Mentoring Role in Novice Teacher Training Process: A Review of International Experience

Abstract

This article presents an overview of foreign experience in organizing mentoring of young teachers using the example of the United States of America. Analysis of research has identified a correlation between inadequate mentoring support for beginning professionals and their outflow from educational organizations in the early years of their employment. The deficits that young pedagogues often face alone are often overlooked in research. Nevertheless, the problem of teacher outflow in the United States of America in the early years of teaching has a national scale. Therefore, in the United States of America mentoring is used, among other things, to keep teachers in the profession to guide and support them through their first difficult years in school. In addition, separate attention is given to the trends characteristic of the mentoring system in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the active shift of mentor-mentee collaboration to a distance format. These include the increased role of popular platforms and services that were not originally designed for young teachers and their mentors to interact. This paper also analyzes the developmental opportunities that mentors themselves can get in the process of supporting young pedagogues.

Keywords: Distance mentoring, introductory adaptation programs, mentoring, novice teacher

Introduction

Many countries, including the United States of America, Great Britain, and Australia, have a system of mentoring for young teachers. Often, mentors are assigned by the educational organization where a graduate starts working. In addition, the appointment may come from a district or state. For example, in the United States of America, a system is in place to add supplementary introductory programs by districts or schools to state mentoring programs.

One key issue that can be addressed through effective mentoring of young teachers is preventing novice teachers from leaving schools early in their careers, which has reached epidemic proportions in many countries. This trend has been the focus of a large body of research, which has sought to identify, through a variety of approaches, what it takes for novice teachers to stay in schools. One such research described an exit process from the profession that included several sequential stages: entry, characterized by optimism; early emotional stress characterized by delayed professional development; pre-exit, characterized by frustration; and exit (Gallant & Riley, 2014).

The first year in school has traditionally been considered crucial: it is often this year that determines the length of a young teacher's career in education. The set of challenges faced by first-year teachers varies greatly, not only across countries, but even within educational organizations in the same district. That is why the challenges and deficits faced by young teachers require detailed collection, systematization, and research.

The challenges faced by the institution of mentoring because of the COVID-19 pandemic must also be noted. Objectively, not all countries were ready for the switch to a distance format, a systematic and time-tested model similar to, for example, the Australian one did not exist everywhere. Nevertheless, by now the basic approaches and principles have been formulated to maximize the use of not only asynchronous remote mentoring, but also real-time interaction, in particular in the format of videoconferencing.

Problem Statement

To what extent can mentoring systems and induction training programs retain young teachers and effectively adapt to the profession.

Research Questions

1. What challenges do young teachers face in the early years of teaching?

2. What support is available to young teachers and what role does the mentoring system play in this?

3. How can induction practices and mentoring programs better meet the needs of novice teachers?

4. How have recommendations for mentoring changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift of mentor-mentee interactions to a distance format

5. How can mentoring be beneficial to the mentors themselves?

Purpose of the Study

Analyze international experiences with mentoring and induction programs for young teachers..

Research Methods

The main method of research is a comparative analysis of methodological recommendations and research papers on mentoring and the implementation of induction programs for young teachers, as well as manuals with recommendations on the organization of interaction between mentors and mentees in distance formats. In addition, a descriptive analysis of foreign sources was conducted.

Findings

Analysis of foreign experience of the United States of America, Australia, and Norway allowed to identify several main areas of support for novice teachers provided by the mentoring system: emotional and psychological support, assistance in adaptation and socialization, opportunities for professional growth, etc.

The experiences faced by young professionals at the initial stage of school work often result in creative and talented teachers finding their work frustrating, thankless, and unbearably difficult, which ultimately increases the risk of becoming disillusioned with the profession. Young teachers note that feelings of anxiety and stress deepen, which is associated with the constant search for alternative sources of help from fellow teachers due to the lack of a qualified mentor.

Almost immediately, a young teacher assumes the same responsibilities as colleagues with years of experience. Obviously, the first year of work in school is not only very disturbing, but also the most difficult. Moreover, new teachers spend a disproportionately big amount of time and effort just adjusting to their new job. It is not until young professionals get over the shock of the first year of teaching that they are expected to begin to focus on the important areas of long-term planning, overall student goals, and individual student needs.

