- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 1660794
- First Name Lara
- Last Name Smetana
- Discipline Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics
Krishna Millsapp, Loyola University Chicago
Research shows that the attrition rates of new teachers are especially high in the first few years of teaching (Ingersoll, 2012; Loewus, 2021), revealing a need for effective mentoring programs. Effective mentoring during novice teachers’ induction period may impact their pedagogy and confidence, ultimately improving the odds of retention (Akiri & Dori, 2022). Novice teachers need support as they transition from the structured nature of student teaching to the more independent work that comes with assuming all responsibilities of a full-time teacher. Mentoring has been embraced as a strategy that can support this transition and positively impact teacher retention (Feiman-Nemser & Carver, 2012). Mentoring is defined as “personal guidance provided to beginning teachers in schools” (Ingersoll & Strong 2011, p.203). The LUC Noyce Scholars program was designed to address the immediate needs of scholars, which were identified through surveys and feedback. Programming for the semester was designed based on the needs identified. Programming was adjusted based on themes that emerged from individual and group (community) mentoring. Additionally, by studying and reporting on our efforts, we are contributing to the growing and needed bodies of literature around STEM teacher induction and mentoring practices (Linton & Grant, 2020).
Inquiries that guide our work include:•What are the most pressing needs of LUC-Noyce Scholars during their induction period?•How can the LUC-Noyce Scholars Mentoring Program be responsive to the expressed needs of novice science and math teachers? How can we continually improve our programming?•In what ways has the LUC-Noyce Scholars Mentoring Program impacted teacher confidence and retention in the field?
Approximately halfway through our 5-year grant, the LUC Noyce Scholars program recognized the need for mentoring to supplement the strong initial teacher preparation the program provided scholars. Thus, we developed a mentoring program that would provide support to our scholars as they completed their preparation program, moved into full-time jobs, and navigated the demands of the first years of full-time teaching, which were further exacerbated by the pandemic. There is an awareness that a mentoring program could not eradicate all the challenges that teachers’ induction periods, and the pandemic, presented (Feiman-Nemser & Carver, 2017). But, by offering programming that would address teachers’ personal, professional, and social needs, we felt a mentoring program had the potential to help reduce some of the tensions that existed for our scholars.
As we reflect upon the two years of mentoring and programming offered, we are pleased with the outcomes. In our evaluation report, it was noted that “all scholars found the mentoring program to be beneficial and they valued the community building and goal setting”. One scholar indicated that the mentoring process and programming “caused them to be a more reflective teacher”. Both statements are reflective of our goals for the program, to provide a community setting for mentoring, peer feedback, and individual and group knowledge construction, and to encourage scholars to be more reflective in their practices. Next year we will continue the mentoring program making changes based on various sources of feedback. As I have been involved with the program from its inception, I will be conducting a self-study based on the LUC Mentoring Program for my dissertation. It is my hope that my work will contribute to the growing scholarly work around mentoring pre-service and novice science and math teachers, especially delving into how the pandemic affected programming and how I had to adjust my approach as a mentor.
The broader impact addressed by the mentoring program is to retain Loyola Noyce Scholars in Chicago high-need schools following graduation through rigorous preparation combined with access to high-quality resources and support through induction. We would also like to begin integrating programming to provide experiences and resources for working with culturally and linguistically diverse students in math and science classrooms. Our next steps will be to reevaluate our programming and use end-of-year feedback from scholars to adjust. We are also looking to incorporate more PD and readings aligned to the broader impact statement above. We believe that this study can influence STEM teacher education programs to provide induction programming, in conjunction with mentoring offered within their district, to help novice teachers navigate the challenges that exist in classrooms and set personal boundaries, which will lead to increased retention.