Enhancing First-Year Teacher Capacity Through Ongoing Relationships: A Teacher Mentoring Case Study

Enhancing First-Year Teacher Capacity Through Ongoing Relationships: A Teacher Mentoring Case Study

Karsten K. Powell, Kirstin A. Rossi, Rosemary L. Battalio
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-3848-0.ch018
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This chapter investigates first-year teachers' development and how participating in a teacher education faculty-led mentoring program accelerated their transition from student to teacher. Traditional teacher induction involves pairing a veteran teacher with a first-year teacher and completing activities, mainly at the start of the school year. High teacher turnover indicates this approach to induction is insufficient and fails to mirror theories of teacher development. Authors use a case study approach to understand how faculty and graduates' relationships bridge the transition to the teaching profession. Field notes and interviews with teachers now in their second year inform the study. Data reveal that teachers used meetings to reflect and be vulnerable with facilitators, which allowed them time to find their allies in the schools. Authors propose solutions including developing PK-12 and teacher education partnerships and future research further investigating the long-term influence relationships-based mentoring has on teacher retention.
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Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.

–Nikos Kazantzakis

American PK-12 schools face many struggles, and teacher retention forms the most foundational crisis. Retaining teachers continues to be elusive: eight percent of teachers leave the profession every year (Loewus, 2022). Among the disciplines most affected by this shortage is special education where, by year five, approximately 40% of the teaching work force will have left the field. Ingersoll (2012) referred to this phenomenon as “greening,” the change in the average age of teachers. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, (2017-2018) the average age of teachers is 42.4 years of age, and the average length of experience is 14.2 years. Concurrent with these statistics, Ingersoll (2012) noted that there are more beginner teachers in US schools, and that their probability of staying in the classroom is less likely. With a younger work force and the ongoing, dynamic demands on teachers, administrators, and other school staff, retaining young teachers must form a central focus in each school’s sustainability plans.

Current efforts to retain first-year teachers in the field typically focus on the implementing induction and mentoring programs. While induction program type and structure are school-specific, it has been demonstrated that induction programs are linked to teacher retention. Induction programs favorably influenced beginning teachers’ job satisfaction, commitment, and retention (Ingersoll, 2012). The National Education Association (NEA) reiterated the importance of induction and mentoring programs in supporting beginning teachers. The NEA recommended changes to strengthen the induction and mentoring process, such as mentoring by trained teacher mentors the first two years of teaching and training for principals on how to support beginning educators and mentors (NEA 4/14/2021). Considering ongoing teacher turnover and the “greening” of the teacher workforce overall, efforts to improve the induction and mentoring process may be well served by listening to the voices of first-year teachers.

The purpose of this case study is to explore how a Teacher Education Program (TEP) faculty-led first-year teacher support group served as a bridge between first year teachers’ transition from student to teacher. This chapter focuses on the research question: How does participating in a familiar, faculty-led mentoring group serve as a crucial component in first-year teachers’ induction?



Two bodies of literature informed this chapter. First, authors use existing teacher induction program research to position the study within the teacher induction literature. Second, authors reviewed studies investigating how teacher mentoring delivered by teacher preparation faculty shapes teacher retention and self-efficacy.

First year teachers find mentoring support and constructive feedback important to their persistence in the classroom, but they typically complete their responsibilities in isolation from their colleagues (Ingersoll, 2012). This isolation makes receiving robust feedback from their mentor a challenge. Additionally, Fry (2007) highlighted multiple isolating challenges experienced by first-year teachers, including dealing with long hours, limited or no opportunities to develop a relationship with their mentor, struggling to develop relationships with other colleagues, handling the challenges of curriculum responsibilities, and desiring more administrative interactions. Marshall et al. (2013) identified similar struggles when investigating special education teachers, acknowledging that many mentoring programs “do not include an emphasis on structured feedback and observation, or on specific training provided by a mentor” (p. 127). Despite these challenges, researchers have also identified benefits associated with first-year teacher induction programs.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teaching Phases: Progression of phases of which beginning teachers experience their first year.

Retention: Retaining a teacher in the education field for the next year and subsequent years.

Leveraging: Utilizing the university relationships and experiences to maximum advantage.

Trusting relationship: Relationships that embody sincerity, competence, and reliability.

Special Education: Educational services for students with eligible disabilities.

Mentoring: A professional relationship in which an experienced teacher supports, guides, or advises a beginning teacher.

Induction: Programs which are designed to offer support, guidance, and orientation for beginning teachers.

Teacher Education Program: The University structural organization which support teaching majors.

Transitioning Into Career: The transition from being a university student teacher to a teacher.

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