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date: 20 September 2020

School-Based Professional Development Programs for Beginning Teachers

Summary and Keywords

School-based professional development for beginning teachers must be seen as a dynamic identity and decision-making process. Teachers as lifelong learners from the beginning of their career should be able to engage in different forms of teacher education that enable them to progress their learning and development in ways that are relevant to their own individual needs and the needs of their schools and pupils. Teacher individual professional learning is necessary but not sufficient for sustainable change within groups in school and within school as an organization. It is helpful to consider three elements. First, note the importance to schools of recruiting and developing high-quality teachers. Teachers are among the most significant factors in children’s learning and the quality school education, and the questions why and how teachers matter and how teacher quality and quality teacher education should be perceived require serious considerations from academics, policymakers, and practitioners. Second, understand teacher education as career-long education, and problematize the issue of teachers and coherent professional development within schools, asking key questions including the following: “how do schools create effective opportunities for teachers to learn and develop?” Third, focus on the particular journey and the needs of beginning teachers because their early career learning and development will have an impact on retention of high-quality teachers. It is important that coherent lifelong professional education for teachers is planned and implemented at the level of education systems, individual schools, teaching teams, and individual teachers.

Keywords: beginning teacher, school-based professional development programs, high-quality teaching, lifelong learner, teacher education, teachers’, professional development, early career support, induction, learning to teach, integrated professional culture

Extensive research on teacher education across the globe shows that among a range of important topics in teacher education we can find the issues of new teacher preparation and their professional development. Drawing on a range of international research, the article generates insight into the issue of beginning teachers1 and their school-based professional development programs.

Throughout this article, I use Christopher Day’s definition of teacher professional development, which focuses on the teachers’ learning within their broader change purposes, and highlighting the complexities. Thus, teacher professional development

consists of all natural learning experiences and those conscious and planned activities which are intended to be of direct or indirect benefit to the individual, group or school, which contribute, through these, to the quality of education in the classroom. It is the process by which, alone and with others, teachers review, renew and extend their commitment as change agents to the moral purposes of teaching; and by which they acquire and develop critically the knowledge, skills and emotional intelligence essential to good professional thinking, planning and practice with children, young people and colleagues throughout each phase of their teaching lives.

(Day, 1999, p. 4)

In their new role as a teacher, beginning teachers need to fulfill a multitude of tasks, meet different challenges, and face up to new expectations (Day, 2017; Day & Gu, 2010; Fantili & McDougall, 2009; Jokinen, Heikkinen, & Morberg, 2012; Moore Johnson, 2004). Teachers in their first years of teaching have just started on a path of career-long support and professional growth.

In this article I argue that teachers as continuous learners from the beginning of their career should able to engage in different forms of teacher education that enable them to progress their learning and development in ways that are relevant to their own individual needs and those of their schools and pupils (see Goodall, Day, Lindsay, Muijs, & Harris, 2005). Teacher professional development has undergone tremendous change, including widespread recognition that (a) teachers as adults must be lifelong learners, (b) teaching and learning is not limited to classrooms or formal continuing professional development, (c) teachers and school leaders benefit from induction and mentoring, and (d) individual professional learning is necessary but not sufficient for sustainable change within groups and organizations.

Schools and High-Quality Teachers

Since the release of the original report, “Equality of Educational Opportunity” (the Coleman Report) (Coleman et al., 1966), the educational policy debate on the role of school in students’ achievements in the United States and elsewhere has shown a tendency to be reduced to a series of unsophisticated arguments and claims about teacher and teaching quality and the role of schools in “making a difference.” Analysis of contemporary studies provides us with the persuasive amount of empirical evidence that teachers and therefore schools are very important for student achievement, and the issue of whether or not there is significant variation in school quality has lingered, quite inappropriately, since the Coleman Report. Research led to the following conclusion:

school policy can be an important tool for raising the achievement of low-income students and that a succession of good teachers could, by our estimates, go a long way toward closing existing achievement gaps across income groups. At the very least, more must be known about the feasible means of providing such consistently high-quality teachers.

(Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kin, 2005, p. 449)

Research results show that student educational outcomes depend heavily on equitable education systems, and teachers are widely recognized as the most powerful determinants of student achievements (Barber & Mourshed, 2007; Darling-Hammond, 2000; Day, 2017). The McKinsey report (Barber & Mourshed, 2007) confirmed that “the quality of an educational system cannot exceed the quality of its teacher” (p. 43).