From an educational policy perspective, mentoring can be seen as a tool to influence a wide variety of areas of the educational system, and the goals of such activities can vary from country to country.

For example, concerns about the readiness of novice teachers have led to significant changes in ITE (Initial Teacher Education) programs in Australia. Declining student performance in national and international assessments is seen as a political issue that can be addressed through political solutions to improve training of teachers (Churchward & Willis, 2019).

Based on the sources analyzed, the goals of mentoring from the perspective of both novice teachers and educational policy were distinguished (Table 1).

Table 1 - Mentoring goals from the perspectives of different actors in the education system
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The most striking example is the organization and implementation of mentoring in the United States. In this regard, this article describes in more detail the experience of the U.S. mentoring system, the main purpose of which is to keep teachers in the profession.

The U.S. mentoring model

Due to insufficient mentoring support, many novice teachers do not stay in the profession and leave in the early years. And from this perspective, in the United States, mentoring is used, among other things, to keep teachers in the profession to guide and support them through their first difficult years in school. These are challenges at the national level. Some studies even support a high correlation between teacher retention in profession and student performance (Bullough, 2012).

According to studies of school districts in North America, approximately 40-50% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years (Aspfors & Bondas, 2013).

Current mentoring practices and induction courses for young teachers are continually monitored in the United States of America (Bullough, 2012). Mentoring programs for novice teachers have a positive effect on educational system stability: teachers who have a mentor have been found to be less likely to leave teaching and less likely to change schools within their profession.

In addition to formal mentoring, there are special induction programs that are designed to prepare young professionals for school work. 23 states fund induction or mentoring programs and require all new teachers to participate. Induction programs basically consist of three key elements: (1) classroom observations over and by novice teachers; (2) formative teaching evaluation or feedback from mentors; and (3) participation in a professional learning community or network of peer novice educators.

With the support of a federal grant, the Texas Beginning Educator Support System was implemented in Texas beginning in 1999. Novice teacher mentoring was established on the legislative level but was not funded; in fact, there was no systematic effort to induct teachers. With the purpose to improve student performance as well as teacher retention in the profession, $3 million was allocated in 2002 to support an expanded optional mentoring program for novice teachers. Three years later, with additional funding, a master's certification program was developed. Teachers who completed the program were awarded an educational grant and given the opportunity to serve as mentors (Bullough, 2012).

In Texas, districts assign mentors to novice teachers with less than two years of teaching experience. Mentors are required by law to teach at the same school as those they mentor and to teach in the same classroom or subject area. Mentors must have at least three years of teaching experience and excel at improving student performance. All mentors go through an approved mentor training program.

After years of reducing the number of teachers in California, school districts across the state are hiring teachers again. Policies that ensure an adequate number of fully trained teachers for the state's educational organizations have advanced the mentoring system to leading position in the U.S.A. (Darling-Hammond et al., 2016).

California has a New Teacher Center that provides introductory mentoring programs for novice teachers. All teachers complete a two-year induction program with intensive mentoring before receiving their teacher certificates (Senate Bill 2042, California). The law requires each novice teacher to have an individualized induction plan "developed based on the emerging needs of the novice teacher (includes goals, specific strategies for achieving those goals, and documentation of progress toward achieving those goals)."

The law provides novice teachers with intensive support and assistance to ensure a smooth transition to teaching and continued professional development. These measures are expected to stem the outflow of young teachers from the profession. In addition, through continuous formative assessment of performance, combined with frequent feedback, the quality of teaching will improve significantly, resulting in higher student performance (Bullough, 2012).

