Understanding the Contextual Factors Within Teacher Induction and Mentoring Programs An International Systematic Review of Research
Beginning teachers are situated in a dynamic instructional landscape that both influences their development and practice, and dictates an expectation to prepare students to enter increasingly demanding further education and work destinations. Accordingly, teachers need to be able to respond to local, state, and national policies within widely different contextual milieu as they seek to achieve excellence in their practice. Consequently, the rationale for this systematic review originated from the desire to explore the challenges of implementing induction programs in widely different contexts, and identify how successful induction programs responded to these contextual challenges.
The aims of this systematic review were as follows:
- To create an international geographic mapping of empirical research detailing the varied and diverse contextual challenges faced by beginning teachers
- To create a representation of the formal programmatic responses of support provided to beginning teachers
- To synthesize the known evidence for the effects of the roles of mentors or induction programs for beginning teachers on their professional practice, with attention to attrition and retention rates
- To inform policy makers and educational leaders on the role of school administrators in supporting beginning teachers
The review questions were as follows:
- Which nations and regions are represented in research literature that details formal or programmatic support of beginning teachers in their first five years of teaching?
- What international research evidence is there to describe various contextual factors that affect experiences of beginning teachers?
- How do teacher induction and mentorship programs respond to the various contextual factors affecting beginning teachers? and,
- What is the role of school administration in supporting beginning teachers?
This systematic review was undertaken using the EPPI-Reviewer software (EPPI Centre, Institute of Education, London) to analyze and interrogate reports. Our research group initially defined the terms of reference, and identified the critical focus of the review based upon the research questions. The search strategy for the review involved rigorous electronic and hand searching of key electronic databases and relevant journals, for which titles and abstracts were screened for relevance to the research questions, as defined by our inclusion criteria. Databases searched included ERIC, Academic Search Complete, ProQuest, and Education Source. Citations uncovered by the search strategies were stored on appropriate document referencing software, and titles and abstracts were screened against the criteria. Full texts of those that appeared to meet the inclusion criteria were obtained for further screening. All items that satisfied the final stage of screening were then key-worded and included in the systematic map.
Our initial electronic database searches revealed 16479 sources, and hand searching the journals uncovered further 24 entries for potential inclusion. Duplications of electronic searches were removed which reduced the total number of entries to 6538. Our second step was to screen titles and abstracts of the citations found by electronic means against the following inclusion criteria; to have been published between 2004-2014, to have relevance to the research questions, to include empirical data, were set in early years, primary, secondary or compulsory education (K-12), and the study to be in English. A total of 4768 were excluded: 1696 for not being focussed on the study context; 2775 not focussed on our research questions, 315 were not empirical research; 44 not in English; and, 29 for being outside our date parameter. Following further exclusions of reports that proved to be unobtainable (N=11), the full texts of 734 studies were further screened against the inclusion criteria.
Our third step was to undertake full article screening of the 734 articles in our sample. The research group applied the same exclusion criteria as the first screening, this time to the full-text articles that were not excluded from the first screening (n=734). Of these, 113 were selected for inclusion in our systematic map. For the full in-depth review, only those studies key-worded as focusing on social, cultural, political, and organizational contexts, with a population focus of compulsory education in the K-12 sector (students aged four to twelve), and featuring new and beginning teacher induction and mentorship programs, were included. The geographic location of the included studies contexts was also noted.
The geographic representation of the articles featured in our review was taken from the location of the studies were conducted.
- The largest number of studies being conducted in the Unites States, a total of 64 out of 113 articles.
- Articles were also found in the United Kingdom (15), Canada (12), Europe (8), Australia and New Zealand (6), the Middle East (6), combined nations (more than one nation examined in one study) (2), and the Far East (1).
- In addition to highlighting the geographic regions we also identified the locales within the regions where studies were conducted, these will be included in our presentation.
In total, six significant overarching themes emerged from the studies examined in our review: social, political, cultural, personal/individual, organizational, and administrative contextual factors. From each of these six overarching themes, a number of sub-categories were established.
- Social contextual factors included the interpersonal interactions, social institutions, and people’s behaviour and relations within broader society, communities of people, or other social structures. From the total of 113 articles examined, 42 sources contributed in various degrees to this theme.
