New Teacher Induction in Special Education
Prepared for the Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education
Cynthia C. Griffin
University of Florida
Judith A. Winn
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
Karen L. Kilgore
University of Florida
(COPSSE Document No. RS-5)
Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
CENTER ON PERSONNEL STUDIES IN SPECIAL EDUCATION
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BOULDER
INSTRUCTIONAL RESEARCH GROUP, LONG BEACH, CA
COPSSE research is focused on the preparation of special education professionals and its
impact on beginning teacher quality and student outcomes. Our research is intended to inform
scholars and policymakers about advantages and disadvantages of preparation alternatives and
the effective use of public funds in addressing personnel shortages.
In addition to our authors and reviewers, many individuals and organizations have contributed
substantially to our efforts, including Drs. Erling Boe of the University of Pennsylvania and
Elaine Carlson of WESTAT. We also have benefited greatly from collaboration with the National
Clearinghouse for the Professions in Special Education, the Policymakers Partnership, and their
parent organizations, the Council for Exceptional Children and the National Association of State
Directors of Special Education.
The Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education, H325Q000002, is a cooperative
agreement between the University of Florida and the Office of Special Education Programs of
the U. S. Department of Education. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the
views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of other organizations imply
endorsement by them.
Griffin, C.C., Winn, J.A., Otis-Wilborn, A., & Kilgore, K.L. (2003). New teacher induction in
special education. (COPSSE Document Number RS-5). Gainesville, FL: University of Florida,
Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education.
U. S. Office of Special
Additional Copies may be obtained from:
P.O. Box 117050
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611
There are no copyright restrictions on this document; however,
please credit the source and support of the federal funds when
copying all or part of this document.
Literature Review 5
Critical Concerns 6
Teacher Induction in General Education 8
Program Descriptions 15
Review of Research on Induction for Special Educators 21
Discussion and Implications 29
Table 1. Studies Examining Induction Year Activities for Special Educators 21
Table 2. Stages of Development and Mentoring Needs of First-Year Teachers 26
Decades of research concerning the experiences of novice general educators have documented
the difficult and stressful nature of the beginning years of teaching (Kagan, 1992; Ryan, 1986;
Veenman, 1984). New professionals in other fields (e.g., engineering, medicine, and law) and
new teachers in other countries (e.g., Japan and New Zealand) are recognized as capable when
they enter the world of work and assume roles and responsibilities commensurate with their
skills and experiences (Darling-Hammond, Berry, Haselkorn, & Fideler, 1999; Moskowitz &
Stephens, 1996). Unfortunately, a common practice in the U. S. is to assign beginning teachers
to the most challenging classrooms and expect them to perform like more experienced teachers
(Moskowitz & Stephens, 1996; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1996;
Serpell, 2000). Furthermore, a new teacher often faces that challenging classroom without
assistance from a more experienced practitioner. This lack of professional support is often cited
as the primary reason why teachers leave the field (Billingsley & Cross, 1991; Darling-
Hammond, 1984; Gold, 1996; Gold & Roth, 1993). Descriptions of difficult working conditions
and stopgap ways of dealing with these problems, which are prominent in the teacher education
literature, indicate the seriousness of the difficulties faced by new teachers and the districts that
We examined the general education literature from the past decade. After a careful search of
ERIC and PsychLit sources, five reviews were identified. The earliest was by Huling-Austin in
the Handbook ofResearch on Teacher Education (1990). Others included Gold (1996); Feiman-
Nemser, Schwille, Carver, and Yusko (1999); Arends and Rigazio (2000); and Serpell (2000).
We also explored the policies and practices of teacher induction in 11 Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the U. S.
(Moskowitz & Stephens, 1996). APEC is an organization of 18 economies that border the
Pacific Ocean. Although not a review, From Students of Teaching to Teachers of Students:
Teacher Induction around the Pacific Rim is the 250-page product of an extensive collaborative
effort between APEC, the U. S. Department of Education (USDOE), and the Pelavin Research
Institute; its insightful findings and recommendations could not be overlooked.
This paper describes the critical concerns confronting special education regarding new teacher
induction and various definitions of induction. A literature review included: (a) the school and
classroom conditions under which new special education teachers must perform and (b)
induction for special education teachers. Given what we have learned about new teacher
induction in special education, the paper draws implications from our findings and identifies
needs for additional research.
These issues and others provide a rationale for the need to review the literature on new teacher
induction in special education. In particular, four critical concerns suggest the importance of
examining what is known about teacher induction, including: (1) the high attrition rate in special
education, (2) the potential for inadequate services to children and youth with disabilities by
beginning teachers who struggle in adverse situations, (3) the current reliance on alternative
routes to certification in many school districts, and (4) the unique conditions within which
special educators work.
Special education teachers, in particular, leave the profession at a high rate. Researchers have
described a multitude of variables contributing to the high attrition rate in special education,
including role conflict (Zabel & Zabel, 2001), dissatisfaction with professional growth
opportunities (Billingsley & Cross, 1991; Zabel & Zabel, 2001), inadequate administrative
support (Platt & Olson, 1990; Miller, Brownell, & Smith, 1999), lack of collegiality (Miller et
al., 1999; Zabel & Zabel, 2001), and poor school climate (Miller et al., 1999 Zabel & Zabel,
2001). The high attrition rate of special education teachers directly impacts the quality of
education provided students with disabilities by limiting the expertise that develops with
According to a recent report:
By the year 2005, the United States will need over 200,000 new special educators. Four
out of every ten special educators entering the field leave special education before their
fifth year of teaching. Not only does the field of special education lack the professional
capacity to provide the quantity of services that are required for the millions of identified
students with disabilities, but the quality of services being offered, under many of the
prevailing conditions, often falls significantly short of what is required to prepare
students with exceptionalities to face the demanding complexities of life in the 21st
century (Council of Exceptional Children [CEC], 2000, p. 1).
Alternative Routes to Certification
No doubt the growing reliance on alternative routes to certification is driven by this nationwide
need for teachers (Rosenberg & Sindelar, 2001). There is continued controversy regarding the
success of alternative route certification programs in both general and special education (e.g.,
Banks & Necco, 1987; Rosenberg & Sindelar, 2001; Sindelar & Marks, 1993; Zeichner &
Schulte, 2001) and concerns about the limited research on their effectiveness (e.g., Buck,
Polloway, & Motorff-Robb, 1995; Rosenberg & Sindelar, 2001; Sindelar & Marks, 1993). The
reality is, however, that many special education teachers, particularly in urban and rural
districts, are being prepared for and inducted into the field through alternative routes.
The conditions under which special education teachers work can be stressful for beginning
teachers (e.g., Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992; Carter & Scruggs, 2001; Griffin, Kilgore, Winn, &
Otis-Wilbom, 1999; Kilgore, Griffin, Otis-Wilborn, & Winn, 2000; Winn, Otis-Wilbom,
Kilgore, & Griffin, 1999). The constellation of factors contributing to their problems include:
role ambiguity, students posing complex behavioral and academic challenges, large case loads,
insufficient curricular and technical resources, inadequate administrative support, inadequate
time for planning, few opportunities for collaboration and professional development, and
excessive procedural demands.
Providing teachers with opportunities for support, guidance, and feedback during the beginning
years appears to be an important aspect of their early professional development, if not an ethical
responsibility. However, what does the research literature reveal about the impact of induction
on new teachers in general and special education? What factors make induction an effective and
powerful approach for buttressing teachers at a time when they are most vulnerable?
TEACHER INDUCTION IN GENERAL EDUCATION
Definitions of Induction
Most reviews in the general education literature translate induction in an applied sense, that is, as
a program. Some reviews conceptualize induction broadly; others include details for the design
of programs. Serpell (2000) offered a broad-based view of induction as "a helping mechanism
for beginning teachers... a process that begins with the signing of a teaching contract, continues
through orientation, and moves toward establishing the teacher as a professional" (p. 2).
Somewhat related is Huling-Austin's (1990) definition of induction as "systematic and sustained
assistance [emphasis retained] and not merely a series of orientation meetings or a formal
evaluation process used for teachers new to the profession." (p. 536). Continuing with the
notions of helping and assistance is Gold's (1996) suggestion that induction is instructional and
psychological support that should be provided to novice teachers. In addition, this support can
be given on either an individual level (e.g., including a mentor teacher) or group level (e.g., led
by professionals with counseling and group facilitation skills). Others who view induction as a
program detail their implementations at state or district levels, including those that are union-
supported (Arends & Rigazio-DiGilio, 2000) and those that are defined and categorized by levels
of formality and types of approaches employed (Moskowitz & Stephens, 1996).
Feimen-Nemser, Schwille, Carver, & Yusko's review (1999) suggested that induction can be
defined as having one of three primary meanings: (a) a phase in teacher development that occurs
during the first year of teaching and focuses on novices' concerns and problems of practice; (b) a
time of movement from teacher preparation to practicing teacher that emphasizes the people and
the place where the new teacher is inducted, a meaning that is steeped in the socialization
literature (Lacey, 1977; Lortie, 1975); and (c) a formal program.
The definitions of induction in these five reviews can be summed up with these key terms:
planned, process, and support. Implicitly, the definitions suggest that induction: (a) is
responsive to all parties, (b) includes a host of approaches, and (c) is maintained over time. In
schools that are responsive to students, that foster relationships, and that support teacher learning
(Darling-Hammond, 1997), induction has a greater chance of succeeding.
Features of Effective Induction Programs
What does the general education literature suggest as essential features of effective induction
programs for new teachers? In general, research suggests that induction programs can: (a)
improve instructional effectiveness and promote a sense of satisfaction in novices, (b) fulfill state
mandates to provide induction experiences in school districts and to certify teachers, (c) provide
a way to share the culture of the school setting and district with beginning teachers, and (d)
increase short-term retention rates (usually into the second year). There is little available
evidence that induction programs improve long-term retention of teachers (Arends & Ragazio-
DiGilio, 2000; Huling-Austin, 1990). Clearly, longitudinal studies of the effectiveness of
induction programs to retain teachers are indicated. Although much remains to be learned about
induction programs and how best to design them, the reviews provide some guidance. The list
that follows, although not exhaustive, is an overview of findings and recommendations.
Specifically, eight factors associated with effective induction programs were identified.
Supportive school culture/collective responsibility. A common characteristic evident in
successful induction programs studied in selected APEC nations (Moskowitz & Stephens, 1996)
is a school culture of shared responsibility and support. Veteran teachers are committed to
ensuring that inexperienced teachers are supported so that their teaching skills improve. Equally
important are veteran teachers' commitment to high professional standards and willingness to
invest personal time to ensure that these standards are reached and maintained by all teachers.
These notions support a definition of induction that draws on the socialization literature, that is,
before effective programs can exist, the school setting and professional community must be
united. The school, including the principal and other personnel, must convey clear messages
about what it means to be a high-quality professional, and all must strive to achieve these clearly
stated goals. With a school-wide focus on and commitment to new teacher support, novices are
better able to develop stronger professional identities and ultimately classroom practices
(Feiman-Nemser et al., 1999).
Opportunities for interactions between new/experienced teachers.Creating regular
opportunities for interaction between new and experienced teachers is also a common feature of
strong induction programs. This kind of interaction, which includes both formal and informal
exchanges, is characterized by classroom observations, spontaneous advice, and group meetings,
e.g., for grade-level teams. Beginners value and benefit from group conversations with
colleagues, which are facilitated if veterans and novices are placed in close proximity (Serpell,
2000). To maintain high levels of continuous support, Gold (1996) recommended that contacts
within and outside of the school be maintained via networks like the Beginning Teacher
Computer Network at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (Merseth, 1989). It is also
understood that experienced teachers must be taught how to guide and assist new teachers
effectively throughout the learning process to create productive interactions (Gold, 1996).
Degrees of professional growth and responsibilities. In countries where induction is
sound, teachers are viewed as developing along a continuum. This philosophy honors the
professional contributions of new teachers, but also recognizes the difference in skill levels
between novice and veteran teachers and adjusts responsibilities accordingly. New teachers are
not given the most difficult teaching assignments, as is often the case in many U. S. schools.
Arends & Ragazio-DiGilio (2000) and Huling-Austin (1990) recommended that beginning
teachers receive assignments that are not as difficult as veterans and that careful attention be paid
to their placements. In addition, release time during the school day should be part of the regular
schedule of novice teachers so that they can participate in induction activities.
Minimized evaluation. When evaluation is not a significant program component and
beginning teachers do not have to be concerned with meeting certification requirements through
satisfactory evaluations, induction can be focused where it needs to be-on features of assistance
and support. Although new teacher progress should be assessed, the way assessment is
implemented is critical. Gold (1996) reminded us that state-mandated beginning teacher
programs that focus on gatekeeping or screening, rather than offering new teachers a nurturing
environment, have been criticized. Serpell (2000) suggests using formative assessment that
individualizes assistance to beginning teachers. Not only should beginning teachers be
appropriately assessed, but Arends & Ragazio-DiGilio (2000) also recommended that the
induction program should be assessed periodically to ensure its effectiveness. This may include
the use of a consumer satisfaction instrument that asks teachers about the value of the program.
Explicit intentions. All reviews included in this paper support the development of, and
adherence to, clearly articulated induction program goals and purposes. The primary goals and
purposes of induction are: (a) to improve student achievement by improving teacher
performance, (b) to increase the retention of beginning teachers, (c) to transmit the culture of the
school and school system, and (d) to promote the personal and professional well-being of
Diversified content. The most beneficial content of induction programs addresses the needs
of new teachers. When considering the nature of the instructional content shared with beginning
teachers, Gold (1996) suggests four areas: (1) new teachers should understand not simply the
content taught, but also the structure of that knowledge, (2) they should develop clear ideas about
pedagogical content knowledge and be able to implement these ideas in ways that are
comprehensible to their students, (3) new teachers must be comfortable with subject area
knowledge and with a variety of instructional materials, (4) instructional content in induction
programs should help teachers become reflective and critical of their practices with the
paramount goal to improve their practice continually. Psychological support efforts address
stress reduction techniques, strategies to change negative thinking and behavior, and the
personalized plans for any needed change. The nature of this kind of support suggests that
highly trained professionals are used to guide beginning teachers, not necessarily teachers but
other professionals trained in counseling and group facilitation.
Arends & Ragazio-DiGilio (2000) suggested that the content of induction programs should be
based on beginning teachers' problems and concerns. Consequently, programs should address
research-identified problems-new teachers' problems with classroom management; instruction;
workload and stress; time management; and relationships with students, families, colleagues, and
administrators (e.g., Veenman, 1984).
Mentoring. Mentoring is considered an effective component of new teacher induction
programs. Arends & Ragazio-DiGilio (2000) and Serpell (2000) suggest that the careful training
of mentors (usually veteran teachers) results in higher effectiveness. The content of mentor
training programs may include adult development and learning, supervision and conferencing
skills, and relationship and communication skills. In addition, mentors should be matched to
mentees on personality, grade level, and subject area, and also receive release time and/or load
reduction for their role as mentors. Regretfully, relatively few state-mandated induction
programs provide funding for trained mentors (Darling-Hammond, 1997).
Fiscal and political support. Implementation of well-designed induction programs for new
teachers relies to a great extent on adequate funding. Serpell (2000) argues convincingly for
ensuring compensation to mentor teachers in the form of money, status, release time, or graduate
credit. However, unless the profession and the public are adequately educated about the
importance and ultimate benefits of teacher induction (Huling-Austin, 1990), poor fiscal and
political support will remain the standard.
Summary. Much induction research has been conducted by general education teacher
educators. What we know about induction is enhanced when connections can be drawn between
induction in general education and induction for beginning teachers who serve students with
disabilities. Discussing the conditions under which special educators teach and the challenges
beginning special educators' experience highlights similarities and differences between the early
years of general and special educators.
SPECIAL EDUCATION INDUCTION
Researchers in special education (Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992; Boyer & Lee, 2001; Busch,
Pederson, Espin, & Weissenburger, 2001; Carter & Scruggs, 2001; Conderman & Stephens,
2000; Griffin, Kilgore, Otis-Wilborn, & Winn, 1998; Griffin et al., 1999; Kilgore & Griffin,
1998; Kilgore et al., 2000; Lovingfoss, Molloy, Harris, & Graham, 2001; MacDonald & Speece,
2001; Mastropieri, 2001; Winn et al., 1999) have investigated the first year of special education
teaching and revealed stresses for novice special educators similar to those encountered by their
general education peers. These and other studies conducted in special education (CEC, 2000;
Miller et al., 1999; Wisniewski & Gargiulo, 1997), however, have also documented conditions in
special education classrooms that pose additional, complex challenges for novice and
experienced special educators alike. A description of the conditions encountered in special
education classrooms that contribute to the stressful nature of the first year of special education
Conditions of Teaching in Special Education
Conditions of special education teaching are shaped by contextual factors in classrooms and
schools determined, in part, by local, state, and federal policies on special education. The
constellation of factors contributing to the stresses of the first year of special education teaching
include: role ambiguity, students posing complex behavioral and academic challenges, large case
loads, insufficient curricular and technical resources, inadequate administrative support,
inadequate time for planning, few opportunities for collaboration and professional development,
and excessive procedural demands. Additionally, many novice teachers are inadequately
prepared for the challenges of this first year.
Role ambiguity. Novice teachers often enter the field of special education believing they will
teach small groups of children using specialized instructional strategies: a traditional view of
special education often shared by colleagues, administrators, and parents (CEC, 2000). The field
of special education, however, is changing rapidly. IDEA 1997 mandates placement
opportunities for students with disabilities within regular education classrooms and emphasizes
these students' participation in the general education curriculum. Confusion and sometimes
resistance to the aims of more inclusive educational opportunities for students with disabilities
have created additional challenges for novice teachers (Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992; Boyer &
Lee, 2001; Busch et al., 2001; Carter & Scruggs, 2001; Conderman & Stephens, 2000; Kilgore et
al., 2000; Mastropieri, 2001; Otis-Wilborn, Winn, Kilgore, & Griffin, 2000). Novice special
educators are expected to collaborate and co-teach with their general education colleagues as
well as provide intensive, individualized instruction. As novice special educators assume
positions in schools, they frequently face ambiguous, conflicting, and fragmented expectations
from their colleagues, supervisors, and families of children that they serve. As described by
Crane and Iwanicki (1986), teachers experiencing conflicts between their own and others'
expectations often become stressed and less satisfied with their positions. Juggling these varied,
often competing responsibilities is a particularly difficult task for a beginning teacher.
Students posing complex challenges coupled with high case loads. Novice special
educators face the enormous challenge of developing and implementing effective instructional
and management strategies for students with severe academic deficits and high rates of
inappropriate behaviors (Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992; Busch et al., 2001; Carter and Scruggs,
2001; Conderman & Stephens, 2000; Kilgore et al., 2000; MacDonald & Speece, 2001;
Mastropieri, 2001; Rosenberg, Griffin, Kilgore, & Carpenter, 1997). Assigned case loads rarely
take into account the special needs of students with disabilities. Novice (e.g., Carter & Scruggs,
2001; Griffin et al., 1999; Kilgore & Griffin, 1998) and experienced (CEC, 2000; Wisniewski &
Gargiulo, 1997; Zabel & Zabel, 2001) special educators have consistently noted that excessive
case loads create barriers to effective instruction, curriculum, and behavior management. As
Miller et al. (1999) noted, "High student case loads combined with the challenges of managing
the diverse learning and behavioral needs of students with disabilities . and working with
insufficient resources may cause many special education teachers to feel overloaded, stressed,
and ineffective in their relationships with students" (p. 204).
Insufficient resources. Novice special educators frequently complain that they have
insufficient curricular and technical resources (Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992; Boyer & Lee,
2001; Carter & Scruggs, 2001; Kilgore et al., 2000; MacDonald & Speece, 2001; Mastropieri,
2001). Novice teachers face the challenge of creating curricula appropriate for students with
exceedingly diverse and complex needs. Their curricular responsibilities frequently exceed those
of their general education peers-teaching more subject areas to a broader range of ages and
ability levels-but with fewer curricular resources. Experienced special educators share this
concern (CEC, 2000).
Inadequate administrative support. Novice special educators often perceive their
administrators as uninterested in the education of students with disabilities (Billingsley &
Tomchin, 1992; Griffin et al., 1999; Kilgore et al., 2000; Westling & Whitten, 1996). Too often,
administrators do not have the background knowledge or skills to understand and support special
education services (CEC, 2000). Administrators are in a unique position to influence novice
teachers, through the material and professional support that they provide or fail to provide
(Brock & Grady, 1997). Unsupportive environments without administrator or collegial support
reduce teacher efficacy and commitment to the work place (Rosenholz, 1989).
Insufficient time. Novice special education teachers say that they do not have the time to plan
for the diverse needs of their students and that they have difficulty organizing their numerous,
varied tasks (Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992; MacDonald & Speece, 2001; Mastropieri, 2001).
Feeling overwhelmed with too little time to meet teaching demands often results in increased
stress levels for novice teachers (Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992).
Lack of opportunities to collaborate. Novice special educators complain that they do not
have the opportunities to collaborate with their general education peers to provide more inclusive
settings for their students (Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992; Boyer & Lee, 2001; Busch et al., 2001;
Carter & Scruggs, 2001; Conderman & Stephens, 2000; Kilgore et al., 2000; Mastropieri, 2001;
Otis-Wilborn et al., 2000). Many schools do not have effective methods of communication or
joint planning time for special and general educators (CEC, 2000). Veteran special educators
have described themselves as "outside the mainstream . [and] given few opportunities to
collaborate with [other] educators" (CEC, 2000, p. 5). Moreover, novice teachers also lacked
time to plan with other special educators or paraprofessionals with whom they worked
(Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992; Carter & Scruggs, 2001; Mastropieri, 2001). Lack of collegiality
increases the feelings of isolation and stress levels of novice teachers (Mastropieri, 2001; Otis-
Wilborn et al., 2000).
Lack of opportunities for professional development. The demands of teaching require
ongoing professional growth opportunities, yet novice special educators say that they rarely have
access to professional development related to teaching students with disabilities (MacDonald &
Speece, 2001; Mastropieri, 2001). Teachers who have opportunities to improve their skills are
less likely to feel overwhelmed and see themselves as more capable of affecting student learning
(Brownell & Smith, 1993). Too often, novice teachers feel ill equipped to meet the needs of their
students and deprived of opportunities to learn ways to meet those needs.
Procedural demands and excessive paper work. Federal, state, and local policies
regarding implementation of IDEA resulted in more paper work and meetings. Novice teachers
often complain that completing special education paper work is confusing and burdensome
(Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992; Boyer & Lee, 2001; Mastropieri, 2001). Experienced teachers
also report feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of meeting the procedural demands of
the special education bureaucracy (Miller et al., 1999). In fact, one of the most commonly
expressed complaints of special education teachers is related to the increase in bureaucratic tasks
(Platt & Olson, 1990; Westling & Whitten, 1996; Zabel & Zabel, 2001).
