Exploratorium Teacher Induction Program: Results and Retention
Sara C. Heredia
Exploratorium Teacher Institute
Teacher retention is a particularly important problem facing United States schools. Research suggests that only 50–60% of all teachers stay in the classroom for more than five years (Ingersoll, 2003). As a result, schools and districts have invested in induction programs designed to support teachers in their first three years of teaching. However, these induction programs vary greatly and with that variation comes mixed success (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011).
The Teacher Institute (TI) is a professional development program at the Exploratorium, an inquiry-rich public learning laboratory in San Francisco that explores the world through science, art, and human perception. TI created the Teacher Induction Program (TIP) in 1998 in response to local science teachers’ request for greater support for new teachers in the Bay Area. TI recognized that, in addition to the science content and inquiry activity support it provided experienced teachers, novice teachers needed access to veteran teachers who were still in the classroom and could provide ground-level support on basic teaching tasks such as classroom management and lesson planning. TI believed that it was critical for this support to come from someone teaching the same subject and drew from its pool of participants to create the Teacher Leadership Program to provide novices with science-specific mentoring and coaching. In this way, novice teachers were immediately embedded in a professional community of new and experienced teachers who all utilized the Exploratorium as their professional home. TIP provides roughly 200 hours of professional development over two years of support. Professional development includes science content and pedagogy workshops; individual coaching sessions; group meetings led by mentor science teachers; and an intensive, three-week summer institute.
This research brief describes results from a survey of TIP graduates. The survey asked about current professional status and teaching history, and included 24 questions about how often graduates felt they received support in the five critical areas identified in a recent review of the literature on beginning science teachers (Davis, Petish, & Smithey, 2006). These critical areas include: 1) an understanding of science content and the discipline of science, 2) how students learn science, 3) science instruction, 4) organizing learning environments, and 5) participation in teaching as a professional activity. A total of 143 graduates responded to the survey, representing 32% of all TIP graduates.
The majority of TIP graduates (73%) are still currently teaching in K–12 classrooms. The other TIP graduates work at the district or school administrative level (11%), in higher education (6%), and in informal education (2%). Three percent of respondents are not in any kind of educational position, and 5% are currently on family leave or unemployed. Of the TIP participants that graduated from the program before 2010, 91% taught for at least five years in a formal K–12 setting.
TIP graduates reported that 81% have taken on leadership roles in their schools, 73% have mentored other teachers, and 61% have provided professional development for their colleagues.
Participants reported that they felt most supported in developing an understanding of science content and the nature of science, as well as in their ability to develop as a science teacher professional. They stated that they received less support in more general educational practices, such as assessment or classroom management. However, when asked about more science-specific teaching practices, such as organizing classroom for inquiry instruction, they reported greater levels of support.
Results from this survey suggest that the science-specific support provided to teachers is important to their retention in K–12 classrooms. A handful of respondents stated that they received the more general support from other programs at their school or district. These statements reflect some of the research on induction programs that argue that the more comprehensive programs have a stronger effect on teacher retention (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011).
TThese results have implications for TIP in two general areas that will require more research to understand the specific role that TIP played for graduates in their overall induction experience in the Bay Area. First, this research will support TI in better understanding how to provide the unique support Bay Area science teachers need and to fill in the gaps that district induction programs may not have the capacity to address. Second, this research will aid in the development of partnerships with other district and school induction initiatives to better support new science teachers and enhance teacher retention in the Bay Area.
Davis, E. A., Petish, D., & Smithey, J. 2006. "Challenges New Science Teachers Face." Review of Educational Research, 76(4), 607–651.
Ingersoll, R. M. (2001). "Is there really a teacher shortage?" CPRE Research Report #R-03-4. Philadelphia: Consortium for Policy Research in Education, University of Pennsylvania.
Ingersoll, R. M. & Strong, M. 2011. "The Impact of Induction and Mentoring Programs for Beginning Teachers: A Critical Review of the Research." Review of Educational Research, vol. 81, doi:10.3102/0034654311403323
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