- Political contextual factors consisted of an aggregate of policymaking aspects in various civil, national, and public environments that were relevant to action. This broad definition included such organizing aspects as structure, order, and behaviour at the government and local levels, the power distribution of power, the range and interests of involved organizations, and the formal and informal rules that govern the interactions among different stakeholders. From the total of 113 articles examined, over 50 sources contributed in various degrees to these themes.
- Cultural contextual factors was defined in a broader sense as referring to the eclectic environment wherein humans learn to organize their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors based on shared norms, beliefs, values, customs, and traditions that are common to a group of people. Culture is a way of life that is defined by race, gender, ethnicity, age, and other broad geographical and demographical contributing factors. Cultural contexts can also be constrained to institutional and organizational frameworks within which individuals’ social interactions occur. From the total of 113 articles examined, 65 sources contributed in various degrees to this theme.
- Personal and individual contextual factors were defined as referring to the set of current factors that matters and was unique to an individual based on his/her circumstances, interests, characteristics, and experiences. Three overarching themes were seen within personal and individual aspects of induction and mentoring programs, sense of personal efficacy (for beginning teacher), background prior to teaching, and personal initiative. From the total of 113 articles examined, 65 sources contributed in various degrees to this theme.
- Organizational contextual factors were defined as the dimensions represented in and shaped by the structure, size, functions, and nature of organization within which a group of people works together to achieve specific goals. Organizational context was also an “operating environment” determined by the internal characteristics of the organization and external orientations of the organization. In total, 102 sources contributed to the topic of organizational contextual factors.
- Administrative contextual factors category comprised of the sub-categories of: (a) duties and responsibilities for beginning teacher support; (b) types and formats of support; (c) impact and outcomes of school administrators’ involvement; and, (d) leadership and commitment. Over 40 sources contributed in varying degrees to this theme.
- We found many common factors involved in the successful induction of beginning teachers that are of interest and applicability to policy makers internationally. For example, interpersonal interactions, social institutions, and people’s behaviour and relations within broader society, communities of people, or other social structures.
To summarize and present a visualization of our systematic reviews findings and implications, we adapted Bronfenbrenner’s (1994) ecological systems theory to create a heuristic visualization of the complex and multi layered contextual factors that influence and impact upon mentorship and induction programing for beginning teachers. When employed in this framework, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory directs attention toward the interaction between the personal/individual, the social, political, and cultural, and the organizational contextual and environmental variances and nuances, and the potential sources of influence and impact upon induction and mentorship programing.
- Application of this heuristic allows for the planning, analysis, and evaluation of the entire policy cycle of formal programs of support for beginning teachers.
- In terms of practice, this heuristic is helpful for situating and assessing the existing or planned programs.
- The heuristic it may offer an assistive lens to principals and other administrators by identifying the areas where novice teachers’ needs are being or not being met by the programs.
- The heuristic may also provide school leaders with better understanding of the source and type of challenges faced by a beginning teacher.
- This review warrants continuing research into the multifaceted nature of organizational factors that that shape the roles, responsibilities of stakeholders’ participation in induction and mentoring programs.
The Strengths of the Systematic Review
Our systematic review highlighted a significant number of research studies that have been carried out on the effects of mentorship and induction on beginning and new teachers learning, performance, attrition, and retention. The results indicated that there are some commonalities involved in the successful induction and mentorship of beginning teachers in spite of their geographic variance. Our search identified relevant research published in English, whether or not it originated in non-English speaking countries, and the bibliographic information on these was extensive and included a variety of different nations. The results of this review confirmed that research on induction and mentorship of beginning teachers has been conducted for several decades, and that research 10 years of age can be still be of relevance to the current research agenda.
The Limitations of the Systematic Review
Our review was limited to searching for articles written in English, we therefore suspect that this excluded research conducted in a variety of other nations from being represented. The original inclusion criteria had to be modified, as there was a lack of valid, recent, and robust research on the effects of induction and mentorship that explicitly related to retention and attrition of beginning teachers. Our search strategies concentrated on terminology familiar to us as Canadian and European researchers. Therefore, we acknowledge that other nations might employ various other terms when discussing support for beginning teachers.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological models of human development. In T. Husen & T. N. Postlethwaite (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Education (2nd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 1643– 1647). Oxford, England: Pergamon Press.
beginning teachers; contextual factors; early-career teaching; teacher induction; mentorship; programs for new teachers; international systematic review; school administrator