Research – New Teacher and Mentor Support Groups

Qualitative study of the impact of support groups on beginning teachers shows:


Beginning teachers demonstrated an increase in:

  • the amount and depth of reflection on personal and best practices,
  • a shift from self-centered to student-centered concerns,
  • that norms of collaboration were established which extended beyond the specific work of that support group.


  • the ability to use support activities to address the present concerns of beginning teachers
  • then the ability to challenge the same teachers to attain new levels of professional growth¬† (Thies-Sprinthall, 1990).


The work of Thies-Sprinthall (1984, 1987, & 1990), Herring (1989), and Paisley (1987) confirm Fuller’s findings that preservice and beginning teachers who are involved in and supported by “concerns-based“** groups can be shown to advance on a developmental scale from a predominant concern with self to higher levels of concern for the task of effective teaching and the impact of teacher behaviors on students.

Such a transition is the essence of the professional transformation needed by all teachers for it represents a willingness to consider that the job of the teacher is more than coverage of curriculum and that teachers can come to feel some responsibility for the effect of their work on student success. The concept that a professional educator seeks continually to be the best teacher possible is founded on such a willingness and responsibility.

That we have these empirical trends established provides clear direction to those who would design or refine preservice or inservice teacher development programs. We must incorporate the regular use of new teacher support groups and provide the sophisticated leadership necessary to achieve their maximum potential impact on the development of preservice and beginning teachers. Their students deserve the best teachers we can provide.

** Editor’s Notes

1. While the research cited is in the new teacher context and educationally based organizations, this author recommends confident use of the conclusions as a guide for program design, evaluation, and mentoring practice in ALL SETTINGS, even those outside of education, such as business, health care, etc. The author has over 23 years of experience in applying and evaluating the validity of these findings in all such settings and has found they are universal.  People deserve and benefit from peer support that is well designed and facilitated by thoughtful leaders.

2. The mention of”concerns data” refers to use of the human development tool “The Concerns-Based Adoption Model“. This is the key framework this editor uses in planning, conducting , and evaluating every one of his own staff development activities and all mentoring, coaching and mentoring programs. It is a very well researched and proven model.

Support Group References & Bibliography

Fuller, F.F. (1969) Concerns of Teachers: A Developmental Conceptualization. AERA Journal ,6 (2), 207-226

Herring, R. (1989). Psychological Maturity and Teacher Education: A Comparison of Interactional Models for Preservice Teachers . Doctoral dissertation, North Carolina State University. Raleigh, N.C.

Paisley, P. (1987). The Developmental Effects of a Staff Development Program for Beginning Teachers . Doctoral dissertation, North Carolina State University. Raleigh, N.C.

Thies-Sprinthall, L. (1984). Promoting the Developmental Growth of Supervising Teachers: Theory, Research Programs, and Implications. Journal of Teacher Education . 35 (3), 53-60

Thies-Sprinthall, L. (1987). Preservice Teachers as Adult Learners. In Advances in Teacher Education Vol. 3, 35-56. M. Haberman & J. Backus, editors.. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Thies-Sprinthall, L. (1990). Support Groups for Novice Teachers. Journal of Staff Development . 11 (4), 18-22

Other Sources For Related Information

Thies-Sprinthall, L. (1986). A Collaborative Approach for Mentor Training: A Working Model. Journal of Teacher Education . Nov-Dec. 13-20.