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Induction and Mentoring

New physics teachers often experience isolation and a lack of support-especially if they are the only physics teacher in their school. University-based mentoring and induction programs can provide critical support during for new physics teachers during the first few years in the classroom, when they are most likely to leave the profession.

Induction and Mentoring Strategies

Ensure that all beginning teachers have a mentor who is an experienced physics teacher. Many of the challenges of physics teaching are unique to the discipline, and can only be addressed by someone experienced in the area. Subject-specific mentoring is critical in new teachers' success in the classroom.

A Teacher-in-Residence often makes the best mentor. Teachers-in-Residence have the advantage of being familiar with a new teacher's university environment, and in many cases of having already formed a relationship with the teacher.

Develop a professional learning community. Most physics teachers are the only ones in their school. A professional learning community reduces their isolation and increases the probability they will remain in the profession. A university is a natural setting around which the community can grow, and meetings can be coupled with professional development opportunities.

Invite your preservice and beginning teachers to professional association meetings. American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) meetings connect beginning teachers with a vast network of colleagues and a wealth of opportunities for professional growth. If national meetings are unaffordable, state or regional meetings are an option.

Sponsor student chapters of NSTA or other teacher support organizations. Student organizations help pre-service and beginning teachers begin to form networks and share resources. The earlier teachers begin forming networks, the better.

Form a Teacher Advisory Group. Many PhysTEC sites have recruited local physics teachers to form Teacher Advisory Groups (TAGs), which meet on campus and advise PhysTEC faculty on effective practices. TAGs can also provide a way for preservice teachers to being plugging into a local network of practicing teachers.

Use email, phone, and video conferencing to stay in touch with distant mentees. Many graduates of teacher preparation programs find jobs that are hours away from where they graduated, making face-to-face mentoring difficult. Modern communication technology makes effective distance mentoring possible.

AAPT has developed an e-mentoring program at

Make mentoring a major component of your Learning Assistant program. Mentoring is one of the ways you can enhance your Learning Assistants' experience beyond that of a conventional TA.

Use formative assessment as a mentoring tool. The Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) and other observation instruments can provide a basis for discussions about teaching methods. Conceptual assessments like the Force Concept Inventory can serve to highlight persistent student difficulties that teachers are not addressing. Mentors who use formative assessments must be sure to emphasize that the purpose of the assessment is to help the teacher improve his or her craft, and not simply to "grade" the teacher's performance. See also Assessment.

Your Teacher-in-Residence can mentor his or her replacement. This is an important way to give back to a school or district that has agreed to release an experienced teacher, who is usually replaced by someone with less experience (perhaps a recent graduate from your program).

Your more experienced graduates can become mentors for new graduates. This has the advantage that these teachers will be familiar with your program and expectations of new graduates.

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