Training Teachers

One interesting idea that I’ve heard recently is that education training should move towards the medical model. Just as they have ‘teaching hospitals’, we might think about designating particular schools as being those where most teachers do their practicums (and maybe even spend their first 1-2 years in the teaching workforce).

Now Jonah Rockoff has some evidence on the efficacy of mentoring programs, which would be a key element in such a strategy.

Does Mentoring Reduce Turnover and Improve Skills of New Employees? Evidence from Teachers in New York City
Jonah E. Rockoff
Mentoring has become an extremely popular policy for improving the retention and performance of new teachers, but we know little about its effects on teacher and student outcomes. I study the impact of mentoring in New York City, which adopted a nationally recognized mentoring program in 2004. I use detailed program data to examine the relationship between teacher and student outcomes and measures of mentoring quality, such as hours of mentoring received and the characteristics of mentors. Although assignment of teachers to mentors was non-random, I use instrumental variables and school fixed effects to address potential sources of bias. I find strong relationships between measures of mentoring quality and teachers’ claims regarding the impact of mentors on their success in the classroom, but weaker evidence of effects on teacher absences, retention, and student achievement. The most consistent finding is that retention within a particular school is higher when a mentor has previous experience working in that school, suggesting that an important part of mentoring may be the provision of school specific knowledge. I also find evidence that student achievement in both reading and math were higher among teachers that received more hours of mentoring, supporting the notion that time spent working with a mentor does improve teaching skills.

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10 Responses to Training Teachers

  1. It might be a nice idea in theory, but most schools resist taking prac teachers. The people in Education Faculties who have to find enough schools for placements are often unable to do so without enormous hassles. A lot of teachers feel they’re overworked enough anyway without prac supervision thrown in.

  2. Andrew Leigh says:

    Mark, that’s precisely the point. Because most schools resist, the current mentoring system doesn’t work very well. Setting up ‘teaching schools’ would be a solution. I certainly know some principals that would be happy to run such schools.

  3. ChrisPer says:

    One very significant work IMHO regarding the effects of mentoring is in the work of Kelley and Caplan on improving the performance of knowledge-based workers. In the second edition of the resulting book, Kelley states that teaching the work strategies they had identified REPLACES mentoring. It seems they systematised teaching the strategies that mentors teach their proteges.

    The measurement of benefits was carried out against control groups, and ioutcomes are the opposite to most training courses – benefits ROSE over time, measured after 12 months and were particularly marked for female and minority participants as against the female and minority control group.

    Kelley, R. and Caplan, J. (1993), How Bell Labs Creates Star Performers. Harvard Business Review, Vol 71, (4).

    The problem with mentoring is that the outstanding results occur via a spontaneous mentoring relationship, self-selected participants that do really well and skew the results for half-hearted efforts that achieve relatively little. As VP Education in Toastmasters I saw a lot of TALK of mentoring, but only when people connect with genuine effort on both sides put into the relationship did the mentoring produce – but then the results were very good indeed.

  4. Patrick says:

    The most consistent finding is that retention within a particular school is higher when a mentor has previous experience working in that school, suggesting that an important part of mentoring may be the provision of school specific knowledge.

    This is certainly the case in the professional services world.

    I certainly know some principals that would be happy to run such schools.

    I also know at least a couple. I would think that there would be a very large number of them across Australia.

  5. Having served on a public high school board I think that with proper funding it would work. It would have the added advantage of providing a more varied career structure for teachers. At teh moment if you go from (sec or primary) teaching to academia you never (primary or sec) teach again. For all it’s faults the medical system has even well known Profs still do basic surgery or medicine regularly as part of a team.

  6. Jennifer says:

    My local school (http://www.northsydneydem.com.au/menu/1-about.htm) sounds to me a little like the ideal school you are talking about. It doesn’t take the post university teacher, but participates a lot in organising prac teaching.

    I have to say that as a prospective parent, I was put off by the website, which seemed to spend more time describing the school from the perspective of the trainee teacher than the parent.

    Given that you are also in favour of freedom of choice of schools for parents, I’d be sceptical about whether such a school would attract pupils.

  7. Well, good luck to you, Andrew, but you’d need quite a few schools to accommodate say 400 or 500 students a year in each capital city.

  8. Andrew Leigh says:

    Jennifer, I think that’s a really important point. But in the case of hospitals, patients often prefer to go to a teaching hospital (I think because the upside of resources and backup outweighs the downside of student doctors). Perhaps we could engender the same thing with ‘teaching schools’ (I need a better name for this!).

  9. Cathy says:

    Andrew, I lived in Japan for several years and I believe that this is precisely how teachers are trained there. Many university faculties of education have an attached primary or high school. In the city where I lived, the university school took students from four of the surrounding school zones. Places at the school were allocated by lottery at the beginning of Kindergarten as there were always multiple applicants for each place.

  10. Andrew Leigh says:

    Cathy – that’s really interesting, thanks.

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