Currently, it is noticeable that many countries seek to improve their schools in order to satisfactorily respond to higher social and economic expectations. Teachers—as the most significant and costly resource in schools—are seen as a priority for public policy and they are likely to become even more so in the future. Improving the quality of schools mainly depends on teacher quality and teacher education with a focus on recruitment, preparation, induction, ongoing professional development, and collective improvement of practice (Darling-Hammond, 2017; Schleicher, 2011). However, teachers face unprecedented challenges in their role. These challenges put forward new requirements for teachers (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2011) and inspire us to innovate and keep reforming education and teacher education to adapt them to societal demands and needs (Madalińska-Michalak, 2018, p. 22).

The transformation of today’s teaching force requires the smart development of teachers as professionals. Regarding the contemporary challenges of transforming and improving educational outcomes that teachers and school leaders have to face up to, all teachers have to be equipped for effective learning in the 21st century. This requires a rethinking of many aspects, including, among others:

  • Developing teaching as a profession

  • Improving the societal view of teaching as a profession

  • Recruiting top candidates into the profession

  • Retaining and recognizing effective teachers; and

  • Providing a path for growth and supporting teachers in continuing professional development. (Schleicher, 2011)

In order to ensure high-quality education to high-quality teachers (it is hoped), the needs of teachers’ professional development must be integrated with both an individual teacher’s career and school and system change. The changing global context has created the need for the development of teachers who are able to learn, live, and work in a fast-changing and increasingly complex world. Therefore, there is a need to work on adequate teacher education that must go hand in hand with teachers’ continuous professional development, and to make teaching an attractive career choice.

Teacher Education: Overcoming Fragmentation

It is now widely agreed that teachers are among the most significant factors in a child’s learning and the quality of education at school. However, despite the growing consensus that teachers matter, there are many debates concentrated on the questions regarding why and how teachers matter, and at the same time on the issues related to teacher quality and quality teacher education.

It is assumed that quality teacher education is one of the key factors influencing the quality of teachers and their daily work. Teacher education “being understood as referring to career-long education rather than something that happens only in university at the initial teacher education phase” (Livingston, 2012, p. 29) is treated as a priority in a democratic society, where there is a drive to excellence in teaching and learning for all.

The rapid and varied changes in today’s societies have implications for the type of education at schools and teacher education needed. Teacher education in the increasingly complex world must be forward-looking and prepare teachers who are continuous learners themselves. Teacher education must facilitate teachers to think about the sort of education that is meaningful and relevant to young people’s needs in 21st-century learning environments. Changes to the way teachers support pupils’ learning means that teachers need to be supported in learning to “teach” throughout their career in different ways. This suggests the need for multilayered and interconnected approaches to teacher education with the definition of teacher education being understood as career-long education.

The need for greater coherence between the different aspects of teacher education and teacher professional learning has been the focus of discussion in debates about teacher quality and teacher professionalism over many years. The research findings indicate that teacher education can make a difference in quality teachers and quality teaching in schools, and at the same time teacher education needs to be seen as a continuum from initial teacher education through induction to continuing professional learning (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2015; Hudson, 2017; Livingston, 2012).

Overcoming fragmentation in teacher education, especially in teacher education policy in practice, requires addressing contemporary key issues and developments within the field of teacher education with a focus from the local to the global. There is growing recognition that the complex, diverse, and changing contexts in which teachers work means for them a need to revise, add to, and enhance their knowledge and skills continually throughout their careers and engage in different forms of professional development, according to their own and their pupils’ needs. However, for many teachers, their development paths remain disjointed, with no sense of teacher education as a progressive journey of professional learning throughout their professional career.

To achieve the ambitious aims from the vision of a continuum of teacher career-long professional learning that meets teachers’ individual learning needs and is balanced with school, local, national, and international needs, reconceptualization of both teacher education and the role of teacher educator is highly needed. The complexity of teachers’ diverse professional-learning needs requires collaborative approaches to teacher education that provide access to blended professional learning; different knowledge, skills, and expertise in practice and research; and a rich mix of teacher educators. This call for stronger partnerships helps to connect teachers with their peers in their own school and in other schools, and enables greater interaction and interdependence between different teacher education providers and stakeholders. Special attention should be paid to teacher education programs that need to draw on teachers’ own experience and seek to foster cross-disciplinary and collaborative approaches, so that education institutions and teachers regard it as part of their task to work in cooperation with relevant stakeholders such as colleagues, parents, and employers. The development of effective and sustainable collaborative approaches to teacher education requires shifts in systems, cultures, and practice and ongoing professional development for teachers and teacher educators (see Madalińska-Michalak, 2017, pp. 92–93).