Inadequate preparation. First-year special educators face a broad range of challenges in
varied settings (Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992; Boyer & Lee, 2001; Busch et al., 2001; Carter &
Scruggs, 2001; Conderman & Stephens, 2000; Lovingfoss et al., 2001; Kilgore & Griffin, 1998;
MacDonald & Speece, 2001; Mastropieri, 2001). Some new teachers have completed teacher-
preparation programs with experiences that have prepared them for their roles; others have not.
For a variety of reasons, some assume positions that do not match the particular focus of
concentration in their preparation programs. Other novice special educators have few or no prior
experiences teaching students with disabilities.
Summary. Clearly, a multitude of factors contribute to the stressful and difficult nature of the
first year of special education teaching. As the National Commission on Teaching and
America's Future (1996) pointed out, beginning teachers are often given the most difficult
Many induction programs and activities include but are not specifically designed for special
education teachers. However, some programs at national, state, and local levels have been
developed to consider the unique needs of special educators, and mentoring plays a significant
role in these programs.
In April 1997, CEC's Professional Standards and Practice Subcommittee adopted guidelines for
developing a mentoring program (CEC, 1997). These guidelines are consistent with Standard IV
of the Standards for Entry into Special Education adopted at the 1989 CEC Delegate Assembly.
Standard IV states:
Each new professional in special education should receive a minimum of a 1-year
mentorship during the first year of his or her professional special education practice in a
new role. The mentor should be an experienced professional in the same or a similar role,
who can provide expertise and support on a continuing basis. (p. 8)
The guidelines delineate the purposes of a mentorship program and the features of successful
mentorship. This work has been expanded by the Mentoring Induction Project (MIP) (White &
Mason, 2001; White, Schelble, & Warren, 2002), which was formed to develop guidelines and
support for beginning special education teacher mentoring throughout the country. The
guidelines are consistent with CEC special education standards for teachers, Interstate New
Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) standards, research on beginning
special education teachers, and research on mentoring and mentoring programs. Many
professional groups (Teacher Education Division of the CEC, Council for Administrators in
Special Education, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, Parent
Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights, and the American Federation of Teachers) as well as
focus groups of beginning special education teachers, mentors, administrators, teacher educators,
parents, and distinguished teachers had input into the development of the principles and
guidelines. The three principles upon which the guidelines are based are:
1. An array of supports, including mentoring, should be available to all beginning teachers.
2. Effective mentoring relationships that provide meaningful supports to teachers are
dependent on several key components.
3. School districts have an obligation to ensure that their mentoring programs include those
key elements for effectiveness. (White & Mason, 2001, p. 2)
The guidelines (http://www.cec.sped.org) address the mentoring program, roles and
responsibilities of the mentoring team (beginning teacher, mentor teacher, building
administrator, mentoring program coordinator), mentor selection, orientation and training, and
specific implementation components.
The MIP principles and guidelines have been piloted in urban and suburban schools throughout
the country. Districts were selected based on a high need for mentoring, the ability to support
the MIP, and administrative support. The guidelines are being revised and refined based on pilot
test results. Further, the MIP involves the development of electronic support for mentoring
programs, an economic cost comparison of MIP and other mentoring models, a national meeting
to disseminate outcomes and make recommendations, and a report of the effectiveness of the
We found several comprehensive statewide programs aimed at supporting and retaining new
special education teachers. The Oregon Recruitment/Retention Project (2002 on-line in Boyer &
Gillespie, 2000). The project addressed new teachers through the following activities:
consultation to special education administrators, list server and web-based guidance for
recruitment and retention strategies, direct assistance in capacity building and retention
strategies, case study evaluation of a district's support programs, and a self-assessment tool for
identifying challenges in recruiting and retaining special education teachers. The web site has a
detailed guide for setting up a mentoring program, including a timeline for activities (e.g., type
of feedback to give, use of journals) based on new teacher development and guidelines for
selecting, training, and assigning mentors.
Utah Mentor Teacher Academy (UMTA) (Gibb & Welch, 1998) addressed the need for mentor
training. UMTA is a statewide mentor training program for special educators, general educators,
principals, and state health agency personnel that actually originated with special education. In
UMTA, mentors attend two-day workshops each month in their two-year mentoring
commitment. Many topics (e.g., behavior management, curriculum adaptation, co-teaching,
inclusion strategies, peer-mediated instruction, learning strategies, motivation strategies, social
skills training) are directly related to students with disabilities. Mentors are expected to support
teachers through consultation, in-service presentations, and/or workshops.
Programs targeting induction for special education teachers have also been developed at the
district level. We are sure that we did not find all programs specifically focused on special
education teachers. Some programs with this focus were developed and implemented solely by
districts (e.g., Boyer & Gillespie, 2000; Whitaker, 2000b), and some were connected to
universities (e.g., Burstein & Kennedy, 2002; Lane & Canosa, 1995; Keuker & Haensly, 1991).
Whitaker (2000b) described a district-level program that is grounded in the findings of her focus
group research (Whitaker, 2000a). The program involved support from mentor teachers and the
district administrators and provided forms and content of support found to be particularly
helpful, including scheduled and unscheduled meetings with mentors and monthly contact with
administrators. New teachers attended a day-long orientation meeting tailored to identified
needs of special education teachers, including learning system information related to special
education. The special education teachers participated in a graduate induction course for all new
teachers in the district and also met at least two more times to discuss issues relative to special
education. As in the Oregon Recruitment/Retention Project (2002), the mentors received a
schedule of assistance, emphasizing suggested types of assistance to be given throughout the
Attention to the needs of novice teachers in specific disability areas was seen in Fairfax County,
Virginia Public School's induction program (Boyer & Gillespie, 2000). Teachers working with
students with learning disabilities or students with emotional disabilities at the secondary level
who are assigned a special education mentor also participate in the district's 17-session course
for new teachers in general education. Elementary teachers of students with low-incidence
disabilities, emotional disabilities, and early childhood delays, however, can elect to attend a 17-
session course for new teachers implementing specifically designed or modified curricula or
working with students with challenging behaviors. The Fairfax program encouraged
collaboration and integration with general education through the first option, while at the same
time, meets needs particular to teachers of certain populations of children.
A university and school district partnership is seen in the Beginning Teacher Support and
Assessment Program Special Education (BTSA-SE) (Burstein & Kennedy, 2002), a special
education adaptation of a 1992 statewide induction program in California. The partnership
among California State University-Northridge, Los Angeles Unified School District, and the
United Teachers Union of Los Angeles targets first- and second-year special education teachers.
Teachers who volunteer to participate are assigned mentors with experience in urban schools and
in special education. The mentors make monthly visits and maintain weekly contact. California
uses the California Formative Assessment and Support System for Beginning Teachers
(CFASST), an assessment and support system based on the state standards for beginning
teachers. Assessment is done through a series of events-for example, Observation: Profile of
Professional Practice; Inquiry: Assessing Instructional Experiences. In the BTSA-SE, these
events have all been adapted for special education. Participant teachers and mentors are invited
to professional development workshops on the events. Additionally, the beginning teachers are
given two release days per year and a stipend to purchase instructional materials.
We found information about several universities with mentoring components built into their
preparation programs. Texas A & M's graduate program required that the first year of teaching
be an internship with a mentor teacher (Majeta, 1992; Weeks, 1992). The mentors were selected
by the school principal, the university supervisor, and the beginning teacher and then trained by
the university to work closely with a graduate supervisor (e.g., through weekly progress notes).
Lane and Canosa (1995) described a mentoring program for preparing teachers of students with
severe disabilities through Johns Hopkins University. Students who worked as teachers (special
education teachers seeking skills and certification in severe disabilities) and all other students
(working as paraprofessionals or in related professions) were matched with mentors through
mentee selection or assignment. The mentor/mentee relationship lasted for the four semesters of
the program and involved goal setting, support from mentors based on the goals, reflection about
the process, and university support for mentors.