To this end, 8 key principles were developed:

  • "Rigorous mentor selection based on the qualities of an effective mentor"
  • "Continuous professional development"
  • "Allotted time for mentor-teacher interaction"
  • "Intensive and specific guidance to promote teaching practice"
  • "Professional learning standards and data-driven conversations"
  • "Ongoing professional development for novice teachers"
  • "Clear roles and responsibilities of administrators"
  • "Collaboration with all stakeholders"

In New York City, district representatives select mentors from a list developed by an ad hoc committee made up mostly of teachers. A mentor is defined as a teacher who has "demonstrated excellence in pedagogical and subject matter skills, excellence in interpersonal relationships, and who has expressed a willingness to participate in a mentoring program." The program offers one year of support to novice teachers. The nature of the mentor-mentee relationship is accurately defined by New York law (Bullough, 2012).

In general, there are three archetypes of mentoring: supervision, support, and collaborative self-development. These three forms of mentoring represent three different projects: (a) assisting new teachers through probation, (b) traditional mentoring as support, and (c) peer group mentoring.

Simply assigning a mentor does not guarantee positive results. The necessary components have been identified where the appointment of a mentor is likely to lead to positive results. A study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics presents the components that had the strongest positive impact:

  • Mentor teaching the same subject the novice teacher is teaching
  • Collaboration with other teachers in the learning process,
  • Participation and communication in an external network of teachers

The links between years of teacher experience and quality of teaching are now often investigated. The results do not show lower teaching quality for novice teachers (0-3 years of experience), moreover there is some evidence of lower teaching quality for teachers with 4-5 years of experience. The results suggest that teaching quality could be higher overall, and that targeted support and evidence-based professional learning would benefit not only novice teachers, but also teachers with years of teaching experience (Graham et al., 2020).

Deficits faced by young professionals in their first years in educational organizations

Our review of the international literature allowed us to identify som common challenges faced by young teachers in their first years in educational organizations in different countries.

Communication deficits

Difficult relationships with students, parents, or colleagues are considered one of the most negative experiences among young pedagogues. Many studies describe the experiences of novice teachers within the school community in their first years of work. In Finland, where a large number of teachers have academic qualifications but there isn't any formal support system for young teachers, relationships, especially with colleagues and principals, are important for informal support (Aspfors & Bondas, 2013). In addition to the importance of familiarization and support in the initial stages of beginning of work, a good social atmosphere with genuine care and support within the school community is even more important.

Stress and burnout

Teachers are one of the occupational groups that experience the most stress and burnout in the workplace today. Young teachers note that feelings of anxiety and stress deepen, which is associated with the constant search for alternative sources of help from fellow teachers due to the lack of a qualified mentor. A young teacher new to school may be stressed, lack appropriate support, and may feel unprepared to deal with the behavioral and academic challenges of their students. Implementing mentoring programs between young and experienced teachers not only benefits novice teachers, but can also help them cope with anxiety during their first year in the classroom (Dias-Lacy & Guirguis, 2017). Some mentoring and impact programs for first-year teachers may have further implications in terms of the importance of their implementation, funding, and administrative support.

Differential training.

Differential training presents a significant challenge for all novice teachers. Challenges in meeting the special needs of students lead the educator to feelings of failure and stress caused primarily by a lack of preparation for the various exceptional situations that arise when entering the classroom (Fantilli & McDougall, 2019).

Lack of time

Young teachers devote too much time to meeting the demands of the profession. Research has shown that other issues related to time management, planning, and scheduling are problems in the teaching practices of novice teachers. Many note that they need extra time to adjust. Teachers talk about the need to improve hiring practices so that new teachers come to work and are assigned to classrooms with enough time to familiarize themselves with the school and curriculum, organize their workplace, and plan their first week (Aspfors & Bondas, 2013).

Mismatch of expectations and disillusionment

Teachers leave the field of education in their early years due to a lack of administrative and mentoring support. Many point to working conditions that are more about issues related to discipline in the classroom, lack of support from the administration, school culture, etc.

According to young professionals, an important role is played by such a factor as cooperation with experienced colleagues. Many also note the positive role of the school principal, who promotes a collaborative school culture of mutual support, where willingness and openness to questions and the opportunity to communicate prevail. According to young professionals, this is one of the most effective supports in the early years of teaching. In a sense, informal mentoring has its own system and plays a large role in educational organizations.

Many young professionals note the importance and need to support professional development opportunities specifically geared to the needs of novice teachers, which include subject seminar-based workshops, free time for planning, and classroom observation.

Attention should be paid to the importance of mentee participation in the mentor selection process. Teachers who participated in the mentor selection process reported that communicating with a mentor was very beneficial. It is worth noting that research also indicates that mentee participation in the mentor selection process contributes to the overall success of the mentoring relationship.

Research has shown that induction programs only help new teachers in the transition from student to beginning work as a teacher. The views of young teachers are not considered in the process of determining what they need to be successful problem solvers. There is a gap in existing research from this perspective. A novice teacher's view of the experiences and challenges they face in their early teaching years should be fundamental in creating or modifying any program or policy that seeks to mitigate challenges for newcomers and increase their opportunity for success in the profession (Fantilli & McDougall, 2019).

Mentoring in the COVID-19 pandemic: new principles for organizing interactions between mentors and mentees

Mentoring has been heavily influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years. Graduate students and young teachers were left basically alone for a time with the challenges of adapting to practice or their first job. During this period, mentoring was predominantly based on personal contacts established before restrictions were put in place.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic the potential advantages and disadvantages of the remote mentoring were analysed and the main activities of its participants were indicated in the article by Moiseev (2019) “Model of remote mentor system and methodical support (MSaMS) for students and young teachers at a pedagogical university” (p. 28).

It is also important to point out that in the great majority of studies the institution of mentoring is described as a socially significant activity free of charge. Mentors usually provide support to novice teachers at their off-work time. In Macedonia system of payment has been established under which young teachers receive 80% of teacher’s full salary, and a mentor receives 10% (Petrovska et al., 2018). Salary will make mentoring more professional and effective. Thus, the core team of mentors will be formed of more experienced specialists who are interested in high-quality mentoring and motivated to improve themselves in this direction, but not of the teachers who are formally appointed to support young teachers.

The shift of mentoring to a remote format revealed, in addition to the above-mentioned advantages, one more institutional feature: potentially more people can become mentors. This tendency has led to the fact that techniques and methods from other spheres and fields of activity are applied in mentoring.

For instance, the system of education has been using the experience of HR-specialists for several years who are also studying institute of mentoring. Lizunova (2020) in the article “Introduction of remote mentoring in the context of digitalization of HR processes in modern organizations” emphasises that a wide use of game technology is appropriate in the framework of remote mentoring (p. 265). The potential for its use in mentoring is quite wide in the system of education, where teachers have the skills to organize game activities. During play it is possible to get acquainted, identify deficits the mentee does not know about or does not want to share. Game technologies which are a basis of mentoring will also allow working with real problem cases. The author indicates that despite the obvious advantages of the electronic format of interaction, it is more reasonable to use this type of mentoring as an addition to the traditional face-to-face type.

Nevertheless, the basic principles on which the interaction between mentor and mentee should be based were formulated in a fairly short period of time. A prime example is the University of Minnesota distance mentoring guidelines (Check & Connect, 2021). The authors of the guide focus on three main areas: building creative relationships, structured conversations, and interactive interventions. Let's briefly touch on each of these points.

Lack of personal contact can be a serious problem in building a trusting relationship between mentor and mentee, especially if they have not known each other before. To overcome this barrier, it is necessary to use modern technology. For example, the mentor and mentee can exchange playlists of their favorite songs or take a walk through the city using the "panorama online map function".

The active introduction of online conferencing into the mentoring process has revealed the need to clearly regulate the range of issues that need to be discussed. To that end, the authors of Check and Connect offer options for structuring weekly distance meetings for different levels - elementary, secondary school, high school - and with families. Not only is the flow of the conference, but also the questions that need to be asked to get a full picture of the mentee's progress and his/her actions in dealing with the problem situation are suggested.

The authors of the guide note that "mentors need a convenient set of tools and resources to support their students' needs, from goal setting and self-monitoring to problem solving with teachers and families" (Check & Connect, 2021). Part three provides options for brainstorming using online whiteboards or a graphic expression of a problem case in the form of an algorithm. The list of "the set of tools" is non-exhaustive; mentors can use what suits them to solve certain problems.

