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A mixed methods examination of mentoring practices in six school districts in South Carolina: Perspectives from novice teachers, mentors, and school leaders

Dissertation
Author: Ruth Anne Tennyson
Abstract:
This mixed methods study investigated the impact mentoring has on beginning teachers' perceptions of success. Surveys were used to determine whether or not principals and mentor teachers provided beginning teachers with research-identified best practices of mentoring. Surveys, focus groups, and individual interviews were used to determine whether or not beginning teachers were provided mentor support consistent with best practices, to identify from the new teachers' perspectives which mentoring experiences they believed were most beneficial in contributing to their success as teachers, and to examine whether or not beginning teachers felt encouraged to experiment with their instructional strategies by their mentors. Following analysis of the collected quantitative and qualitative data, recommendations were made as to what mentoring experiences should be provided to beginning teachers in order to increase their professional competencies and to reduce new teacher attrition.

  vi Table of Contents Dedication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv Abstract . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .v List of Tables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ix List of Figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .x Chapter I. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Current Practices at Selected Schools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Best Practices of Mentoring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Purpose Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 Research Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 Theoretical Framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 Data Collection and Research Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 Significance of Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Delimitations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 Definitions of Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 Organization of Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22 Chapter II. Literature Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 New Teacher Attrition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 The Importance of Mentoring and Its Effect on Attrition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Needs of Beginning Teachers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

  vii Inadequacies of Current Mentoring Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Characteristics of Effective Mentoring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Chapter III. Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Research Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46 Population and Sample . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48 Instrumentation: Quantitative Data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53 Instrumentation: Qualitative Data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55 Data Collection Procedures and Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58 Limitations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 Chapter IV. Data Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61 Analysis of Collected Data: Research Question One . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64 Analysis of Collected Data: Research Question Two . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70 Analysis of Collected Data: Research Question Three . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .75 Analysis of Collected Data: Research Question Four . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .90 Analysis of Collected Data: Research Question Five . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .96 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 Chapter V. Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100 Summary of Study: Overview of Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 Major Findings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104 Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .111 Recommendations for Effective Mentoring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116

  viii Suggestions for Further Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .120 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122 Appendix A: Letter to Superintendents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .130 Appendix B: Principal Participation Letter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .132 Appendix C: The Principal’s Perceptions of Mentoring Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .134 Appendix D: Mentor Teacher Participation Letter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .141 Appendix E: The Mentor Teacher’s Perceptions of Mentoring Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . 143 Appendix F: Beginning Teacher Participation Letter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .151 Appendix G: The Induction Teacher’s Perceptions of the Mentoring Experience (Part I) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153 Appendix H: The Induction Teacher’s Perceptions of the Mentoring Experience (Part II) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .163 Appendix I: Statistical Analysis of Mentor-Related Items on PSI-BT . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171 Appendix J: PSI-BT Frequency Tables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .184

  ix List of Tables Table 4.1 Principals’ Implementation of Best Practices of Mentoring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .68 Table 4.2 Inclusion of Best Practices of Mentoring from the Mentors’ Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74 Table 4.3 New Teachers’ Report of Best Practices of Mentoring Implementation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .79 Table 4.4 New Teachers’ Perceptions of Mentor Support (Part A) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 Table 4.5 New Teachers’ Perceptions of Mentor Support (Part B) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 Table 4.6 Informal Mentoring Relationship and Best Practice Implementation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84 Table 4.7 Percent Showing Comparison of Positive Responses of Principals, Mentors and Novice Teachers Concerning Best Practice Inclusion in the Mentoring Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .85 Table 4.8 New Teachers’ Perceptions of Informal Mentor Support (Pt. A) . . . . . . . . . . .87 Table 4.9 New Teachers’ Perceptions of Informal Mentor Support (Pt. B) . . . . . . . . . . .88 Table 4.10 Demographic Information for Induction Teacher Survey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 Table 4.11 Mentoring Support as Reported on the PSI-BT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 Table 4.12 Best Practices of Mentoring Components (PSI-BT) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .93

  x List of Figures Figure 4.1 Topics Principals Require Mentors to Discuss with New Teachers . . . . . . . . 66 Figure 4.2 Topics Mentors Are Required to Discuss with Novice Teachers . . . . . . . . . . 73 Figure 4.3 Topics Mentors Discussed with New Teachers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .78 Figure 4.4 Topics Informal Mentors Discussed with Novice Teachers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86

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A Mixed-Methods Examination of Mentoring Practices in Six School Districts in South Carolina: Perspectives from Novice Teachers, Mentors, and School Leaders

Chapter One Introduction Since the 1980’s, there has been a growing emphasis on the mentoring of new teachers during their first years of experience in the classroom as part of the general movement during this period to improve education (Feiman-Nemser, 1997). The use of mentoring programs has become widespread even though the actual implementation has at best been uneven and often “disappointing” (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2000). According to Feiman-Nemser, over thirty states currently mandate some form of mentoring for first year teachers (Feimen-Nemser, 1997). The increased interest in mentoring new teachers is rooted in the realization that new teachers experience high attrition rates, that student learning is interrupted when there is high teacher turnover, and that new teachers’ needs can be addressed when there is a structured mentoring program available to support novice teachers. Although many occupations experience some loss of newcomers, the rate of teacher attrition among first year practitioners is particularly high (Ingersoll & Kralik, 2004). Nearly one third of all novice teachers leave the profession within their first three years (Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2002) and between 40%-50% of new teachers leave within the first five years (Ingersoll & Kralik, 2004). Given the elevated rate of attrition coupled with the current emphasis on mentoring programs, questions about the

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effectiveness of current support strategies arise. Specifically, given that research on mentoring supports the practice for retaining highly qualified teachers, what evidence is there that current mentoring programs are informed with research-based best practices? Also, what evidence is there that even when those best practices are being utilized are they being consistently implemented and provided to new teachers? Lastly, do induction teachers perceive that these best practices of mentoring actually contribute to their remaining in the profession?