Induction in Alternative Certification
Alternative route certification programs help beginning teachers learn to teach on the job. Some
have distinguished between alternative certification programs and alternative routes to
certification terminology. For this review, we use the term alternative route certification
programs (ARCs) and employ the frequently cited definition proposed by Roth and Lutz (1986,
in Rosenberg & Sindelar, 2001) as programs that "...allow(s) the individual to assume full
classroom responsibility prior to completion of the preparation program" (p. 4). Alternative
route certification programs in special education are growing rapidly (Rosenberg & Sindelar,
2001). Some programs target those who are certified to teach in areas other than special
education (e.g., Burnstein & Sears, 1998; Gaynor & Little, 1997); but many are designed for
those entering the field without a teaching credential or teaching experience. For those in
alternative route programs, induction to teaching occurs within the context of the programs.
Rosenberg and Sindelar (2001) identify the primary factors driving the increase in alternative
route certification in special education as: (a) the persistent shortages; (b) the need for
multicultural personnel in special education to provide role models, culturally responsive
instruction, and establishment of close connections with families; and (c) concerns about the
effectiveness of traditional teacher preparation raised by groups such as the Thomas B. Fordham
Foundation (1999). The universities and colleges of education are not graduating sufficient
numbers of preservice teachers to meet the shortages. In turn, traditional programs do not tend to
attract high percentages of students from minority populations; but alternative programs tend to
draw from more diverse populations, at least for programs in urban settings (Rosenberg &
Sindelar, 2001; Zeichner & Schulte, 2001). The criticisms of traditional programs are many,
including unnecessary pedagogical course work and weak reform efforts that do not really alter
the status quo of teacher preparation.
As noted by Rosenberg and Sindelar (2001), existing programs identified in the literature on
alternative route special education certification programs most likely represent the "tip of the
iceberg." Programs provide limited details; but, features are similar to the supports received by
novice teachers prepared in traditional programs. However, there appear to be added supports,
particularly in terms of intensity (i.e., length of time support is provided) and the frequency with
which linkages between school districts and institutions of higher education (IHEs) are formed.
In several alternative route certification programs, IHEs and school districts identified
appropriate placements for on-the-job teachers. Initial placements have been identified as an
important component (Boyer, 1999). Placing novice teachers in an appropriate setting (e.g.,
appropriate number of students, supportive colleagues, adequate materials)-rather than giving
them the most difficult assignments often associated with first-year teaching-can make the first
year a more positive experience for novice teachers and their students. In the California
internship program described by Karge, Laskey, McCabe, & Robb (1995), the school district
selected sites for interns, keeping their teaching status in mind. In the Johns Hopkins
University's ALCERT program (Rosenberg & Rock, 1994), university faculty provided
information about the interns' interests and abilities, and the school district used this information
in assigning placements. Directors of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee/Milwaukee
Public Schools (UWM/MPS) Internship Program (Dieker, Winn, & Sprewer, 2000; Winn &
Dieker, 2001) worked closely with the special education hiring specialist to place interns. Efforts
were hampered by union-governed seniority hiring practices so that often the most challenging
positions were the only ones available. Hiring policies and procedures in other districts also may
impede assignments of on-the-job teachers to appropriate positions.
As in most induction programs, mentoring was a prominent component of the alternative route
certification programs reviewed; however, alternative program mentoring may be more intense.
In the programs reviewed, mentoring was most often done by school district personnel. In many
programs, the mentors were building-based (Burnstein & Sears, 1998; Gaynor & Little, 1997;
Ludlow & Wienke, 1994; Rosenberg & Rock, 1994). Some programs had full-time mentors
without their own classroom assignments (CASE Program described in Boyer & Gillespie, 2000;
Winn & Dieker, 2000). Throughout the literature, only a few descriptions gave the amount of
time that mentors were released or the time that they spent with each intern. In the RISE Program
in Hawaii (Ikei & Hoga, 1995), mentors visited their mentees weekly or more often if needed. In
the program at the University of Texas-El Paso (Lloyd, Wood, & Moreno, 2000), there were six
exchange visits per year, with mentors observing for a half day in the new teacher's room and the
new teacher observing in the mentor's class for the other half. UWM/MPS mentors worked
intensely with their interns (two half-days per week in the first year with monthly follow-up
visits in the second year).
Mentoring in alternative route certification programs may last longer than in induction programs
for traditionally prepared special education teachers. Several of the programs reviewed involved
four semesters of support (e.g., Burnstein & Sears, 1998; Dieker & Winn, 1999; Edelen-Smith &
Sileo, 1996; Karge et al., 1995). Both mentors and supervisors were noted to spend considerable
time with the teachers in training, particularly in the beginning. Supervisors in some cases also
assumed a mentoring rather than assessment role in the beginning of the program, perhaps more
so than in traditional preparation programs. In most programs reviewed, mentors did not have
supervisory or gatekeeping responsibilities. Rather, these were assumed by supervisors, most
often university-based. In several programs (e.g., Burnstein & Sears, 1998; Rosenberg & Rock,
1994; Winn & Dieker, 2001), mentors and supervisors shared information about the interns. In
the program described by Edelen-Smith and Sileo (1996), the interns had two supervisors-one
from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and one from the Hawaii Department of Education. The
CASE program through Southwest Texas State University (described in Boyer & Gillespie,
2000) employs retired special education directors as supervisors.
Links between Mentors and Teacher Preparation Programs
In alternative route certification programs, there is often extensive IHE involvement in induction,
more than in many traditional teacher preparation programs. Mentoring is often built into the
preparation programs, creating stronger links between what the teachers learn from their mentors
and from IHE personnel. Links between mentors and IHEs in alternative route programs occur
through the selection process, training, and ongoing involvement with supervisors and other
program faculty. In the ALCERT program, mentors were selected by the principals with input
from the university. The criteria used were the candidate's teaching skills, experience as a
cooperating teacher or mentor, willingness to participate, and collaborative skills. University
representatives served on selection panels for the UWM/MPS program mentors and helped
construct the job description. In at least three programs (ALTCERT, the University of Texas at
El Paso, and UWM/MPS Internship Program), mentors were trained by the university, creating
close ties between the program and the mentoring support. The training helped mentors
understand the experiences of the interns, the mentoring process, and the teacher preparation
As noted, the special education and induction programs described are a sample of mentoring
programs rather than a comprehensive review. We do see in these programs attempts to identify
specific needs of special education teachers and to address these needs in mentor assignments,
mentor training, content of workshops, and adaptation of assessment and support systems. As
more is learned about effective induction for special education teachers, including supports to
help link their students to the general education curriculum, we expect to see this knowledge
integrated into new and existing programs.
The research on induction that specifically addresses beginning special education teachers in the
last ten years is sparse. While we acknowledge that much of the research on induction in general
education may include special educators, we examine research results that focus specifically on
induction for special education teachers.
REVIEW OF RESEARCH ON INDUCTION
FOR SPECIAL EDUCATORS
Based on a review of journal articles, web-based resources, and dissertation abstracts, we
identified 10 studies that focused on induction activities for first-year special educators. The
studies were selected because, to varying degrees, each systematically documented and analyzed
features and outcomes of induction in the literature on beginning special education teachers.
Table 1 provides a brief description of each study.