Concerning mentoring in the COVID-19 pandemic, it should be noted that one of the notable trends is the desire to make it open (MENTOR National, 2019). Young teachers communicated with each other, seeking support and advice on forums even before the pandemic, but it is now noticeable, for example, in the Australian young teachers' section on the reddit.com platform, where cases are added daily and any registered user can propose a solution.

Teachers and mentors are also creating content on YouTube.com. Young teachers and practicing mentors share their experiences, present problematic cases and possible solutions. In general it can be noted that it was the pandemic that gave an impetus to the development of open mentoring, because, in fact, due to restrictions only the Internet allowed to keep connections between mentors and mentees and opened the opportunity for more people to participate in the mentoring process. Today, a young educator facing a problem has the opportunity to get advice from a variety of professionals and more importantly, to choose from among them the right one for him/her.

Analysing the institute of mentoring in modern national education it is necessary to note the tendency of changing roles, which has most clearly revealed in the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The millennials who traditionally have better IT skills than the teachers of the “older generation” had to act as mentors themselves (Bazarnova & Katushenko, 2020). The authors note young teachers being the carriers of knowledge in the field of digitalization of education are not always accepted as qualified mentors. It is reasonable to involve school psychologist who will be able to make matching pairs that will cooperate on the parity basis. Also an important requirement for reverse mentoring is consistency and regularity of this type of activity as this process should solve problems concerning the educational organization in general. The authors also emphasize the necessity “to measure their progress in the relationship to make sure that both partners are satisfied and get the necessary information” continuously.

A new approach to organizing mentoring can become the application of gender discourse when a female mentee has a female mentor (Heikkinen et al., 2018). The authors indicate that this approach will help to build trust-based relationship since mentor and mentee of the same gender should better understand each other. It should be noted that the application of the concept of gender discourse is also possible in a remote format, while the activity itself will fit the "one mentor – one mentee" scheme.

In summary we can see a tendency towards studying the potential of remote mentoring actively. In the context of COVID-19 pandemic the pace of IT implementation in the system of education has significantly accelerated which has also affected the field of mentoring. The analyzed studies summarize the experience of organizing a trust-based relationship between a mentor and a mentee. Most of them focus on reducing the difficulties concerning the lack of direct communication between the participants of this activity. Various models have been described where the role of mentor can be performed not only by more experienced teachers, but also by carriers of the necessary information. Various models are implemented in the remote format: from "one mentor – one mentee" to the group work in different variations. It is important to note that both models can be implemented in an asynchronous way which has not lost its relevance so far, and as well as in real time as part of video conferences or instant messengers.

National research on remote mentoring is dedicated not only to the analysis of the principles on which it should be based, but also of the resources that help the mentor and the mentee to interact. In fact, the national system of education forms a request for the creating a mentoring system that would not only depart from the traditional models of "mentor is a more experienced colleague", but would also firstly take into account the specific deficits of mentees.

Professional development opportunities for mentors

Mentors' knowledge of teaching is largely practice-oriented and stems from their professional experience, their teaching skills, their pre-professional teacher education, and, to a large extent, their personal experience. In Ireland, for example, some studies have noted that mentors themselves need support to come to grips with their role as a mentor, their attachment to practical experience as a source of professional knowledge, so they can better understand and fulfill their purpose as a mentor (Clarke et al., 2013).

The professional training of teachers as mentors in different areas of interaction can greatly improve the process. For example, training teachers professionally on how to facilitate dialogue in conflict is a key element of both peacemaking and democratic citizenship. Dialogue allows students to develop relationships and conflict resolution skills by actively engaging in pedagogical activities. However, such methods are difficult to implement and maintain in schools (Parker & Bickmore, 2020).