Teachers and Their Professional Development: School Matters

Knowledgeable, skilled, and caring teachers represent our best hope for educating our children. Yet, while some teachers adapt very well to school as a place of work and flourish in their teaching, others fall by the wayside and resign from their work. Some education systems report the low share of young teachers paired with the retirement of older teachers and this situation could lead to severe teacher shortages (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2015, 2018). The situation is even more complex as the recruitment of highly qualified candidates is likely to be adversely affected by the diminished prestige of the profession.

Given the challenges that the teaching profession is currently facing, questions arise about teacher education and how much teachers are engaged in their own professional development and in what way their process of becoming teachers is shaped by themselves and the schools in which they work. How do schools create the opportunities to learn and develop for teachers? What and how do the teachers learn from professional development? What is speeding up and what is slowing down the course of the process of learning to teach?

Toward Combining Functional and Attitudinal

Given the fast-changing society and the new challenges that schools and teachers must face, teacher continuous professional development is increasingly a must. In the concluding chapter of Visible Learning, John Hattie (2009) provides a strong justification for the provision of an ongoing range of high-quality learning and development opportunities for teachers. Hattie formulates the signposts good and effective teaching. They highlight the complexities of teachers’ work and lives and indicate the reasons for teachers’ continuous learning and development. Hattie points out that teachers are among the most powerful influences on learning; therefore they need to be directive, influential, caring, and actively engaged in the passion of teaching and learning (Hattie, 2009, pp. 238–239). These signposts direct our attention to the school as not only a workplace for teachers but also a place of their learning and development. The research of Goodall et al. (2005) demonstrates that there are many reasons for the justification of school-based teacher professional development. Among the most significant are cost-effectiveness, acknowledged expertise within the school, and direct applicability (i.e., a focus on teaching and learning).

Research synthesis on teacher professional learning and development, presented by Helen Timperley (2008), showed three important bases underlying the key principles of teacher professional learning and development:

  1. 1. Teaching is a complex activity. Teachers’ moment-by-moment decisions about lesson content and process are shaped by multiple factors, not just the agendas of those looking for changes in practice. Such factors include teachers’ knowledge and their beliefs about what is important to teach, how students learn, and how to manage student behavior and meet external demands.

  2. 2. It is important to set up conditions that are responsive to the ways in which teachers learn. A recent overview of the research identified the following as central in encouraging learning: engaging learners’ prior conceptions about how the world works; developing deep factual and conceptual knowledge, organized into frameworks that facilitate retrieval and application; and promoting metacognitive and self-regulatory processes that help learners define goals and then monitor their progress toward them.

  3. 3. Professional learning is strongly shaped by the context in which the teacher practices. This is usually the classroom, which, in turn, is strongly influenced by the wider school culture and the community and society in which the school is situated. Teachers’ daily experiences in their practice context shape their understandings, and their understandings shape their experiences (Timperley, 2008, p. 6).

The study by Timperley on teachers’ work and the complexity of their professional learning and development shows that teacher learning and in consequence teacher change and development cannot be analyzed beyond its context. Learning should be viewed as a process of enculturation into the practice of wider society (Cobb, 1994). As situative theorists Putnam and Borko (2000) posit:

The physical and social contexts in which an activity takes place are an integral part of the activity, and . . . the activity is an integral part of the learning that takes place within it. How a person learns a particular set of knowledge and skills, and the situation in which a person learns, become a fundamental part of what is learned. (p. 4)

A wide range of research suggests that governments worldwide in their ongoing national reforms are placing persistent emphasis on functional aspects of teachers’ work in order to improve their performance in terms of productivity. Teachers who work in unstable policy environments that challenge their sense of professionalism, and especially their sense of autonomy, commitment, and positive professional identity, are likely to struggle to seek “a sense of coherence, worth and belonging” in their daily work at schools (Lumby & English, 2009, p. 95). This is particularly evident when we take into account the school as a workplace, and especially challenges provided by students, parents, and colleagues from the school and the quality of school leadership. As has been widely acknowledged, to teach one’s best requires addressing the needs of continuing professional learning development. Linda Evans argued that both functional and attitudinal teacher development should be combined. Evans (2008) said the following of attitudinal teacher development: since it reflects, to varying degrees, acceptance of and commitment to the change” (p. 33).

