Using Digital Technologies to Remotely Observe and Mentor Teachers: Lessons From the Field and Policy Implications

Using Digital Technologies to Remotely Observe and Mentor Teachers: Lessons From the Field and Policy Implications

Tori Hollas, Mae Lane, Jaime Coyne, Christina Ellis
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8193-3.ch004
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Using digital technologies to remotely observe and mentor teachers is a relatively new practice. Thus, many states, schools, and districts do not have policies in place that explicitly allow this practice, and, in some instances, policies are in place that explicitly prohibit the use of these technologies. This chapter provides an analysis of the traditional approach to mentorship, support, and feedback, and highlights new challenges with in-person mentorship, support, and feedback amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As with many aspects of current newly adapted world, the teaching profession has become increasingly reliant on using digital technologies to remotely observe and mentor teachers. The chapter provides a literature review of best practices in observation, mentorship, and feedback. It also shows that limited data are available to facilitate the use of digital technologies and provide novice and in-service teacher support in order to allow for a positive novice teacher induction experience.
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Mentorship, support, and feedback are critical to the success and career longevity of novice teachers. Quality mentoring and ongoing support of novice teachers directly impacts how long they remain in the teaching field (Gray and Taie, 2015).

Providing feedback to novice teachers, while also providing trusted support, increases the likelihood they will choose to remain in the profession. Many challenges exist that prevent this kind of quality mentoring of novice teachers; one of the primary challenges is time, including time for mentors to observe and provide feedback, time for novice teachers to observe experienced teachers, and time to collaborate.

During the 2020-2021 academic year, the Covid-19 pandemic presented a number of challenges to mentors having a physical presence in classrooms. Thankfully, digital technologies made remote observation and mentorship possible, and it proved to be beneficial for several reasons. Mentors were able to complete more observations and to observe their mentees more frequently than they could have in person. We will describe some important guidelines which help in the successful implementation of remote observations.

In addition to more frequent observations by their mentors, remote observation technologies allowed for enhanced professional growth. Novice teachers were able to record themselves, giving them an opportunity to watch themselves teach and to reflect on their practice on a regular basis. As we show later in the chapter, our preliminary data reveal those who recorded themselves more often earned higher evaluation scores.

Some districts have been hesitant to use digital technologies because of concerns about compliance issues and student privacy. We provide solutions and recommendations to address those concerns.

In short, this chapter will:

  • 1.

    Provide background regarding novice teacher induction, including the traditional approach to mentoring, feedback, and support

  • 2.

    Define traditional methods for mentorship and support of novice teachers

  • 3.

    Identify barriers to in-person mentorship

  • 4.

    Describe best practices for remote observation

  • 5.

    Provide evidence to support a digital approach to novice teacher induction

  • 6.

    Offer solutions and recommendations for compliance concerns



At a time when there is already a teacher shortage, an astonishing 40-50% of teachers leave the profession within 5 years (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011; McDonald, et al., 2010) costing the U.S. school system an estimated 2.2 billion dollars (Haynes, 2014) with higher turnover being in high-poverty schools (Simon & Johnson, 2015).

There are many factors that contribute to teacher attrition including low self-efficacy. Bandura (1977) introduced the term self-efficacy as a belief in one’s abilities to accomplish a goal or task. Many researchers have examined how self-efficacy affects teacher performance in the classroom (Richter, et al., 2013; Perera & John, 2020). It has been suggested that novice teachers start their teaching careers with moderate to high self-efficacy in teaching but experience a rapid decrease during their first year in the classroom (Feng et al., 2019). Contributing factors affecting novice teachers’ self-efficacy include school culture, administrative support, limited opportunities for professional development, instructional support, and emotional support (Zee & Koomen, 2016; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2007). Those who experience low self-efficacy are prime candidates for job burnout and attrition (Kim & Buric, 2019). On the flip side, teachers that possess high self-efficacy have been shown to have higher levels of work satisfaction and higher student achievement (Perera & John, 2020).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mastery Experiences: Through mastery experiences, individuals accomplish a goal or successfully complete a task.

Physiology or Emotional Experience: A physiology or emotional experiences is the sense of accomplishment one feels after successfully accomplishing a task leading to an increase in self-efficacy.

Verbal Persuasion: Verbal persuasion is associated with mentoring, feedback, and providing encouragement to help individuals achieve their goals. It is important that individuals have a trusting connection with the person providing the verbal persuasion (Clark & Newberry, 2019).

Induction: The process of introducing a teacher to the profession.

Vicarious Experiences: For individuals, it is important to see others effectively model a task or achieve a goal.

Self-Efficacy: One’s personal belief in their ability to succeed.

Novice Teacher: A teacher in the early years (0-3) of their career.

Full Release Mentor: An employee of the Educator Preparation Program assigned to mentor a novice teacher.

Site-Based Mentor: An employee of the district/school assigned by the district/school to mentor a novice teacher.

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