Virtual Mentoring: An Electric Vehicle for Teacher Equity
This session shares original research that piloted the virtual delivery of a content-specific novice teacher mentoring program to combat arts teacher isolation and attrition statewide. Learn about its impacts on novice and experienced arts teachers and how to implement a similar initiative in your own state or district.
The ongoing K-12 teacher shortage is of serious concern to students, parents, and all members of the education community. Although many personal and professional factors influence teachers to leave the classroom voluntarily, poor job satisfaction is the single leading cause of early-career teacher attrition. Numerous interventions, most commonly professional development and peer mentoring, have been widely implemented to address the high attrition rate among novice educators. However, teachers of specialized subjects, such as digital media, music, and visual art, are typically isolated in one-person departments, particularly in rural and high-needs school communities. Not only does this professional isolation lead to decreased job satisfaction, highly specialized subject teachers rarely, if ever, receive professional development opportunities relevant to their academic content areas. As a result, they are unable to benefit equitably in comparison to their non-specialized colleagues from the supports routinely provided to strengthen teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical skills, the two areas of self-reported highest need among novice educators.
This session shares the methodology and results of a recent research study that piloted a virtual peer mentoring program for novice K-12 art and music teachers at high risk for professional isolation and attrition due to their status as one-person departments within their school buildings. By facilitating a blend of synchronous and asynchronous virtual interactions, the geographic and scheduling barriers that typically prevent access to effective content-specific mentors were removed, enabling these specialized teachers to experience beneficial early-career mentoring in an equitable manner while meeting the state mentoring requirements for continued teacher licensure. Mixed methods data collection and analysis examined participants’ perceptions of their virtual mentoring experience and evaluated the effectiveness of the intervention through its impacts on teachers’ job satisfaction and likelihood of attrition.
The virtual program emphasized building an ongoing relationship with a peer mentor matched by similarity of content area, grade level, and school or district demographics, to provide content knowledge and pedagogical support and to engage in collaborative development of digital instructional materials. Non-evaluative, two-way observations of one another’s teaching were a central component of the program, in keeping with the extant research on teacher education. By utilizing existing technology assets already in statewide use by public and charter school systems, including a video conferencing platform, shared data storage solution, and learning management system, this mentoring intervention was implemented with minimal technical support queries and no additional financial cost to school districts or the state’s department of education in comparison to the traditional in-person program.
Session attendees will engage in collaborative discussion of notable study findings, brainstorm potential opportunities for and obstacles to virtual peer mentoring in their local or regional contexts, and develop planning and advocacy strategies for implementing similar innovations in their own professional settings. The session content is most relevant to educator and administrative stakeholders in the K-12 system, as well as those involved with collegiate teacher preparation programs or with research interests related to teacher education and equity, blended learning, content-specific teacher mentoring, or virtual professional learning communities.