From the work of Michael Fielding (2012) and his typology of schools we learn that teacher development is likely to focus on both the functional and attitudinal needs of teachers only in such schools that are person- and task-centered learning communities. In one of the components of his typology, “schools as agents of democratic fellowship,” he extends the values and orientations of person-centered education to the domain of democratic praxis and argues for the notion of “democratic fellowship.”

Judith Sachs (2016, p. 421), focusing on the functional demands of the contexts in which teachers work and learn, and on teachers’ attitudinal development and professionalism, provided a useful planning framework for teachers She distinguished four types of teacher professionalism: collaborative, controlled, compliant, and activist professionalism. The framework enables teachers and school leaders to be explicit about what values underpin and inform the range of informal and formal professional learning development opportunities for teachers. It reflects the complexities of teachers’ work and lives, and calls for promoting the attitudinal development of teachers, which can be helpful in the production of new knowledge, promoting teachers as researchers, collective work toward ongoing school improvement, and transformative practices.

How schools combine the functional and the attitudinal in their planning and provision of professional learning development opportunities for teachers is likely—as Christopher Day rightly pointed out—to be a significant factor in sustaining teachers’ commitment to learning and effectiveness (Day, 2017, p. 109). Functional and attitudinal opportunities for learning and development in schools can be more effective when they are perceived by teachers as:

  1. 1. relevant to their intellectual, emotional and practical teaching needs and/or those of the school;

  2. 2. organized and led by those who understand and care how adult learners learn best;

  3. 3. integral to the dynamics of their school and departmental cultures;

  4. 4. timely;5. provided in forms and at times that are convenient;

  5. 6. enhancing their sense of well-being, self-efficacy and agency;

  6. 7. likely to contribute towards improvements in their thinking and practice and that of their pupils;

  7. 8. enhancing their positive sense of professional identity;

  8. 9. valuing their commitment;

  9. 10. building their capacities for commitment and resilience. (Day, 2017, p. 89)

Day’s study on teachers’ work and the complexity of their professional development acknowledges the associations between teachers’ motivations, well-being, identity and commitment, and willingness and capacities to teach to their best. Day stresses the key tensions between learning and development needs defined by teachers and their schools and those defined by the need to meet external demands, especially in the context of an accountability system that emphasizes measurable student performance. His understanding of planning for professional learning and development in schools can be useful for school leaders to

frame provision not only in their results of more formal means of needs identification (e.g. annual performance management reviews, classroom observations) but also in the results of the teacher as a person, a member of a professional community of teachers, a classroom practitioner and, under a system of distributed leadership, an active contributor to the dynamic of school cultures.

(Day, 2017, p. 91)

The Extent, Types of Forms, and Effectiveness

An Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report on teachers (Schleicher, 2011) shows that the extent of in-service teacher education varies greatly across and within countries. In some countries, ongoing professional development already plays an important role—for example, in the Chinese province of Shanghai, each teacher is expected to engage in 240 hours of professional development within five years. Singapore provides teachers with an entitlement of 100 hours of professional development per year to keep up with the rapid changes occurring in the world and to be able to improve their practice. Results from the first round of Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), implemented in 2007–2008, show that across countries almost 90% of teachers participated in some form of professional development over an 18-month period and, on average, spent just under one day per month in professional development (OECD, 2009). However, this TALIS study shows that there is considerable variation in the incidence and intensity of teacher participation in professional development both across and within countries. Regarding teacher age, we should notice that older teachers tend to engage in less professional development than younger ones.

Continuing professional development (CPD) for staff comes in a wide variety of forms, from the obvious, formal, accredited course to the more informal staffroom discussion. As with any vibrant process, trying to categorize CPD experiences is in some ways an arbitrary exercise. However, the effort is worth making: once the learning opportunities have been categorized in various ways it is easier to see not only how much CPD is actually taking place, and whether there are other kinds of CPD that might be more appropriate to perceived needs, but the extent to which CPD is the lifeblood of any school. Eleonora Villegas-Reimers provides a useful classification and description of professional development models that have been developed and implemented in different countries to promote and support teacher development from the beginning of their career until they retire. For clarity of presentation, the models were grouped into two sections. The first describes models that require and imply certain organizational and interinstitutional partnerships in order to be effective. The second group describe those models that “can be implemented on a smaller scale (a school, etc.)” (Villegas-Reimers, 2003, p. 69).

