Developing an Online Mentoring Program for Beginning Teachers

Developing an Online Mentoring Program for Beginning Teachers

Nancy K. Gagen Clouse (University of Montana, USA), Sandra R. Williams (University of Montana, USA) and Roberta D. Evans (University of Montana, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-854-4.ch024
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If schools are to retain well-qualified and much needed new teachers, it is important that teachers are provided a variety of resources for helping them through the transition from pre-service education to the classroom. An electronic mentoring program that provides school administrators and teachers a connection to a wide spectrum of professional contacts without the constraints of time and distance can be a valuable tool for the retention and professional development of this precious human resource. The leadership role for an electronic mentoring program calls for a unique combination of in-depth knowledge of the developmental needs of beginning teachers, a plan for development of an online program based on knowledge of the necessary program components, an understanding of professional development and adult learning, skills to effectively communicate online, and the ability to work in a collaborative, facilitative, and ever-changing environment.
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Since the early 1990s, the annual number of teachers leaving the profession has surpassed the number of those entering by an increasing amount (Darling-Hammond, 2003). Teacher attrition, which is particularly high among teachers in their first few years of service, is the primary problem. Data suggest that 40 to 50% of all beginning teachers exit the profession within the first five years. Not only are there high costs associated with teacher exits, high turnover of teachers causes staffing problems due to the lack of commitment, continuity, and cohesion among employees. Consequently, this can adversely affect school environment and student performance (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003).

There is an emerging consensus among educators and policymakers that the retention of new teachers is dependent on effective mentoring and induction programs (Feiman-Nemser, 2003). However, not all school districts have the resources to establish formal mentoring programs, particularly smaller districts in rural areas. This calls for alternative forms of induction and mentoring support. An alternative kind of mentoring, called electronic mentoring, could help school districts provide their teachers the benefits of mentoring despite their lack of resources. Electronic mentoring or e-mentoring uses electronic communications, such as e-mail and online discussion groups, to connect mentors with protégées without constraints of time or place (Single & Muller, 2003). A well-structured electronic mentoring program could serve a relatively large number of teachers and sites and provide needed support to beginning teachers in districts that are unable to provide adequate on-site mentoring.

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