Current Practices at Selected Schools

One local Upstate school district utilizes a specific plan of induction for first year teachers. The induction course, as it is known, is operated by the district’s office of personnel in association with a local college. Components of the induction course include regularly scheduled meetings that teachers new to the profession in the district are required to attend. These meetings often feature speakers on various topics related to education and regularly the leaders assign readings on education-related topics for the new teachers to complete. As part of this program, the beginning teachers are also observed while in the classroom by the facilitator of the program as well as a district mentor. Both of these observers provide feedback to the new teachers based on the observation concerning their job performance. At the beginning of the school year, three full day sessions are conducted with all induction year teachers. Topics addressed include classroom management, instructional technology, teacher/parent relationships, the state’s standards and curriculum for the subjects taught, and district’s policies,

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procedures, and initiatives. Also provided is a general orientation to the district which includes district expectations concerning teacher professionalism and job performance. The district also has a structure in place for the provision of mentors for these first year teachers. This mentoring program is considered a component of the above mentioned induction class but its design and implementation is left to the discretion of the building level administrators. Mentoring is defined as the “personal guidance provided, usually by seasoned veterans, to beginning teachers in schools” (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). The state of South Carolina requires that all first year teachers participate in a mentoring program which matches first year teachers to veteran teachers within the schools to which they are assigned. In 2006, the South Carolina Department of Education’s Division of Educator Quality and Leadership published induction and mentoring program implementation guidelines. These guidelines required that all districts in the state submit by May 1, 2008, a detailed written plan that describes the districts’ induction and mentoring programs for beginning teachers (South Carolina Department of Education, 2006). An examination of this Upstate school district revealed that it operated an induction/mentoring program similar to that found in several other Upstate districts. The district provided both induction and mentoring with the goal of helping first year teachers become successful: a formalized induction program and a mentoring program that was less formalized and was viewed as a component of the induction program. As it currently existed, principals at all of the district’s schools were required to have a mentoring program within their buildings. The principals were largely left to determine how the mentoring program would be designed and implemented with the only requirement being

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that a mentor must be assigned to all first year teachers. The principals were responsible for assigning mentors to all teachers new to the profession. By tradition rather than by mandate or research-based evidence, principals, apparently matched induction teachers to mentors based on both members of the pair teaching within the same discipline or grade level. Other teachers who were new hires but who had previous teaching experience were assigned “teacher buddies” to acclimate them to the district, the school, and the culture of the community. This component was also left to the discretion of the individual principals. By leaving the design and implementation of the mentoring component to the individual principals, the result was a widely varying mentoring experience, the strength or weakness of the experience provided depending on where the first year teacher was assigned to work. How principals from other districts in the Upstate regions selected mentors for their novice teachers was an area that was examined during this study. There seemed to be several ways in which principals selected mentors. Some principals actively sought volunteers while others simply assigned a veteran teacher to be a mentor to a beginning teacher. In the aforementioned Upstate district, there was no remuneration for teachers acting as mentors nor was there any release time provided for the mentors to interact with their protégées. Whether other districts in the Upstate provided financial remuneration and/or time compensation to mentors was also examined as part of this study. Once the mentors were selected in one Upstate district, they participated in a training session conducted by the district’s office of staff development. The mentor training was based on the Santa Cruz model. This model, which was developed at the

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New Teacher Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz, had four training outcomes. Those outcomes, as listed in the district’s Foundations of Mentoring: Professional Development for Those who Work with Beginning Teachers notebook were to: • Create professional growth environments for new teachers grounded in the norms of continuous inquiry, ongoing assessment, and problem-solving, • Recognize and practice the attitudes, behaviors, and skills of effective mentors, • Identify beginning teacher needs and modify support in response to those needs, and • Use various tools that support an integrated system of formative assessment and support. (from the district’s induction materials). During the training sessions, topics discussed include mentoring roles, phases of first year teaching, dealing with specific situations, empathetic and active listening techniques, support and assessment strategies, the South Carolina ADEPT (Assisting, Developing, and Evaluating Professional Teaching) performance standards, as well as how mentors could provide on-going support for beginning teachers. A follow-up training session was conducted during the school year. For mentors who have already participated in the formalized training session, a supplemental session was conducted reviewing the elements of the Santa Cruz model. Once the training sessions had been completed, the newly trained mentors were eligible to be mentors for induction teachers. Again, how the relationship developed between mentor and mentee and how its effectiveness was monitored at the school level varied. To whom the mentors reported, or even if they did report, also apparently seemed

Full document contains 199 pages
Abstract: This mixed methods study investigated the impact mentoring has on beginning teachers' perceptions of success. Surveys were used to determine whether or not principals and mentor teachers provided beginning teachers with research-identified best practices of mentoring. Surveys, focus groups, and individual interviews were used to determine whether or not beginning teachers were provided mentor support consistent with best practices, to identify from the new teachers' perspectives which mentoring experiences they believed were most beneficial in contributing to their success as teachers, and to examine whether or not beginning teachers felt encouraged to experiment with their instructional strategies by their mentors. Following analysis of the collected quantitative and qualitative data, recommendations were made as to what mentoring experiences should be provided to beginning teachers in order to increase their professional competencies and to reduce new teacher attrition.