. Much of what he says about pre-service teachers applies to beginning teachers. He goes on to say that in rural, remote and indigenous communities, support needs to focus not just on 'being classroom and school ready for teaching', but also being 'community ready' and being ready to work 'across school-community relationship' in more intense and engaged ways.
Renshaw also says that similarly, in low SES (socioeconomic status) communities, many students come to school with 'virtual school bags' and 'funds of knowledge' that are not highly valued at school. In these schooling contexts teachers need to move beyond their own assumptions, cultural experiences and expectations in order to connect more effectively with learners. He suggests that support in understanding the local situation and the local resources available for building connections between the 'official curriculum' and what learners bring with them into the classroom is necessary.
Principals, supervisors and mentors can help beginning teachers understand the school context by providing:
- general school information such as policies, procedures, worksite information, administration procedures and more
- information about school personnel and their roles
- information about the student cohort, such as student background and assessment information
- information about the community, such as ethnicity and socio-economic background.
To support beginning teachers to understand their school context, schools can encourage:
- collaboration - where people work together, share information and instructional strategies, and are encouraged to have constructive discussions and debates
- collegiality - by creating a sense of belonging, emotional support, and inclusion as a valued member of the school
- efficacy - where people feel as if they have control of their destinies rather than feel they are helpless victims of the system - and where research-supported evidence about good teaching is respected, rather than people being rigidly attached to the status quo.
Beginning teachers require customised support from school personnel to successfully plan and implement the courses they will run. There can be multiple definitions of curriculum (Olivia, 1997) which can include:
- what is taught in schools
- a set of subjects
- the content
- a program of studies
- a set of materials
- a sequence of courses
- a set of performance objectives
- a course of study
- everything that goes on in the school, such as extra-class activities, guidance and interpersonal relationships
- everything that is planned by school personnel
- a series of experiences undergone by learners in a school
- what an individual learner experiences as a result of the schooling.
Planning and implementation
In general, there are 2 parts to curriculum:
- curriculum planning - which is planning what to teach
- curriculum implementation - which is considering how to teach.
What the research says
Global research into the support required by beginning teachers overwhelmingly indicates that beginning teachers struggle with curriculum planning and implementation, yet they report that they receive little support in this area. These findings are supported by considerable anecdotal evidence.
Hudson's 2012 study found that the beginning teachers in his study required support in teaching practices in areas such as pedagogical knowledge.
... Learning to teach well is slow, difficult work. Managing a classroom, choosing or creating curriculum, developing sound instructional strategies, accurately assessing student understanding, and adjusting to student needs are complex tasks, and new teachers need time and support to develop the necessary knowledge and skills. (Johnson, Birkeland, Kardos, Kauffman, Liu, and Peske, 2001).
'Great Teaching, Inspired Learning'
The department's report 'Great Teaching, Inspired Learning: what does the evidence tell us about effective teaching?' (NSW Department of Education & Communities, 2013) highlights beginning teachers' need for support in the area of curriculum, and cites several examples from the research studies to support this.
- Ingvarson and Rowe (2008) found that teaching quality can only be attained by ensuring that teachers are equipped with subject matter knowledge, and an evidence-based and standards-based repertoire of pedagogical skills, that are demonstrably effective in meeting the developmental and learning needs of all students for whom they have responsibility.
- Boyd et al (2009) found that international research showed that teachers tend to be more effective if their pre-service and in-service training focuses more on the content they will be delivering and the curriculum they will be teaching.
- The advantages of teachers using data from assessment for formative purposes are well documented. Helen Timperley's (2009) research into the effect on student outcomes of teachers using high-quality assessment data, found that student achievement gains accelerated at twice the expected rate, with greater gains for the lowest performing students.
- Timperley points out that many teachers have been trained to use data to label and categorise students, and that a shift is required in order for teachers to use data to guide and direct students, as well as reflect upon the effectiveness of their teaching.
- Similarly, Alton-Lee's synthesis of 72 studies (Alton-Lee 2011) which analysed the links between professional development (PD) and its impact on student outcomes, found that the greatest benefits to student learning were from PD programs 'that deepen teachers' foundation of curricula-specific pedagogical content and assessment knowledge' because they 'provided teachers with new theoretical understandings that helped them make informed decisions about their practice.'