Mentoring novice teachers can have a positive impact on professional and personal development of mentors: self-reflexion, critical re-evaluation of their own practice. In a study of mentors' perceptions of their participation in a school-university partnership program in Hong Kong, 70% of mentors claimed that they benefited professionally from mentoring: mentors learned from their novice mentee teachers by participating in mentor training courses, gaining "new ideas" and "new perspectives." Just as well, many mentors claim that they feel satisfaction and pride in their role as mentors when participating in a mentoring program, especially because their mentees succeed and progress, as well as noticing evidence of their own influence on the development and education of their mentees (Tang & Choi, 2005). Participation in mentoring has helped individual teachers with career planning and advancement, helping them identify their strengths and priorities, contributing to their increased responsibility to support the professional development of other colleagues. In addition, many have noted that novice teachers can be a valuable resource in many areas. New teachers and their mentors easily list areas where experienced teachers can learn from novice teachers (Ulvik & Sunde, 2013).

Mentors' knowledge of teaching is practice-oriented and comes from professional experience, teaching skills, pre-professional teacher education, and personal experience (Tang & Choi, 2005). In order to train mentors, we need to know more about their role and identify their needs (Ulvik & Sunde, 2013).

In most cases, mentors themselves need support to make sense of their early socialization experiences and their attachment to practical experience as a source of professional knowledge (Clarke et al., 2013). Especially since the roles of mentors are not fully defined and depend on the specific educational system and the goals of mentoring. There is now quite a lot of discussion about the different roles of the mentor. In particular, in the Swedish mentoring system, there has been much discussion in recent years about whether or not to include mentors in the evaluation of young teachers when it comes to certification in induction programs (Fransson, 2010). The University of Norway has a formal mentor training program offered to secondary school teachers. The basic principle is to learn the strengths of teachers by examining the areas where new teachers excel.

Thus, not only young teachers but also mentors need support. With its help mentors will be able to analyze their experience of early socialization and the relationship to personal experience as a source of professional knowledge. Working in this direction will qualitatively improve the entire mentoring process. In addition, reflexion on their work also helps mentors understand their place in the process of adapting young teachers to the education system.

Conclusion

Most studies have shown that induction programs are effective only when the wishes of the students who start teaching are taken into account. Currently, their opinions are not in the focus of researchers, which is a problem. Without this, any change in the mentoring or induction program will not be effective.

In recent years, reports of a significant number of teachers leaving the profession within the first few years of completing a pre-professional program have increased. This phenomenon is prevalent in North America, and it is very important to identify the problems new teachers face. Many novice teachers report that administrative management, improved mentor selection, hiring practices, and district support are positive factors necessary for their professional growth (Fantilli & McDougall, 2019). Mentoring programs for novice teachers increase stability: teachers who have a mentor have been found to be less likely to leave teaching and less likely to change schools within their profession.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mentoring organization. Not only does the distance format open up new opportunities for mentor and mentee interaction, but it also brings a number of challenges. One of the key ones is the barriers caused by the lack of face-to-face communication. By using the Internet, the mentor and mentees can find and show each other common interests, thereby overcoming the lack of information about each other. If we talk about another type of mentoring, when the parties previously were not acquainted with each other and acquaintance is not crucial for the solution of a particular case, it becomes more and more open - in fact, an unlimited number of people can ask for help or offer their own option of solving the problem. A large number of forums and video streaming platforms, such as YouTube, make it possible to unite young teachers and build horizontal communication remotely. Platforms and services not originally designed for remote mentoring, nevertheless, perform these functions as well. However, this presents another problem: Mentoring is becoming less regulated and chaotic, which in turn reveals the need for separate research, particularly on the effectiveness of this mentoring. 

Mentoring novice teachers can have a positive impact on the professional and personal development of mentors. Participation in mentoring helps with career planning and advancement and gives them the opportunity to identify their strengths and priorities.

Summarizing the above, it should be noted that the development of the institution of mentoring, the active implementation of distance tools of interaction between mentors and mentees, confirms the importance of this institution in the system of modern education of different countries.

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Mkrtchyan, V. A., & Gurin, G. G. (2022). Mentoring Role in Novice Teacher Training Process: A Review of International Experience. In S. Vachkova, & S. S. Chiang (Eds.), Education and City: Quality Education for Modern Cities, vol 3. European Proceedings of Educational Sciences (pp. 271-283). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epes.22043.24