Sharing good practice: Gonski and effective induction processes
The Gonski report Through Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools proposes a ‘set of impactful and practical reforms that build on existing improvement efforts’. It notes that many school leaders and educators are already focusing on these areas and using evidence-informed strategies.
In this fortnightly series, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the Gonski recommendations and highlighting existing work happening in Australian schools illustrating what they might look like in practice. In part one we focused on school partnerships, here we explore effective induction practices for early career teachers.
High-quality induction programs are essential to giving teachers the best start to their career, and to promote retention and professional growth.
Recommendation 15: Create the conditions to enable teachers to engage in effective induction practices aligned with the nationally endorsed 'Graduate to Proficient: Australian guidelines for teacher induction' and monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the practices implemented by schools.
Supporting early career teachers
The Gonski report defines induction as a formal program and other support provided to assist early career teachers to learn and refine the elements of teaching practice that are best acquired while in the classroom.
‘Many struggle with the transition from the safety and security of being a pre-service teacher to becoming a fully-fledged classroom teacher. To support this transition, induction is an essential process,’ it reads.
The review panel note that the best induction programs include practice-focused mentoring, leadership contact, participation in collaborative networks, targeted professional learning, observation and reflection on teaching, practical information and time allocation. This would require both mentors and early career teachers to take time out from their regular obligations, so schools are encouraged to support these efforts.
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) has established evidence-based guidelines for teacher induction to support the transition from the Graduate to the Proficient Career Stage. The report says, despite this, surveys of early career teachers indicate that induction at Australian schools could be more consistent and more effectively meet the needs of beginning teachers. ‘Induction aligned to the AITSL Graduate to Proficient: Australian guidelines for teacher induction into the profession should be prescribed and monitored by school systems and schools as a mandatory component for early career teachers to ensure they are best placed to provide excellent teaching.’
Effective induction in a school setting
So, what does effective induction look like in practice?
In early 2017, Teacher spoke to Dean Angus, who at the time was Principal of Kadina Memorial School on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula. During the amalgamation of Kadina’s primary and high schools to form the R-12 school in 2012, a mentoring and induction program was introduced. It meant that everyone going into a new role was given a mentor – from new graduates who are just joining the school, to experienced practitioners.
In 2017, the school leader said: ‘… it’s all about sustainability, all about people coming into a site and understanding how this site works. The mentoring is not just about the bits and pieces of where the photocopier is, it’s also about how we teach you, how we plan, how we collaborate … there’s a whole range of things that we need to make sure, as a teacher coming in, they need to focus on.’
This term, Teacher caught up with Angus – who is no longer at the school but works as Education Director at the South Australian Department of Education – to hear more about the effectiveness of the program and the impact it has had on staff retention.
He says the overall goal of the program was to move new teachers from Graduate to Proficient as soon as possible. He acknowledges that both mentors and mentees need to take time out from their regular obligations to partake in induction activities, but the school supports these efforts wherever possible. ‘Certainly, if this wasn’t allocated as a resource it wouldn’t get done I don’t think. You can’t add it on, on top of everything else – it’s got to become part of their role and that was really important.’
At Kadina, early career teachers make use of their Graduate Relief Time (equivalent of a half day a week) and mentors are paid back in time. ‘They could use that time however they wanted basically. So they actually enjoyed it because it allowed them to work … or do whatever they needed to do and they controlled that time.’
Collaboration is also a clear focus of the program. Not only did the mentors and mentees collaborate with one another, but they also regularly met with others in the same position to discuss issues, problems and the things they’d learned.
Angus says this Gonski recommendation on effective inductions is absolutely critical.
‘We’re losing a lot of teachers in the first five years. It’s so critical. Once you’ve got a good one, you want to keep them and it’s about training them up. We want to keep them, that’s the main thing, and we want to give them the best possible shot.’
The Gonski review panel’s findings and recommendations on effective induction practices, and references to supporting research, can be found in Chapter Three (3.5 and 3.6) of the report. A copy of the full report is available to download by clicking on the link.
Australian Government Department of Education and Training (2018). Through Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools. Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra.