Mutual Learning - induction of Newly Qualified Teachers

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Sue Kelly gives a practitioner guide to the induction year and shows that it can be a rich opportunity for shared learning between mentors, tutors and the newly qualified teachers themselves.

 

One of the fundamental principles to remember when supporting NQTs through the induction period, whether this be in a secondary, primary or special school is that all  new members of the profession have an entitlement to a well  planned and professionally delivered development programme in their first year in the classroom. What is also exciting from a continuing professional development (CPD) perspective,  is that the whole of the induction year is underpinned by ongoing development practices which will benefit not only new colleagues, but also open up rich opportunities for more experienced teachers to take on new responsibilities  and  the  learning which  these bring with them.

At the same time, mentors of newly qualified colleagues can also obtain additional benefits from being involved. These include the opportunity to display a commitment to the professional development of others as outlined in the standards for the new excellent teacher status and to meet the criteria for advanced skills status. Furthermore, existing staff can clearly demonstrate a positive engagement with their own professional development and experience the privileges of guiding and shaping the practices of those professionals who will be entertaining and educating children in classrooms of the future.

The learning relationship

It is so easy as an experienced member of staff to see ourselves in the position of teacher/expert when working with colleagues who are  just embarking on their careers. This perspective can result in mentors feeling “put upon” by having to support new staff and this resentment at having another “job to do” can so easily affect relationships and sour what should be an exciting and stimulating first year of teaching for mentees. What’s more, such an attitude can blind us to just how much we can learn from new colleagues.

Acknowledging the relationship between mentor and new teacher as being mutually beneficial in terms of what each can gain from the other and which can then support the work of other colleagues in department teams and beyond, can prove a tremendous confidence boost for new staff and provide a fresh lease of life for existing teachers. 

It is the job of CPD coordinators/induction tutors to shape staff - thinking and to challenge old fashioned attitudes towards the induction of new staff should these be harmful or diminishing in any way. We should also recognise and value the induction process for the rich learning opportunities that it affords those of us who are induction tutors!

Induction Opportunities

It is important then for the induction tutor – who will often be the CPD co-ordinator in a school or educational institution - to be clear about the CPD opportunities on offer for all those involved in the induction programme.


What is the role of the induction tutor?

Te person chosen as induction tutor should set the tone of the induction year in the context of the government’s new professionalism agenda and provide an excellent role model for all newly qualified colleagues. It is vital that induction tutors model exemplary professional standards in all aspects of their work in the school and  invest sufficient time in communicating effectively with  all of those colleagues who  play  a  part in the induction year,  particularly the new member of staff and their assigned mentor. Statutory induction focuses also on a personalised approach, ensuring that the development needs of individuals are clearly met, in which case the induction year should be tailor -made to meet the needs of individuals and not just “one size fits all”. The induction tutor should be confident about any systems of monitoring or evaluating the role of others involved in the induction year, based on the principle of the entitlement of NQTs to an excellent induction into the profession.

Te best practice principles of CPD should show the way to other staff and include providing opportunities for imaginative approaches and for carefully matching the needs of the individual to a range of development opportunities. Finally, the induction tutor should plan the year to ensure that NQTs are increasingly proactively engaged with the induction process in order to highlight early on in their career one of the fundamental principles of excellent CPD: that it is the responsibility of individual teachers to be actively engaged in the processes of their own development rather than seeing staff development as something which is done to them and organised for them.

Key aspects of the induction year for NQTs

In many secondary schools the induction tutor will not be the same person as the mentor who works closely with the NQT. If this is the case then considerable time and effort will need to be invested in making sure that the subject leader is completely clear about his / her responsibilities, understands the induction standards and the statutory nature of the year and is comfortable about the procedures and systems in place to ensure the year goes well. All of this provides plenty  of  new  learning  and  professional development  opportunities  as  well  as  the  ongoing professional dialogue around day to day classroom practice which those working with NQTs find can invigorate their own teaching.

