Harvard Educational Review
  1. Teacher Mentoring and Induction

    The State of the Art and Beyond

    edited by Hal Portner

    Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2005. 280 pp. $76.95 (cloth)

    For decades, induction and mentoring programs have been public school districts’ response to low teacher retention rates. Hal Portner’s edited book, Teacher Mentoring and Induction: The State of the Art and Beyond, aims “to put induction and mentoring into perspective.” Induction and mentoring programs in K–12 school districts employ various strategies to recruit, develop, and retain teachers in the classroom. This collection of twelve essays provides a description of the current state of induction and mentoring programs, proposes next steps the field must take to improve induction and mentoring programs, and appends exercises to guide practitioners through an analysis of their own induction and mentoring programs. While each essay discusses a different aspect of induction and mentoring programs, all authors posit that mentoring and induction is critical to a beginning teacher’s experience. Three themes are salient in this collection: defining the role of mentor, defining the task of the mentor, and defining the role of mentorship in the larger induction process. In these essays, the authors take a variety of perspectives on the roles and priorities of mentors.

    In his essay “Mentor Teachers as Instructional Coaches,” James Rowley traces the development of the teacher mentor role in induction programs from the late 1970s to current times. He finds that the role of mentor has changed from one who provides socioemotional support for beginning teachers to one who serves as an instructional coach. He is wary that a “false dichotomy was created as proponents of the new model often denigrated the earlier model as being weak or misguided.” According to Rowley, the role of mentor and coach should be integrated because novice teachers need both emotional and professional support. Similarly, in their essay “Cultivating Learning-Focused Relationships between Mentor and their Protégés,” Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman also propose that mentors assume a more comprehensive role in the induction process. Mentors should “cultivate and enrich learning-focused relationships” that include emotional, physical, instructional, and institutional support; that develop novice teachers’ “cognitive skills of teaching”; and that “enhance professional vision by supporting protégés in clarifying learning outcomes that are broader than one lesson or unit of study.” In “Stages of Mentor Development,” Jan Casey and Ann Claunch, both coordinators of induction programs at the University of New Mexico, call for special attention to be paid to the developmental needs of mentors. They propose that the “mentor’s job is not to deliver the teaching curriculum to the new teacher but rather to interpret what the teacher already knows and mediate that knowledge into practice.” In this model the novice teacher is not treated as a tabula rasa but draws from his or her own educational and lived experiences. Unlike the aforementioned authors, Ellen Moir, the executive director of the New Teacher Center at the University of California Santa Cruz, contends that mentor-novice relationships should rest on close collaborative investigation of teaching and learning in the novice’s classroom. For Moir, the quality of the interpersonal relationship between mentor and novice is secondary to the professional partnership.

    Although consensus does not exist about the role of the mentor in the mentor-mentee relationship, all of the authors agree that the task of mentoring is challenging. According to Moir, “not all good teachers make good mentors.” Thus, she argues that mentor teachers must have access to professional development opportunities in order to assume their new roles. The same message is echoed in Jean Casey and Ann Claunch’s essay, in which they suggest that “the growth and development of mentors is as complex and important as is the growth of their protégés.” The consistent narrative of this book is that quality mentoring requires a different skill set than classroom teaching.

    Given the complex learning that occurs in mentorship programs, several authors urge the educational community to strive to create the conditions in which mentors can be the most effective. For example, in his essay “New Teacher Induction: The Foundation for Comprehensive, Coherent, and Sustained Development,” Harry Wong, a former high school teacher, cautions against using mentors as the only form of induction for novice teachers: “Mentors are very important but they must be part of an induction process aligned to the district’s vision, mission, and structure.” Likewise, other authors in this collection assert that mentors need institutional support in order to be most effective. Tom Ganser, director of the Office of Field Experiences and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, discusses current trends in mentoring programs in “Learning from the Past – Building for the Future.” Ganser argues that many stakeholders, including institutions of higher education, teacher unions, service organizations, nonmentoring teachers, and school administrators, should envision and share in the implementation of induction and mentoring programs. Finally, Portner warns that if an induction and mentoring program is not part of the school’s everyday routine, “it runs the all-too-real risk of becoming just another fad of the month.” Effective mentoring programs cannot exist without systemic support.

    Based on the research and experience of its contributors, Teacher Mentoring and Induction: The State of the Art and Beyond provides a solid overview of some of the critical challenges in developing and implementing effective mentoring programs. It is most useful to the readers who seek a cursory understanding of this topic and for the practitioners who may use the appended exercises to analyze their own mentoring and induction program.

    — D.S.
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    Book Notes

    Teacher Mentoring and Induction
    edited by Hal Portner

    Brick Walls
    by Thomas E. Truitt

    After the Bell
    edited by Maggie Anderson and David Hassler