Organizational partnership models are connected with professional development that include the following:

  • Professional-development schools

  • Other university-school partnerships

  • Other inter-institutional collaboration

  • Schools’ network

  • Teachers’ network

  • Distance education. Villegas-Reimers, 2003, p. 70)

Within small group or individual models, one can distinguish the following types of professional development:

  • Supervision: traditional and clinical

  • Students’ performance assessment

  • Workshops, seminars, courses

  • Case-based study

  • Self-directed development

  • Co-operative or/and collegial development

  • Observation of excellent practice

  • Teachers’ participation in new roles

  • Skill-development model;

  • Reflective models

  • Project-based model

  • Portfolios

  • Action research

  • Use of teachers’ narratives

  • Generational or cascade model

  • Coaching/mentoring. (Villegas-Reimers, 2003, p. 70)

All of these types of professional development need to be utilized as part of the entitlement of every teacher over a career. Not all will be available all the time, but schools as organizations and teachers as individuals should be able to select the activity that best fulfills their learning purposes.

Effectiveness and Evaluating the Impact

The background report by Schleicher (2011), prepared for the International Summit on the Teaching Profession and discussing the four themes of the summit in turn, presents available evidence about what can make teacher-oriented reforms effective and highlights selected examples of reforms that have produced specific results, show promise, or illustrate imaginative ways of implementing change. The report focuses on four themes: (a) recruitment and initial preparation of teachers; (b) teacher development, support, careers, and employment conditions; (c) teacher evaluation and compensation; and (d) teacher engagement in education reform. The first three look at system features that shape aspects of teachers’ professional careers. Regarding the issue of teacher development, support surveys show large variations across and within countries in the extent of professional development. Not only the quantity but also the nature of teachers’ professional development is critical. It is often disjointed in one-off courses, while teachers in TALIS reported that effective development of teachers demands both more and different forms of professional development and appropriate career structure and career diversity.

The most effective development is through longer programs that upgrade their qualifications or involve collaborative research into improving teaching effectiveness (Schleicher, 2011, p. 8). Effective individual professional development sits alongside collective learning, with teachers exchanging ideas and collaborating to improve classroom practice; but this remains all too rare. Teacher professional activities (courses) should not be isolated events that are not joined up with changes in schools. TALIS also shows that more effective forms of development tend to be welcomed by teachers themselves, who are often willing to contribute to the cost of such education in money and time.

In any discussion on teachers’ professional learning and development, it is worth considering the issue of evaluating the impact of continuing professional development in schools against intended aims or outcomes and results. Goodall et al. (2005), on the basis of their research project in the UK, elaborated a number of useful suggestions related to associating the planning of CPD with its evaluation. Throughout their project, they have used Day’s (1999) definition of CPD (the one that was quoted at the beginning of this article) and Thomas Guskey’s model of the levels of evaluation as the frameworks for their investigation. Guskey (2000) suggests that evaluation of impact takes place at five different levels: (a) participant reaction; (b) participant learning; (c) organizational support and change; (d) participants’ use of new knowledge and skills; and (e) pupil learning outcomes. Goodall et al. (2005) indicated that any evaluation of CPD programs must take into account the indirect and direct impact on different stakeholders. At the same time, such an evaluation should focus on the effects of CPD, not only on knowledge and skills but also on commitment and moral purposes, thinking, and planning, as well as actions of teachers. In addition, it is important to recognize these effects in relation to teachers in different career phases, the contexts in which they work, and the different levels just mentioned against which the potential impact of CPD can be gauged.

Beginning Teachers and Their Professional Development at Their Schools

Many teachers in schools across the world enter their profession with a passion for teaching and a strong sense of vocation and commitment to provide the best service for their students (Day, 2004). Their work is underpinned mainly by their intrinsic motivation (Brookhart & Freeman, 1992; Drózka & Madalińska-Michalak, 2016; Moran, Kilpatrick, Abbott, Dallat, & McClune, 2001; Watt & Richardson, 2008), and—as John McBeath (2012) wrote—teachers come into the profession for

differing reasons in different country contexts, in differing economic circumstances and with varying expectations of the rewards and challenges of the role. Common to all, however, is a need for appreciation, autonomy and affiliation—the latitude and discretion to exercise professional judgment, together with recognition and endorsement for such initiative and a sense of belonging to a cadre of like-minded people whose interests and motivations you share. (p. 14)

Until recently, there was a common view and social expectation that a person should be fully qualified to teach upon receiving certification. The message that came from this kind of a perception was—as Robert V. Bullough (1989) rightly noticed—“extremely unfortunate and encourages abandonment of beginning teachers” (p. 15). Over recent decades, we can observe a growing understanding that competencies essential for teaching in fact take years to develop. It is simply not the case that upon receiving certification anyone is fully able to do all that is necessary to develop and implement a successful plan of instruction for their students.

The literature has provided consistent empirical evidence suggesting the importance of professional development for beginning teachers, which is based at the school as a workplace and built into the day-to-day work of teaching (Hawley & Valli, 1999). Teachers learn from their work and from themselves. Learning how to teach more effectively on the basis of school experience requires that such teachers’ learning be planned for and evaluated. Learning needs arise and should be met in real school contexts. Curriculum development, assessment, and decision-making processes are occasions for learning.

The principle of school-based professional development has been promoted for many years. Over 35 years ago, people were promoting school-based teachers’ professional development. It can mean little, especially when it is perceived as a simple transfer of passive course modes of professional development into the school on curriculum days. The challenge is connected with building opportunities for teachers to be actively engaged as professional learners in the context of their day-to-day work.

Christopher Day and Qing Gu (2010) offer insightful portraits of teachers that shed new light on traditional views of expertise as being built solely on age and experience. In their carefully documented book we can find the description of the professional developmental needs of beginning teachers. Support from school leadership and colleagues, in conjunction with good rapport with pupils and the provision of appropriate CPD, were perceived as critical to their developing both a sense of professional self in their interactions with their colleagues, pupils, and parents and a sense of belonging during their socialization into the school community and the profession. School-based continuing professional development was perceived as the most positive critical factor by new teachers in their cognitive and emotional management of the challenges they faced, and the decision to stay in teaching (Day & Gu, 2010, p. 69).

Central to understanding the programs for beginning teachers at schools is to combine teacher professional development and learning at schools with the reforms of teacher education. As mentioned earlier, teacher education should be perceived as a continuum from initial teacher education through induction to continuing professional learning. The phases of the initial and induction play a crucial role in teacher development.

Early Career Support and the Induction Period for New Teachers

In the process of becoming a professional every beginning teacher encounters different moments. There can be sparkling moments of success, but there can be moments of failure and disappointment. Susan Moore Johnson (2004) writes:

schools that support teachers over time succeed not only in hiring new teachers, but also in retaining and developing them. These schools are finders and keepers. They leave little to chance and do not assume that good teaching inevitably flows from innate talent, best nurtured in privacy and isolation. Rather, they purposefully engage new teachers in the culture and practices of the school, beginning with their first encounter. (pp. 255–256)

The complexities of beginning teachers’ work suggest a need for a more nuanced conceptualization by policymakers, system leaders, teacher education, principals, and teachers themselves. The European Union program for the improvement of the quality of teachers makes several recommendations (European Union, 2009). Following an informal meeting of education ministers in Gothenburg in September 2009 regarding professional improvements of teachers and school heads, the Council stated in November 2009:

In view of the increasing demands placed upon them and the growing complexity of their roles, teachers need access to effective personal and professional support throughout their careers, and particularly during the time they first enter the profession. . . . In particular, efforts should be made to ensure that all newly qualified teachers receive sufficient and effective support and guidance during the first few years of their careers. (European Union, 2009, C 302/8)

The ministers also invited the member states to “make appropriate provisions for all new teachers to participate in a programme of induction offering both professional and personal support during their first years in a teaching post” (p. 4).

In Europe every country is concerned about early career support (ECS) for newly qualified teachers, yet only a few countries have devised comprehensive induction programs so far (IBF International Consulting, 2013). ECS is indispensable for reducing the number of teachers who leave the profession. Some well-designed and comprehensive ECS programs are perceived as an enhancement of the teaching profession’s attractiveness and the best way to retain teachers. Such programs allow for newly qualified teachers to be supported during their first years in the complex reality of their profession.

Induction is generally seen as a support program for new entrants to the teaching profession. In some countries, induction is aimed at new teachers who have completed initial teacher education, have attained the relevant qualification (a degree), and have obtained the relevant license or authorization to teach. In other countries, induction is aimed at teachers who have the required qualification but do not yet have a license to teach. In these cases, teachers are regarded as “candidate” or “probationary” teachers or “trainees,” and for these teachers the induction phase may end with a formal assessment of their teaching skills and a decision about their entry into the profession.2 In other countries, an induction system is aimed at teachers who are not yet qualified and do not have a license to teach. In such cases the division between initial teacher education and induction becomes rather unclear (Scheerens, 2010, p. 157).

Given the recent trends of increasing attrition of young teachers, the development of induction programs is increasingly crucial. Effective early support of beginning teachers is considered an important factor to enhance the attractiveness of the teaching profession. “Mentoring of a trainer or an experienced teacher in organising a teaching sequence,” followed by “regular meetings with peers to exchange ideas about problems, solutions and pedagogic resources,” and finally “specialised lectures” were found to be the most helpful aspects of induction for new teachers (IBF International Consulting, 2013, p. 146).

Learning to Teach: Toward Integrated Professional Culture and Assisted Performance

It is well documented that school-based professional development of teachers is becoming a significant approach both for initial teacher education as well as for CPD of teachers. The comparative study on teacher education that centered on the opportunities to learn to teach (Conway, Murphy, Rath, & Hall, 2009) during initial teacher education, with a focus on the school–university relationship and parameters of engagement with pedagogy in teaching practice schools, showed that the concept of integrated professional-learning cultures in the professional preparation of teachers is central to understanding the review and reforms of teacher education. In the study, special attention was paid to teacher education at the system and school levels and its role in creating and sustaining integrated professional-learning cultures to support teacher education in the initial and induction phases of the continuum.

Regarding an integrated professional culture, learning to teach is seen as a task for all in the school. All teachers are encouraged to improve teaching and learning, to collaborate and share practice, and to continue to grow in their profession. The findings showed that opportunities to learn are influenced by the values held in this area by the chief stakeholders: the regulatory bodies for teacher education that lay down the minimum requirements in terms of pedagogical preparation and school-based experience, the university-based teacher educators, the cooperating schools, their principals and teachers, and, not least, the student teachers themselves.

One of the core conditions for learning to teach might be an assisted performance (Tharp & Gallimore, 1988). It situates the person learning to teach in a sea of relationships and cultural symbols that shape, and are shaped by, the learner. From this perspective, while learning to teach, student teachers draw not only on the knowledge, beliefs, and skills they have acquired but also on the cultural and historical legacy of previous generations of teachers—that is, the knowledge embedded in their respective society’s cultural tools and signs.

Assisted performance can come in many guises in teacher education. It can include co-planning and/or co-teaching with a mentor teacher or student teacher peer, and may also include various forms of observation, feedback, and support that can be broadly seen as forms of mentoring. The study findings also showed that the quality of learning for prospective and beginning teachers during the practicum is intrinsically connected to the type of learning culture that prevails in the school, as well as the partnership arrangements existing between the placement school and the university or teacher-training college. Schools that have an integrated professional culture offer the optimum conditions for learning to teach, but there can be considerable variation in the experience of students (Hobson et al., 2009; Moore Johnson, 2004) and this reflects the professional-learning culture of the individual schools as well as differences at the institution and system level.

The processes of building up the culture directed at achieving the desirable quality of teachers’ education show that any cultural change requires engagement and ownership by all levels of staff within teacher education institutions. When the student perspective is made central to the definition of quality, it makes sense to use front-line staff—teacher educators—to be the architects of a quality culture. Teacher educators have the most frequent contact with students. They engage on a personal level and obtain information that cannot be garnered from impersonal surveys about the quality. They have intimate knowledge of what is required to meet and exceed students’ expectations. Improving quality should be perceived as a way of teaching both prospective and practicing teachers.

Toward Beginning Teacher Quality: An Agenda for the Future

Teaching is complex and demanding, and it calls for a high degree of professionalism. We need teachers who develop continually in order to maintain and enhance the highest standards of teaching. At a time when expectations of teachers have never been higher or the challenges of teaching more daunting, there is a huge need to pay attention to the importance of the school site and to the crucial role that principals and experienced teachers play in the effective hiring and induction of the next generation of teachers. The choice to stay or leave is forged in the early months of becoming a teacher through hiring practices; pay and other resources; relationships with students, colleagues, or administrators; and opportunities for learning and leadership. Regarding both emerging trends in teacher demographics and changes in technology, society, and patterns of accountability, an effort is needed to help beginning and in-service teachers meet new challenges by developing and broadening their competencies.