Table 1. Studies Examining Induction Year Activities for Special Educators
AUTHOR/ TYPE OF STUDY & PURPOSE PARTICIPANTS
YEAR DATA SOURCES
Boyer (1999) Qualitative individual To analyze the impact of a 9 beginning teachers of
interviews 1- year mentoring program children with autism, hearing
on first-year special impairments, moderate
education teachers' retardation, and physical
decisions to remain in disabilities
Boyer & Lee (2001) Reflective case analysis To describe and analyze the 1 beginning teacher in
teacher's journal, experience of one beginning program for students with
researcher's analysis of special education teacher autism
the literature who participated in a
Cheney, Krajewski, & Descriptive study To describe observations 42 first-year teachers: 9
Combs (1992) made of 42 first-year special educators and 33
teachers and to relate those elementary school teachers
observations to microphases
of development during the
first year of teaching
Cooley & Yavanoff Exploratory intervention To evaluate the combined 92 special educators and
(1996) study survey and differential effects of related service providers;
questionnaire stress management 35% of participants worked
workshops, for <5 years (not all beginning
peer collaboration teachers)
on job burnout, job
Hopkins (1997) Evaluation by comparison To evaluate the effect of Comparable groups of first-
between treatment and specific induction year teachers in school
control groups 40-item interventions on beginning districts in North Carolina;
mail survey teachers' plans to remain in 169 in treatment group and
teaching 133 in control group.
Kueker & Haensly Descriptive study To examine the perceptions 8 students in years 5 and 6 of a
(1991) of mentor characteristics generic special education
(student teaching and first- masters program
year), develop a training
workshop, and gather
preliminary data on
AUTHOR/ TYPE OF STUDY & PURPOSE PARTICIPANTS
YEAR DATA SOURCES
Lane & Canosa (1995) Evaluation Participant To evaluate the impact of 10 students in the two-year
satisfaction surveys end mentorship program in graduate program
of Year 1 & 2 achieving specific goals of
the graduate program
Maddex (1994) Qualitative and To investigate mentoring 157 mentees and 198 mentors
quantitative analysis activities and perceived in general and special
Survey questionnaire benefits and concerns education participating in ten
related to mentoring Virginia mentoring programs
Tucker (2000) Qualitative case study: To examine the impact of an Three beginning teachers
Beginning teacher induction program for
journals, researcher's special educators in small
journal, interviews with multicultural, multiethnic
teachers, mentors, and community
Whitaker (2000a, Descriptive study with To determine beginning 156 beginning special
2000b) regression and factor special education teachers' education teachers from a
analysis Survey perceptions of what is an random sample of 200
questionnaire effective mentoring participating in mentoring
program; to examine the programs mandated by South
impact of mentoring Carolina's for all first-year
program on teachers' teachers
decision to remain in
White (1996) Evaluation mail survey To analyze the Kentucky 725 teachers (63.1% return
Teacher Internship Program rate) in years 1, 2, and 3 of
and its effect on attrition teaching in Kentucky
rates in beginning special Internship Program
In the selected studies, mentoring often was either the major or sole activity of formal special
education induction programs. Most research on mentoring examined the impact of mentoring
on the beginning teacher, personally and professionally, and perceived effectiveness of features
or components of effective mentoring programs. We first summarized the results of research
with mentoring as the primary or sole activity of induction. Then, we discuss what research has
to say about the impact of other kinds of induction activities that are often a part of special
education induction programs.
Impact/Outcomes of Mentoring
Satisfaction and retention. Studies typically examined beginning teachers' satisfaction with
their mentors and satisfaction with features of the mentoring programs. All studies reported
generally positive results of mentoring arrangements (Hopkins, 1997; Kueker & Haensly, 1991;
Lane & Canosa, 1995; Maddex, 1994; Tucker, 2000; Whitaker, 2000a, 2000b; White, 1996).
Several studies reported that the mentorship program impacted first-year teachers' intentions to
remain in teaching for the next 1-5 years. (Boyer, 1999; Whitaker, 2000a, 2000b; Tucker, 2000).
Increase in self-confidence. In a qualitative study of nine first-year special education
teachers, Boyer (1999) found that eight of the nine teachers attributed their decision to remain in
special education to their mentor. Boyer concluded that the mentorship program contributed to
teachers' confidence in themselves and their teaching. Further, she argued that building
confidence and competence in teachers helped to develop teachers' long-term commitment to
Each new teacher stated that the mentor contributed to her meeting expectations for
herself and for her students and, therefore, contributed to her sense of competence, value,
and self-confidence. (Boyer, 1999, p. 2)
In Kueker and Haensly's (1991) study, eight first-year teachers in a generic special education
teacher training program increased in self confidence, which they directly attributed to the
mentor support in their first year. On a survey at the end of the induction year, teachers gave
their highest rating to the statement, "the value of having a mentor in the first year."
Development of collaboration skills. Lane and Canosa (1995) reported another impact of
the mentorship program beyond general satisfaction. This study examined the explicit focus of
the Mentorship Program at Johns Hopkins University, which was to develop preservice teachers
to work effectively in an interdisciplinary context and veteran teachers to provide leadership,
consultation, and support. Some teachers in the program were full-time and others were assigned
to classrooms. From written surveys, the mentorship program contributed() substantially to the
development and enrichment of their (pre-service and veteran teachers) collaborative skills" (p.
235). One major factor that mediated this outcome was the non-evaluative role of the mentor,
which students characterized as encouraging rather than inhibiting professional rapport.
Benefits to mentors. Although the studies reviewed were primarily concerned with the
impact of mentoring on first-year special educators' satisfaction with mentoring and retention, a
few noted positive impacts of the program on the mentors (Kueker & Haensly, 1991; Maddex,
1994; Lane & Canosa, 1995). Many mentors found that their work with beginning teachers
benefited their own personal and professional development. According to Lane & Canosa
(1995), "Mentors saw the mentoring program as an opportunity to enhance and practice their
collaborative, consultative, and interpersonal skills" (p. 235).
Effective Features of Mentoring Programs
Frequent contact between mentor and mentee. Most studies identified time and
frequency of contact with a mentor as an important factor influencing teachers' satisfaction with
mentorship and success in the first year of teaching. This is most prominent in Whitaker's study
where there was a significant correlation between the frequency of mentor contact and perceived
effectiveness of the mentorship. She writes, "While frequency alone did not determine the
perceived effectiveness of the mentoring, to be perceived as most effective, the mentor must
have had contact with the first-year teacher on at least a weekly basis" (p. 552). Significant
correlations also were found between overall perceived mentoring effectiveness and retention,
although the effect size was small.
Factors that directly influenced the frequency and extent of interactions in mentoring included
the proximity of the mentor (e.g., same building), release time for meetings, and routinely
scheduled meetings. Many mentorship programs were designed to include these features, which
were thought to facilitate mentor/mentee interactions. The only caveat came from Whitaker's
study (2000a); although desirable, it was not necessary for a mentor to be in the same building as
the mentee for the mentorship to be perceived as successful.
Mentors in special education. Studies that examined the characteristics of mentors
suggested that mentors should be special educators and preferably that mentors and first-year
teachers have similar jobs. The most commonly cited reason was that the knowledge and
experience base of the mentor matched the needs of the first-year special education teachers
(Lane & Canosa, 1995; White, 1996; Seitz, 1994).
White (1996) analyzed the effect of the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program on attrition rates
of special education teachers in the state. When the mentor was a special educator, beginning
teacher interns reported that they asked for more help and received more quality help in areas of
need. Overall results showed that the internship program did not influence interns' decisions to
remain in special education. However, when a special education teacher was assigned a mentor
who also was a special educator, the beginning teachers reported a more successful first year and
rated the mentor's influence on their decision to remain in special education significantly higher.
Non-evaluative role of the mentor. A number of studies addressed the role of the mentor
regarding evaluation. Clearly supporting findings of the Moskowitz and Stephens (1996)
multinational study, first-year special education teachers in Boyer's study (1999) found it more
useful when mentors took an objective point of view and offered non-judgmental advice.
Kueker and Hanesly (1991) examined differences in the roles of a cooperating teacher (in
supervised student teaching year) and mentor (in first year of teaching) and concluded that a
more collegial relationship developed between a mentor and mentee because the mentor did not
play a role in evaluating teacher performance.
The mentoring process as understood by mentor and mentees. The extent to which
mentors understood their role influenced beginning teachers' satisfaction and perceived
effectiveness of mentoring. Participants in Maddex's (1994) study critiqued the lack of specific
role definitions for the mentor's job. Confusion over the mentor's role was also revealed in Gibb
and Welch's (1998) study of the Utah Mentor Program.
