Supported Site University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Induction & Mentoring

Successes

  • We graduated two physics teachers in May 2011. Both are currently seeking employment in North Carolina public schools. Due to uncertainty about the budget proposals currently under consideration by the state legislature (all of which mandate deep cuts in funds provided to schools), few school districts are hiring new teachers at this time. For AY2011/12, both graduates have internships with the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.
  • All of the UNC-BEST graduates in the class of 2009 are employed as full-time high school science teachers in North Carolina.
  • During their first year of teaching, graduates networked with university faculty and peers through our social networking group on Facebook.
  • Graduates and pre-service teachers were provided with substitute pay and travel to attend several professional teachers' conferences; The Texas Instrument T^3 conference focused on implementing instructional technology in the classroom; The North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference and North Carolina Science Teachers Association Professional Development Institute provided students and new teachers' with an opportunity to network with other professional educators, exposed them to new science materials and equipment, and provided them with free hands-on inquiry based activities for their classrooms.
  • Graduates served on a new teacher panel during one of our seminars where they answered questions and shared some of their classroom experiences with current pre-service teachers.

Challenges

  • While our TIR was willing to provide mentoring to our 2009 graduate, the fact that the graduate teaches in Charlotte (140 mi. away) limited the possibility for face-to-face contact. However, the TIR did make a visit to Charlotte to observe the graduate in his classroom.
  • Engaging our graduates in professional development activities that do not conflict with their school responsibilities proved difficult. First year teachers tend to be overwhelmed with their new responsibilities.

Sustainability/Institutional Buy-In

  • The resources available to support the induction and professional development of our graduates, including two units housed in the School of Education (Learn NC, and the Leadership Center for Mathematics and Science Teachers), are supported with recurring state funds.
  • Our engagement with partner districts has grown over the past year into a collaborative network of educators involving university faculty, district supervisors, in-service and pre-service teachers. It began with site visits to each of our partner districts initiated by the Dean of the School of Education and included the UNC BEST program coordinator and some faculty members. This resulted in several well attended events: a Symposium for UNC BEST students to present their model lessons to local teachers, professors and students; a professional development workshop for Guilford County teachers lead by our Biology professor; and "A Day in the Life" site visit for UNC students to visit classrooms. Guilford County is very eager to engage our students and provided them a day tour of several schools along with a training workshop on navigating the hiring process. Partnerships with our other school districts have taken a different direction. Hertford County is located three hours from our campus so our collaboration with them will be in the form of virtual communication. At this school district we plan to pilot a virtual tutoring and mentoring program between university and high school students using Elluminate. This is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2010. Hertford is offering an employment incentive to our graduates by proving housing for first year teachers. We plan to engage Warren and Vance counties in a similar pilot program.

Lessons Learned

  • In May 2009 program faculty, instructors and student teaching coaches gathered for the first week-long re-visioning workshop. The workshop focused on outlining the knowledge and skills candidates need to understand and address the most significant instructional challenges they faced. It also initiated the design of program experiences that will support candidates in developing this knowledge and these skills. For example, the data from the student teaching internship revealed that candidates struggled to support students with low literacy skills, an instructional challenge that is particularly prevalent in high need schools. Our awareness of this specific instructional challenge instigated several revisions to the portion of our program provided by the School of Education. First, we developed a case-based unit focused on diagnosing students' literacy needs. Working with our public school partners, we obtained formative assessment samples from actual high school students. Using these work samples as an authentic classroom case, candidates will diagnose student learning needs and design instructional strategies to support the students.
  • A second revision involves increasing the personal experiences candidates have with research-based literacy instructional strategies. We are confident that these first-hand experiences with various literacy strategies will provide the knowledge and skills the candidates need to implement them in their future classrooms. Examining the experiences of our first cohort of teachers allowed us to critically analyze the experiences of our program and revise them in ways that provide better support where additional support is essential for classroom success. We are eager to implement our revisions and to assess their effectiveness with our next cohorts.

Activity Summary

  • The beginning components of the professional development (induction) program are in place.
  • We have designed a multi-pronged induction program for our graduates, including both physics graduates and those from other disciplines. Support for our graduates is a career-development continuum, leading to National Board Certification as exemplary mathematics and science teachers. The induction program has three components: 1) providing resources to all graduates to support them in delivering effective instruction, 2) establishing a supportive network of mentors and UNC-BEST colleagues, and 3) providing graduates with an array of professional development opportunities. The UNC BEST coordinator manages the induction program, including establishing a coordinated timeline for implementation of each induction component. A facebook group was developed for all graduates providing resources and information related to each component of the induction program.
  • We supported our graduates in delivering student-centered and inquiry-based instruction, we provided teachers with online curriculum modules designed by students in the UNC-BEST content-area pedagogy courses. These modules include inexpensive, inquiry-based lesson plans aligned with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, discussions of the science content including cutting edge research findings, literacy resources and student assessments. Second, UNC-BEST graduates will have access to a rich network of mentors and peers for collegial support. The UNC-BEST group was created in the popular social networking site Facebook.com so graduates can remain connected and offer support to one another. This site allows us to maintain up-to-date contact with graduates allowing us to track schools where UNC-BEST graduates are employed and to maintain connections within and between cohorts.
  • Our induction program is focused on supporting a career-development continuum that leads to National Board Certification. UNC-BEST initiates our teachers' preparation for National Board Certification during the student teaching internship by aligning our performance-based assessment strategies with those used by the National Board. The newly-developed Center for Teaching Quality Leadership Center for Mathematics and Science Teachers (LC-MaST) will provide UNC-BEST teachers with National Board Certified teachers who will act as virtual coaches to support and guide them during the process of obtaining National Board Certification. Through innovative online platforms, LC-MaST taps the strengths of North Carolina's National Board Mathematics and Science Certified Teachers (NBCTs) to build abilities and leadership among practicing mathematics and science teachers and assist them in achieving National Board Certification.
  • We are currently working with centers within the School of Education to provide multiple professional development opportunities for graduates. Several centers in the School of Education offer a range of professional development opportunities to meet our graduates' needs. Working with the center directors, the Project Coordinator will continue to notify graduates of new opportunities. The Carolina Center for Educational Excellence (CCEE), an outreach arm of the School of Education, and Learn NC both offer a range of courses and programs through both distance learning and face-to-face instruction. The CMSE offers online courses and a rich slate of professional development activities each summer in the Statewide Institutes in Teaching Excellence (SITE) program.