Baker and Smith (1999) identified the following characteristics of PD as the most effective in sustaining change in teachers:
- a heavy emphasis on providing concrete, realistic and challenging goals
- activities that include both technical and conceptual aspects of instruction
- support from colleagues
- frequent opportunities for teachers to witness the effects of their efforts on students' learning.
In addition, Fry (2007) discusses the effects of 'curricular freedom' on beginning teachers. He claims that while curricular freedom may be welcomed by experienced teachers, it can be a burden for new teachers, who have yet to develop a 'robust repertoire of lesson ideas or knowledge' of what will work in their classrooms.
Fry claims that case studies have observed beginning teachers struggling 'just trying to come up with enough curriculum' and spending many hours a day juggling lesson planning, and the demands of paperwork, committees, and extracurricular activities.
The research clearly highlights the need for support in the areas of curriculum planning and implementation.
Research on curriculum mentoring
In recent years, mentoring has been seen as the answer to providing curriculum support for beginning teachers.
Several studies have now reported on the effectiveness of such mentoring programs, and the consensus seems to be that mentoring is most effective when it focuses on improving the quality of teaching and learning, rather than just the emotional and social well-being of the beginning teacher.
Mentoring is often a one-on-one practice, so in addition to this, the establishment of collaborative teamwork - which includes co-planning with colleagues and encouraging discussions and debates about teaching - would greatly support beginning teachers in the areas of curriculum planning and implementation.
What does curriculum involve?
There are numerous school curriculum models, and all involve the following elements:
- goals - these are benchmarks or expectations for teaching and learning, often made explicit in the form of a scope and sequence of skills to be addressed
- methods - the specific instructional methods the teacher will use
- materials - the media and tools that are used for teaching and learning
- assessment - the reasons for, and the ways of, measuring student progress.
The NSW Quality teaching model of pedagogy
The NSW Quality teaching model of pedagogy, and its related framework of dimensions and elements, provides invaluable support in curriculum planning and implementation. It ensures that all long term, short term, and lesson planning covers the dimensions of intellectual quality, quality learning environment and significance.
The Quality teaching model of pedagogy is built on the most reliable national and international pedagogical research, and can be applied across all K-12 years of schooling and all curriculum areas. The model:
- describes in detail the characteristics of quality classroom and assessment practice
- provides a basis for teachers and schools to focus discussion and critical reflection on teaching and assessment practice.
The 4 quality teaching questions
The model has 4 questions which effectively support curriculum design and delivery.
1. What do I want the students to learn? / The learning intentions.
This question articulates the specific learning intentions for the learning sequence or lesson. A learning intention is a description of what you want your students to know, understand or be able to do by the end of a lesson, or a short series of lessons. It tells students what the focus for learning is going to be.
2. Why does that learning matter? / What's in it for the students?
This question grounds the learning sequence or lesson in prior learning, establishes where the learning fits within the overall learning sequence, and considers if the learning is setting students up for future learning, whether it's transferable, and so on.
3. What do I want the students to do or to produce? / Learning experiences
This question identifies the learning experiences, or activities, that will be used to assist students to achieve the learning intention/s. Learning experiences should always lead the students in the direction of the learning intention.
4. How well do I expect them to do it? / Success criteria.
This question reveals expectations. Shirley Clarke (2005) states 'success criteria summarise the key steps or ingredients the student needs in order to fulfil the learning intention - the main things to do, include or focus on.'
How schools can provide support
There are many ways schools can support a beginning teacher's knowledge, understandings and practices of the curriculum, including:
- schools can build understanding of:
- school curriculum practices
- the NSW Quality teaching model of pedagogy
- curriculum design models
- evidence-based assessing, planning and teaching practices.
- schools can provide:
- curriculum materials, school programs and text books
- preferred planning templates
- professional learning required for any school programs, for example, Positive Behaviour for Learning, Focus on Reading, and so on
- offer demonstration lessons of specific strategies and processes, particularly to show how to cater for a range of student abilities
- provide feedback.
- schools can outline and explain:
- the expectations around planning and programming and how syllabuses support the processes
- the expectations regarding teaching standards
- assessment processes
- content overviews and school scopes and sequence
- how to access to student data and student files
- explain how ongoing assessment links to planning.
