A 3 Year Mentoring and Induction Program

By Barry Sweeny, 1997

The following is taken from a paper written to argue for a mandated and state-supported induction program in Illinois. It remains to be seen if such a program will occur. perhaps others can gain from sharing these ideas.

This Induction Initiative provides a three year professional development program for both beginning and experienced teachers. The Initiative is designed to accomplish two goals:

  • To accelerate the professional growth of both mentors and proteges
  • To promote the restructuring of schools by establishing new norms, two teachers at a time, for the professional interaction and work of educators.

Whether your organization is in education or not, this can serve as an example of a multi year program and the nature of development that can take place when serious work on professional development is done to achieve big and important goals.

YEAR ONE- The Protege’s First Year

In year one of the three year induction process, the mentor and protege begin by attending an initial training that prepares them for their work together. The essential work of a mentor-protege pair is orientation, learning the curriculum, and accelerating the necessary transition from thinking like a student to thinking and behaving like a professional.

In addition to these critical tasks, throughout this initial year the mentor is constantly modeling and promoting discussion of a wide range of effective teaching practices. The effective practices which are emphasized are those which are dictated by the research on the typical needs of beginning teachers and those identified as areas for growth by assessment of the specific needs of the beginning teacher assigned to the mentor.

Later on in year one the mentor and protege are trained in the skills of peer observation, non judgmental feed back, and coaching for reflection and analysis. All of these skills are focused on inquiry into effective classroom instruction. In addition, evidence of the protege’s teaching and of the mentor and protege work together is collected throughout year one to be used later on in creating a professional growth plan and in the protege’s professional development portfolio.

The culmination of year one is the mentors’ and principals’ feed back to the proteges and the protege’s self-assessment of their own teaching relative to the state teaching standards. The final product of that analysis is a personal profile of the protege’s teaching strengths, 2-3 standards areas targeted for growth, and a professional development work plan addressing those target areas.

YEAR TWO- The Protege’s Second Year

During year one many of the protege’s survival needs are laid to rest. In year two beginning teachers continue to refine their teaching practices and they have greater ability and self confidence to take a more critical look at their own teaching. To support this self-examination, the mentor-protege pair conduct initial peer observation and coaching and they learn and apply the process of action research. All of the coaching and action research is focused on the implementation of their professional development work plan, a continuous study of effective teaching practices, and the increase of teaching skills in the targeted areas of the state Teaching Standards.

The protege continues to collect evidence of professional growth, of the work with the mentor, and of the work of teaching of students. The mentor and protege analyze this evidence, especially for its relevance to the demonstration of growth in the targeted areas of the state Teaching Standards identified in their initial professional development work plan. This work plan may be updated and extended as needed so it remains an effective guide for the mentor and protege’s work together.

The final products of year two of the induction process are the selected evidence of the protege’s growth relative to the state Teaching Standards, the data collected from the observation of their teaching, and reflective writing by both mentor and protege about the conclusions they have reached about their mutual work and growth.

At the end of the second year the mentor prompts protege self-assessment, reflection, and conclusions about areas for growth relative to the state Teaching Standards. The mentor provides feed back on the protege’s strengths and reinforces the protege’s accurate self perceptions about areas for growth. When the protege and the mentor’s perspectives about the need for growth are different, the mentor prompts analysis of the data collected and conclusions about the need for continued growth relative to the state Teaching Standards. Together, the mentor and protege develop a professional development work plan for their third and last year of working as a mentoring pair.

YEAR THREEThe Protege’s Third Year

Year three is, to some extent, a continuation of the work of year two in its focus on effective teaching practices, collection of observational and action research data and implementation of the professional development work plan. The major difference in year three is a greater emphasis on documenting the results of the entire process. Specifically, the work with the professional development portfolio is extended to include more evidence of the mentoring and teaching work of the third year. Also, evidence of the professional growth of the protege relative to the state Teaching Standards is selected from the artifacts collected and prepared with explanatory comments. This work is an intense and time consuming process but its purpose is vital to the beginning teacher.

At the end of year three the professional development portfolio forms the evidence of appropriate mastery of the state Teaching Standards which supports the beginning teacher’s application for a standard teaching license. Also, after year three the protege is expected to have attained a level of self-sufficiency and the skills of self-assessment and reflective practice that promotes career-long growth as an educator. While there will always be collaboration, collegial support for and discussion of development, the granting of the standard teaching license is based on the demonstration that these skills and dispositions have been internalized by the beginning teacher, such that (s)he is worthy to be identified as a professional.