red Supported Site University of Arkansas: Induction & Mentoring

Successes

  • The RTOP instrument proved to be a useful point of discussion for mentoring, and significant gains were seen after preservice students and a new teacher were RTOPed, and reviewed the results.
  • Strong mentoring of possible future teachers through their early teaching experiences, such as a learning assistant or TA position, can enhance their desire to teach, as well as their comfort level and effectiveness.
  • Mentoring of 12 elementary interns following the official method (PATHWISE) chosen by the state of Arkansas and inclusion of science lessons in their portfolios.
  • Two TIRs were prepared by PhysTEC faculty in the College of Education and Health Professions (CoEHP) to be mentors in the official state method. The number of trained mentors is limited, and there are very few physical scientists in the pool.

Challenges:

  • TIME. Both the mentees and the mentors find themselves so busy it is hard to find time for mentoring activities, even if they know those would help!
  • Distance. Our new teachers are spread out over the region, making them hard to visit regularly. Even with this difficulty, we are relatively fortunate. Many institutions have even greater spread!


Sustainability/Institutional Buy-In

  • Our instructional laboratory curator has been RTOP-trained, and will be allowed time to perform RTOP observations as part of his work.
  • The physics department is willing to fund snacks for teacher meetings.
  • Beginning in the fall of 2007, UA servers will host materials for our growing teacher electronic discussion group and will host the interactive “bulletin board.”
  • The physics department will sponsor a local student chapter of the NSTA, as soon as the students develop the charter and get it approved. The charter should be submitted by January 15, 2008, and will be posted here as an example.

Lessons Learned

  • It has been very hard to keep mentoring “schedules”. Sometimes you have to settle for electronic communications.
  • The occasional backyard barbecue, where everyone just hangs out and talks about their teaching experiences, seems to help relieve stress and share ideas.
  • Sometimes new teachers wish to rely on a less-qualified mentor because of personal relationships developed while in school (such as the academic adviser that got them interested in teaching, instead of the TIR). This means the adviser needs to get particularly well informed and have a strong group of teacher-advisers from which to seek answers!
  • Ideally, new teachers ought to be placed in a school with a number of other young teachers.

Activity Summary

  • Mentoring Activities performed by TIR
    • Weekly meetings between PPI and TIR to discuss progress and projects
    • Attending TA meetings for entry-level calculus-based course (three future teachers were involved)
    • Helping review future PhysTEC teacher lesson plans
    • Mentoring current university students who aim to become high school teachers
    • Discussions with new PhysTEC teachers in the schools or by email
    • Being available either face-to-face or electronically to answer questions arising from the new PhysTEC teachers
    • Providing simple moral support (and delivering cool posters/calendars to decorate classrooms) when new teachers were feeling overwhelmed
  • Induction Activities performed by TIR
    • Working with a new PhysTEC teacher on a Toyota Tapestry grant proposal
    • Performing the RTOP evaluation with new PhysTEC teachers and using it as a discussion point for teaching methods

Notes on mentoring

  • Mentoring relationships can be developed with pre-service students and then continued with the new teachers through regional AAPT meetings, workshops, and electronically.
  • While the early TIRs were secondary teachers, it was planned that their involvement with the elementary and middle school methods faculty and courses would make the TIRs a rich resource for teachers at all levels, upon returning to their school districts.
  • One of the responsibilities of the TIRs has been to mentor their replacements, providing support through that important first year of induction.