Ongoing CPD

One key aspect of the statutory induction year is the entitlement of all newly qualified colleagues to a 10% reduction of their normal timetable which should be used  for ongoing professional development activities and which should be clearly identified  on  their timetables. It is fundamental that induction tutors be fully committed to and confident about the importance of deploying a range of imaginative and cost effective CPD which can be recorded on the remission time log kept by NQTs. This should include regular meeting slots with an experienced subject mentor as well as  the opportunity to be observed regularly and to receive well focused  and  constructive  critiques of their work to ensure that good progress is made. Newly qualified teachers should have the opportunity to observe other colleagues within and outside of their own department / faculty / team / school and should also be encouraged to recognise the value of time spent reflecting on the above. It is helpful to record any learning outcomes in an ongoing professional journal which can form the basis of further discussion with the mentor or induction tutor. It is also important that induction tutors facilitate the following experiences for newly qualified staff:

  • a visit to another school(s) with a focus on an area identified from the action plan against the  induction standards;
  • the opportunity to network with other NQTs from other schools;
  • the opportunity to meet regularly with the induction tutor to review progress against the action plan targets;
  • the opportunity to meet as an NQT group with  the onus on NQTs driving the agenda to ensure that the planned programme of meetings matches their needs and not those of the induction tutor;
  • the opportunity to engage in and to value the myriad CPD activities which happen  informally on a day  to day basis or through more formal arrangements and not just by attendance on external courses.

Top tips for induction tutors.

The role of the induction tutor is a crucial one. Some key pointers for those who are involved in co-ordinating the induction year should include the need to be rigorous, encouraging and challenging in a way which will get the best out of newly qualified staff and make explicit the need to aspire to the highest professional standards. It is vital to fully involve and engage NQTs in the year at all times; for example, asking them to record the outcomes of assessment meetings as a way of ensuring that the processes and rationale of the year have been understood. In addition new colleagues can be expected to set the agenda for group meetings which induction tutors can then facilitate.

NQTs can also be asked to keep a learning journal – this doesn’t  have  to  be  time  consuming,  but  should  record and crystallise  the key  learning outcomes of every CPD activity in which they are engaged: what a powerful and useful document this will then become as a point of referral in future years! It is also valuable for induction tutors or mentors to arrange for someone with subject expertise from outside  the  school  to  observe  one  of  an NQT’s  lessons before  the fnal  term’s  assessment.

This can ensure each NQT has objective feedback on his/her strengths and areas for development at the end of the year, translating into powerful professional objectives for the second year of teaching. NQTs could also be encouraged to present on a recent development in their subject / area of pedagogy. Not only is this a great CPD opportunity in itself for them and for colleagues who will see the presentation, but it is also a way of highlighting the need to keep abreast of current developments  in  their  subject or teaching and learning in general. Once again the latter is fundamental  to  the requirements of the National Standards and provides good evidence for the relevant standard.

Learning from NQTs!

Te privilege of working with those new to the teaching profession should be uppermost in the minds of all of those lucky enough to be involved in this key period of training.

However, it is important to remember that the best CPD which we can organise for newly qualified colleagues is to model the highest professional standards through our own practices at all times. It is crucial to be rigorous, fair and consistent in our approach and to be confident about the principles of NQT entitlement. The message is clear - enthusiastic and proactive engagement in the induction year affords rich learning opportunities and valuable CPD for everyone involved, not just the newly trained colleague.

Let’s not forget that newly qualified teachers have plenty of innovative ideas and skills which can enrich CPD programmes for even the most experienced of teachers in our schools and it is crucial that we engineer opportunities for them to lead development activities for other staff whenever possible.

It goes without saying that the experience of our new teachers during their time in education and the progress they make, underpins the importance of effective ongoing professional development at all stages of a teacher’s career.

The commitment to our own professional development and that of those around us should be motivated by the potential impact on pupils in our classrooms. Thoughtful
deployment of the skills of all staff, including teaching and support staff can make a valuable contribution to the dynamic learning environment in your school.

Sue Kelly
Assistant Head -teacher, Millais School, Depot Road,
Horsham, West Sussex RH13 5HR

Taken from Professional Development Today

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