This article helps us to understand the complexity of teacher education for beginning teachers and the contribution that teacher education can make to the quality and effectiveness of the education at schools. Teachers’ professional development must be seen as a dynamic identity and decision-making process rather than as a static set of models and as evolving and changing over time. New teachers are required to take control of complex and challenging situations and perform successfully. The new roles and responsibilities expected of teachers and the fact that everybody sees education as being increasingly vital direct our attention to effective continuing professional development throughout a teacher’s career. High-quality professional development can have a significant impact on teachers’ thinking and practice. The TALIS study indicates that continuing teacher professional development mostly still takes the form of one-off events rather than upgrading qualifications or collaborative research, which teachers report to, have the greatest impact. Countries in which a high percentage of teachers take part in “qualification programs” or “individual and collaborative research” tend to have a higher average number of days of development, but only a small minority of teachers tend to participate in these activities. However, schools and systems need to better match the costs and benefits of, and supply and demand for, professional development. Results from TALIS show that, across countries, relatively few teachers participate in the kinds of professional development that they believe have the largest impact on their work, namely, qualification programs and individual and collaborative research, even if those who do commit considerable time and money to these courses consider them effective. At the same time, the types of activities that teachers consider less effective, namely, one-off education conferences, workshops, and seminars, show comparatively high participation rates.

The existing teaching force can be supported through flexible approaches to career development and employment conditions. Teachers in different career phases have their own generic needs that have to be addressed with regard to teachers’ specific context and curricula. One of the challenges faced in relation to teachers’ professional development in schools is the fact that it should serve the needs of a number of stakeholders and help teachers to decide what to do, how to do it, and why teachers wish to do it in the contexts in which they work. Differentiating these needs is a rather complex task, but it is one that must be undertaken by everyone involved in any promotion of and planning for teacher learning and development.

Induction programs that support beginning teachers and strategies for mentoring are not only conducive to the well-being of teachers during their first years in post but also an integral part of ongoing professional development. Well-designed induction programs, through which teachers can develop their knowledge, understanding, and skills so that they are appropriately placed to raise standards for students’ achievement, are essential to beginning teachers’ initial professional development. Such programs should be about more than only learning practical teaching skills: they should be about focusing on learning to reflect on educational purposes, on how to structure and influence the work environment either at a school level or a national level.

School-based professional development consists of a number of methodologies in which teachers take active roles in professional development, such as those related to mentoring and coaching (mentors), critical friendship in action research or in school self-evaluation (critical friends), and facilitation in action research (facilitator) in order to strengthen teachers’ professionalism and professional development. If continuous professional development for beginning teachers is to be used effectively in a school, it must be integrated into all of the appropriate parts of school life, policy, and planning. It must be seen as a continuing part of that life, as an essential part of an ongoing cycle of learning that contributes to the continuing growth of the school as a learning community.

For the future good of the teaching profession, all involved in creating the conditions for quality education and quality teachers, especially employers, system leaders, teacher educators, principals, and teachers themselves, should bear responsibility for the professional growth of beginning teachers. What is required by all concerned with recruiting the best candidates to the teaching profession and employing and creating the conditions for professional development is a better understanding of the factors influencing new teachers’ development and their learning in school as the workplace. Research agendas for the future might, for example, involve a movement away from discipline-limited atomistic empirical approaches. Understanding how some teachers in some schools manage to build and sustain quality programs for developing beginning teachers’ professionalism and professional identity is a key issue for teachers and all those with responsibilities for the quality of in-service teacher education.

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Notes:

(1.) It is important to note here that in some of the literature the terms “beginning teacher,” “beginner teacher,” and “new teacher” are used synonymously with “early career teacher,” “novice teacher,” or newly qualified teacher (NQT) (i.e., teachers entering their first year of teaching after undertaking a program of initial teacher preparation). In using the term “beginning teacher” in this article, the attention is paid to those teachers who are in the first five years of their teaching careers. The terms “recently qualified teacher” and “early professional development” (EPD) apply to the “beginning teachers” between their second and fifth years in post.

(2.) Among 26 countries with comparable data in the OECD’s Education at a Glance, 16 countries have a mandatory probation period for teachers. This period usually lasts for one year, but in some countries (Greece, Luxembourg) it lasts for two years, and in Germany it can even be extended to three years. In seven OECD countries, teachers receive job tenure after completing their probationary period. In some countries, such as Austria, six years are necessary to achieve job tenure, whereas there is only a one-month probation period. In some countries a period of time is necessary to hold the tenure, even if there is no probation period.