- schools can encourage:
- collegiality and collaboration
- classroom observations in colleagues' classes
- reflective practice
- discussions about pedagogy.
A 'classroom' is any environment where learning takes place. A priority for beginning teachers is establishing and managing a quality learning environment. There are 2 related facets to the classroom:
- a focus on learning, not just doing
- managing the environment so that learning is possible.
Where theory and practice come together
Managing a classroom is where the theory of teaching and the practical implications of day-to-day teaching come together.
...The greatest impact on successful classroom management is effective teaching where students are engaged in learning. (Great Teaching, Inspired Learning: what does the evidence tell us about effective teaching?, NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2013).
Beginning teachers have limited experience, so haven't had the opportunity to develop a repertoire of classroom strategies to overcome all classroom challenges. They require substantial support to manage the many variables of the learning environment, including:
- student behaviour
- intellectual engagement
- student interaction
- physical space
However, a quality learning environment is much more than student behaviour and discipline. Establishing a learning environment begins well before the students enter the classroom, and impacts on every aspect of teaching.
What the research says
There is a significant body of research regarding the importance of creating and maintaining an environment that makes effective teaching and learning possible.
As far back as 1984 Veenman conducted an international review of perceived problems among beginning teachers, and cited the greatest challenges, perceived by beginning teachers across differing education systems, as being:
- classroom management
- motivation of students
- dealing with the individual differences among students
- assessing student work
- relations with parents.
Later in 1999 Britton, Paine, & Raizen found that, in countries as different as New Zealand, China and Switzerland, beginning teachers also expressed these same problems as the most pressing difficulties they faced.
While evidence of the need to provide more support for beginning teachers has been apparent for over 30 years, creating and maintaining an environment where teaching and learning can occur, continues to be at or near the top of the list of areas where beginning teachers feel they need the most support.
Managing student behaviour
The 2010 'Staff in Australia's Schools' survey found that managing student behaviour was one of the top 5 areas in which school teachers indicated they needed more professional learning.
According to the countries surveyed in the 2012 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS, OECD 2012), new teachers spend less time on teaching and learning, and more time on classroom management, and they report lower levels of self-efficacy than experienced teachers.
Johnson, Down, Le Cornu, Peters, Sullivan, Pearce, and Hunter (2010) also found that pre-service training does not equip teachers to meet the demands of classroom teaching. (Ramsey, 2000, House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Vocational Training, 2007, Roehrig & Luft, 2006).
This is particularly so in the area of classroom management.
Hudson (2012) concludes that one of the areas where beginning teachers require more support is behaviour management.
What has been done so far?
The research indicates that in many cases little has been done to overcome this long-term need.
Despite the evidence above, Caldwell and Sutton (2010) found that beginning teachers continue to receive inadequate support in establishing positive classroom teaching and learning environments. This inadequate support refers to both pre-service training and training during induction processes.
Furthermore, the report summarising TALIS results (OECD 2012) emphasises that, regardless of the school or classroom situation, schools can provide more support for beginning teachers, 'in a number of ways including offering professional development around classroom management'.
Such evidence begs the question about whether support for beginning teachers has focused on the real issues.
Boyd et al. (2008) suggests that it's useful to determine what the real issues are. For example, a request for help with setting routines and behaviour management, may mask underlying issues of relationships with students, or a lack of careful planning, a lack of involving students in constructing their learning, or a lack of providing differentiated learning opportunities.
What more can be done?
In an Australian study, Johnson, Down, Le Cornu, Peters, Sullivan, Pearce and Hunter (2010) found that where there was explicit acknowledgement of the 'complex, intense and unpredictable nature' of teacher's work, and this acknowledgement was accompanied by 'realistic expectations' of beginning teachers and the amount of support they needed, the beginning teachers were most successful.
In these cases beginning teachers were:
- mentored by colleagues working in similar year levels or curriculum areas
- involved in collaborative planning for teaching and learning (including assessment and reporting)
- supported by school-wide policies and support systems for the management of student behaviour.
The elephant in the (class)room?
Student behaviour is only a part of establishing and maintaining an environment focused on teaching and learning, but it is what most teachers mean when they cite 'classroom management' as an area of need. What they really mean is student behaviour.
For example, in a survey of 500 teachers, teachers with 1-3 years of experience were almost 3 times as likely to say that student behaviour was a problem in their classrooms, as compared with teachers with over 3 years' experience - with 19 per cent versus 7 per cent. (Melnick & Meister, 2008)
Establishing and maintaining an environment focused on teaching and learning is more about preventing problems, rather than solving problems after they occur.
As such, student behaviour needs to be examined in the context of classroom design, curriculum, and instructional strategies.
The effects of lack of support?
There are serious effects if beginning teachers don't receive the support they need to establish and maintain a quality learning environment focused on teaching and learning.
Rejecting research-based instructional practice
Often, difficulties with classroom management can prompt new teachers to reject the research-based instructional practices they learned in college (such as cooperative learning and project-based learning) in favour of a steady diet of lectures and textbooks. (van Hover & Yeager, 2004).
These practices are solely teacher-oriented and don't focus on the environment for teaching and learning. They may also be inappropriately advocated and modelled by more experienced teachers.
'Send to the office syndrome'
Another consequence of inadequate or inappropriate support, in establishing and maintaining an environment focused on teaching and learning, is the 'send to the office syndrome'. Often, this is the only strategy that beginning teachers believe they have, and is the result of a focus on student behaviour alone, rather than the set of interconnected variables that all contribute to the teaching and learning environment.
Note: while students whose behaviour is harmful or dangerous should be referred to the principal immediately - and most schools have procedures for these circumstances - the principal and school executive need to send a clear message to teachers and students alike that 'sending to the office' is a last resort and will be seen as a major issue requiring more serious consequences.
It is generally known by expert teachers that 'sending students to the office' too often, for things they should deal with themselves, does not solve the problem of student behaviour in the classroom. Each 'sending to the office' for minor classroom problems sends a message to the students, and the higher authority, that the teacher isn't able handle the situation.
Beginning teachers can also feel unsupported when students are 'sent to the office' and nothing happens as a result. This can be avoided when beginning teachers are supported with strategies to avoid escalation of behaviours in the classroom which often result in the beginning teacher having no other options left and nowhere else to go other than 'sending to the office'.
It is also important that when students are 'sent to the office', that it is not seen as a reward or a way of getting out of class. In all but extreme cases, the student should be returned to the class as soon as possible to continue with their learning.
To avoid the 'send to the office syndrome' beginning teachers should seek help early on, when the problems are easier to solve. Additionally, the school needs to be monitoring such classroom issues and stepping in early to provide adequate and appropriate support.
How can the NSW Quality teaching model help?
The NSW Quality teaching model of pedagogy can support creating and maintaining a classroom environment that is focused on teaching and learning.
The model has 3 interrelated, and research-based dimensions, which represent classroom practices that have been proven to enhance student learning outcomes.
In understanding how these 3 dimensions interconnect to create an environment where teaching and learning can take place, beginning teachers have a starting point to remove 'the elephant in the (class)room' and overcome the 'send to the office' syndrome.
The NSW Quality teaching model of pedagogy can be used by teachers to plan learning sequences or lessons, and to reflect on learning sequences or lessons. It can also be used by school personnel to provide constructive feedback following lesson observations.
Schools can support beginning teachers with the classroom. They should:
- ensure that all aspects of creating and maintaining a classroom focused on teaching and learning are covered during induction processes, rather than just focusing on student behaviour
- ensure that all teachers understand and use the NSW Quality teaching model of pedagogy
- ensure that all teachers and students understand school expectations for classroom conduct
- consider student behaviour in the context of classroom design, curriculum, and instructional strategies
- encourage reflective practice that examines classroom environment issues in relation to the teacher and teaching, rather than blaming students
- demonstrate and co-teach the establishment of classroom procedures and routines
- provide time to observe 'expert' classrooms in action
- observe lessons and provide feedback in relation to all aspects of the classroom environment.
- Ashby, P, Hobson, AJ, Tracey, L, Malderez, A, Tomlinson, PD, Roper, T, Chambers, GN and Healy, J (2008) Beginner Teachers' Experiences of Initial Teacher Preparation, Induction and Early Professional Development: a Review of Literature, DCSF, London.
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- Setting up induction:
- Developing focus
- Refining practice
- Gaining proficient accreditation.
- Beginning Teachers Support Funding Policy
- Human Resource information for school teachers
- Department-wide induction for new teachers
- Department-wide induction for principals and school executive