Kueker & Haensly (1991) evaluated the effectiveness of an orientation to the mentorship. They
conducted a 3-hour mentorship orientation workshop that included: (a) background information
on mentoring, (b) ideas for ways in which induction-year teachers might need help, (c) role-
playing for mentors in providing support and beginning teachers in requesting support, (d)
communication of strategies for providing feedback and encouragement, and (e) description of
the developmental sequences for successful mentoring relationships. Although the orientation
was open to mentors and mentees, it was primarily attended by first-year teachers in the
program, and the orientation significantly helped mentees understand how to use their mentors.
Other mentor characteristics. Personal characteristics play a role in the quality and success
of a mentoring relationship. Characteristics that teachers thought were important for special
education mentors included personable, open, caring, friendly, comfortable around others,
positive attitudes, unobtrusive and non-threatening, available, and flexible (Gibb & Welch,
1998). Additionally, first-year special educators identified the need for a mentor who was
trustworthy and would keep their work confidential (Gibb & Welch, 1998).
Content of support. Beginning teachers often look for moral support and guidance as they
traverse their first year of teaching (Kueker & Haensly, 1991). First-year special education
respondents rated emotional support from mentors as the most effective support they received
(Whitaker, 2000a). A regression analysis identified that emotional support, materials/resources,
system information for school/district, and system information for special education accounted
for 77% of the variance in teachers' perceptions of the overall effectiveness of the mentorship
Support valued by beginning special educators in other studies reflected similar perspectives.
Boyer's (1999) study found first-year teachers wanted information about policies and procedures
in special education. The teachers in Lane and Canosa's study (1995) reported the value of their
mentor's expertise in adapting and selecting functional materials for instruction and using natural
incentives. Maddex (1994) reported that the most useful assistance that mentors provided to
beginning teachers was in the following areas: lesson planning, materials, classroom
management, instructional techniques, and discussion of curriculum. Gibb and Welch (1998) in
their evaluation of the Utah Mentor Teacher Academy found behavior management was the most
frequent area of mentoring. Many studies pointed to the fact that the content of mentoring is
most useful when it is directly related to situations, problems, and issues that individual teachers
struggle with in their first year (Maddex, 1994; Lane & Canosa, 1995; Boyer, 1999).
Forms of support. Whitaker's study (2000a) focused on six potential forms of support that
mentors could provide: unscheduled meetings, scheduled meetings, telephone contacts, written
communication, observations by the first-year special education teachers' mentor, and
observations of the mentor. First-year special education teachers reported unscheduled meetings
most frequently, followed by scheduled meetings. Telephone and written communications were
infrequent. One fourth of the mentors never observed their beginning teachers, and many
beginning teachers did not arrange to observe other teachers. Most studies reviewed described
the most frequent form of support as face-to-face meetings between mentor and mentee. The
effectiveness of face-to-face meetings no doubt is related to the frequency with which mentors
and mentees were able to meet. It is also likely that the interaction of features that beginning
teachers identified as effective in these studies contributed to the overall success of mentoring.
Mentoring and Teacher Development
In a 1-year study, Cheney, Krajewski, and Combs (1992) identified the content needs of first-
year teachers related to their concerns and developmental aspects of what the literature describes
as the "survival" stage for beginning teachers (Fuller, 1969; Katz, 1972; Kremer-Hayon & Ben-
Peretz, 1986). Cheney et al. (1992) identified five microstages of development that they
observed in general and special educators in their efforts to move beyond survival. At each
stage, beginning teachers needed different kinds of supports. Table 2 presents the stages and
requests of first-year special educators to mentors.
Table 2. Stages of Development and Mentoring Needs of First-Year Teachers
STAGE MENTORING REQUESTS
Ordering/time filling Materials
Procedural aspects, particularly related to IEPs
Timing, planning, and Assessment of students
management Behavior management programs
Programming for students who complete their work
Communication with parents
Some requests for teaching demonstrations
Experimentation Feedback on aspects of program and instruction
Modeling of potential changes
Long-range planning No pattern in mentoring supports identified
Focus on students Specific information on child abuse
Community referral services for families
Working with guidance counselors
Clarification of disabilities & diagnostic process
The timing and intensity of certain types of support impacted teachers' self-confidence,
developing competence, and independence. Cheney et al. (1992) proposed that the content and
process of mentoring and induction, in general, should be aligned with a teacher's professional
development in the first year.
Reports of Other Induction Activities for Special Educators
Other induction activities that accompanied or were independent of mentoring impacted first-
year special educators' perceptions of success and/or their decisions to stay in teaching.
Cooley and Yavanoff (1996) conducted an exploratory study of the combined and differential
effects of two intervention strategies to help beginning special educators manage stress
associated with first-year teaching and to reduce collegial isolation. The interventions included:
(a) stress management workshops to develop physical and cognitive coping skills to help
teachers manage stressful situations (5 weekly 2-hour sessions) and (b) peer collaboration
training (Johnson & Pugach, 1991) (3-hour session with 1-hour weekly follow-up for four
The results demonstrated improvement in the teachers' emotional state, job satisfaction, and
organizational commitment. Generalization of these results to first-year special educators should
be limited, because the participants included teachers who had taught for up to five years and
related service providers. However, the study showed the potential benefits of support that
targets specific concerns and issues faced by special educators.
Tucker (2000) in a dissertation conducted a qualitative study of three first-year special educators
who participated in an induction program that included a new teacher buddy system, support
group meetings, teacher journaling, release time, and observations of peer teachers. While most
activities were beneficial, "the most helpful innovation for the three teachers was recording
frustrations, difficulties, and successes in their journals and reflecting on those entries for future
decisions" (p. 228).
A larger scale dissertation study by Hopkins (1997), which included first-year general and
special education teachers, demonstrated the differences in type and amount of support that
teachers received. First-year teachers in a treatment group participated in a 1-year orientation
and induction program. The teachers had comparable teaching assignments, class preparations,
class sizes, and room assignments. The program included: (a) an orientation prior to their first
contractual workday, (b) placement in their field of licensure, (c) ready access to a mentor, and
(d) only one extracurricular assignment. Teachers from nearby school districts comprised the
control group. Teachers in the treatment group had more access to an orientation, orientation
information, support with first-day tasks, mentor access and support, and outside assignments.
There was a significant relationship between teachers' access to orientation and their decision to
remain in teaching.
White's dissertation study (1996) examined the impact of a state-mandated induction program on
statewide attrition of special educators. The Kentucky Internship Program, initiated in 1986,
required all first-year Kentucky teachers and all teachers transferring into the state with less than
two years of teaching experience to complete an internship. Internship teachers worked with a
team that also included a resource or master teacher, an administrator, and a teacher educator.
The goal was to develop the knowledge and skills delineated in the Kentucky teaching standards.
A mail survey of first-, second-, and third-year teachers who participated in the Kentucky
Internship Program was returned by 725, providing information on demographics, perceived
stressors in the internship year, and the influence of the internship year on decisions to remain in
Beginning teachers rank-ordered 10 stressors experienced in their internship year: (1) lack of
planning time, (2) overcrowded classes, (3) excessive paperwork, (4) obtaining classroom
materials, (5) work overload, (6) student behavior, (7) role ambiguity, (8) working with parents,
(9) problems with other faculty, and (10) problems with administrators. Also, beginning teachers
credited mentor teachers with alleviating stressors experienced in the internship year, particularly
in cases where the mentor teacher was a special educator. However, the Kentucky Internship
Program did not impact teachers' decisions to remain in special education, which was the major
objective of the program (White, 1996).
Case studies (e.g., Boyer and Lee, 2001) document the experience of a beginning special
educator and its impact on long-term commitment to teaching. Boyer identified the challenges
encountered by a first-year teacher whose role included the development of a new program for
students with autism. The challenges were: (a) inclusion of students with disabilities in general
education, (b) providing access to the general education curriculum, (c) accountability for
student progress, (d) managing excessive paper work, and (e) working with paraprofessionals.
Boyer and Lee emphasized that challenges are often created by placing beginning teachers in the
most difficult schools and classrooms with little support or incentive to remain in special
education. They also stressed that the actual impact of induction and mentorship programs on
retaining beginning special educators depends on a variety of factors, not the least of which is the
intensiveness and integrity of the support offered first-year teachers (Boyer & Lee, 2001).
DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS
We summarize the findings of this review with responses to four pointed questions:
What does the literature tell us about the induction of beginning special education
How do these findings relate to findings from the general education literature?
What has the research on induction in special education discovered about contextual
variables that are key to a first-year teacher's survival?
What are the implications for teacher educators and school districts?
Induction in Special Education
We described induction programs designed to serve the unique needs of beginning special
educators. Mentoring was found to be a prominent feature of these programs. Another
important component was content about the disability categories of first-year teachers' students.
These induction programs were administered at three levels: statewide, district-level, or through
university-school partnerships. State-level induction programs included the Oregon Recruitment/
Retention Project (in Boyer & Gillespie, 2000) and the Utah Mentor Teacher Academy (Gibb &
Welch, 1998). Programs were developed and implemented solely by districts (Boyer &
Gillespie, 2000; Whitaker, 2000b) or in collaborative partnerships with universities (Burstein &
Kennedy, 2002; Lane & Canosa, 1995; Keuker & Haensly, 1991). Induction programs that
served special educators who are learning to teach on the job through alternative routes to
certification were presented. Some teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities
were involved in designing and implementing these programs (e.g., Deiker & Winn, 2000;
Rosenberg & Rock, 1994). Mentoring again surfaced as an important component of the ARC
induction programs reviewed. In these programs, mentoring took on a more significant role and
was typically provided more intensively (e.g., two half-days per week in the first year, with
monthly follow-up visits in the second year).
In the research on the induction of new special educators, we identified 10 studies (see Table 1).
Like the emphasis in the programs we reviewed, mentoring was also the most widely examined
activity in the studies of induction (Hopkins, 1997; Kueker & Haensly, 1991; Lane & Canosa,
1995; Maddex, 1994; Tucker, 2000; Whitaker, 2000a, 2000b; White, 1996). Specifically, special
education teachers attributed decisions to remain in the field to their mentors (e.g., Boyer, 1999)
and not necessarily to a program (White, 1996). The literature in special education also suggests
ways that these mentors were most facilitative. Mentors should be special educators like their
mentees (Lane & Canosa, 1995; White, 1996; Seitz, 1998) and the pair may have a better
experience if they come together frequently (Whitaker, 2000a). Mentors who understood that
their role was to provide objective, non-judgmental advice to first-year teachers were viewed as
more useful and tended to enhance collegial relationships. Personal characteristics (e.g., being
caring, friendly, flexible, and available) helped to create successful mentoring experiences (Gibb
& Welch, 1998).
These studies indicated that beginning teachers experienced a high degree of satisfaction with the
mentoring arrangements, a heightened self-confidence, and improvement in collaboration skills.
Finally, a serendipitous outcome of new teacher induction in special education was that mentors
found their work with beginning teachers beneficial to themselves and their own personal and
professional development (Lane & Canosa, 1995).
The research also suggested effective features of induction programs for special educators. For
example, the content of induction programs and the forms of support provided were important,
with first-year teachers valuing emotional support, materials/resources, and system information
related to the school district and special education. In addition, face-to-face meetings (scheduled
or unscheduled) between mentors and beginning teachers surfaced as an effective method for
delivering support; other ways were identified as helpful (e.g., telephone contacts, observations).
Relationship between Special and General Education Induction
The research on general education induction suggests that programs increase short-term retention
rates of teachers; however, questions remain about long-term effects (Arends & Rigazio-DiGilio,
2000; Huling-Austin, 1990). Special education research supports these findings, suggesting that
induction practices contribute to first-year teachers' decisions to continue teaching during the
early years (Boyer, 1999; Whitaker, 2000a, 2000b; Tucker, 2000).
Empirical support for induction in special education leads to examination of the kind of support
offered to beginning special educators and the nature of interactions between new and
experienced teachers. Research suggests that collegial relationships between a mentor and
mentee can be strengthened when the mentor does not formally evaluate the teacher's
performance (Kueker & Hanesly, 1991). This finding is supported further by many authors of
induction reviews (Arends & Ragazio-DiGilio, 2000; Gold, 1996; Moskowitz & Stephens, 1996;
Serpell, 2000), who recommend assistance and support over evaluations that determine whether
or not new teachers can become certified. Not surprisingly, special education mentees rated
emotional support as the most helpful kind of assistance they received from mentors (Whitaker,
2000a). However, new teachers also desired information about policies and procedures in
special education, instruction and curriculum adaptation, and classroom behavior management
(Boyer, 1999; Lane & Canosa, 1995; Maddex, 1994).
Studies of induction activities that did not focus exclusively on mentoring revealed positive
outcomes in other areas. Stress management workshops and peer collaboration training
improved emotional exhaustion, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment (Cooley &
Yavanoff, 1996). In Tucker's (2000) study, the use of a journal and teacher reflection was
perceived as helpful by first-year special educators over other activities offered. In addition,
having access to an orientation before the first day of school encouraged first-year teachers to
stay in teaching (Hopkins, 1997). Mentoring and other activities reinforce Gold's (1996)
general education recommendation that regular opportunities for new and experienced teachers
to communicate are important and the content of induction activities for new teachers should
meet both their instructional and psychological needs.
The agreement between general and special education research on induction is encouraging. In
addition to ensuring better early experiences, if congruent research findings from both fields are
used to design programs, induction activities have the potential to address the professional needs
and personal well-being of all teachers. However, in both fields, questions about new teacher
induction remain regarding: (a) the long-term retention of teachers who have been involved in
induction activities; (b) school setting variables (e.g., large vs. small, urban vs. rural); and (c)
Connections between Induction in Special Education and Contextual
Earlier in this review, we painted a grim picture of the conditions of teaching that many special
educators encounter. These conditions are shaped by factors that can result in high-teaching
loads (e.g., Carter & Scruggs, 2001); insufficient resources (e.g., Billingsley & Tomchin, 1992);
insufficient time (e.g., MacDonald & Speece, 2001); and inadequate administrative support for
special education (Kilgore & Griffin, 1998), to name a few. When first-year teachers are faced
with these adverse conditions, difficulties typically encountered (e.g., time management) are
The conditions of teaching present unique needs for induction support and mentoring. Urban
schools, in particular, often present particularly challenging working conditions, lack of
professional respect, low morale, and a culture of high faculty turnover. Special education
teachers, particularly beginning teachers working in urban settings, must be equipped "to educate
the nation's most diverse student body to the highest academic standard and prepare students to
contribute to our democracy and global community" (Council of the Great City Schools, 1996, p.
5). Similar challenges face teachers in rural areas (Lemke, 1995). While all novice special
educators need support, the unique conditions of teaching and barriers to achievement for
students should be addressed directly through induction support. If we have learned anything
from this review of the literature, it is that induction supports must deal directly with needs that
emerge from the unique contexts in which special educators find themselves in their initial
teaching years. The Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program-Special Education
(Burstein & Kennedy, 2002) is one example of an induction program that explicitly addresses
urban special education teaching More programs like this and more research on their
effectiveness are called for.
Implications for Teacher Educators and School Districts
We focus our recommendations on two prominent areas in the special education literature-
mentoring and alternative certification-and suggest ways to create schools that foster optimal
support for and achievement by the entire school community.
Mentoring. Although findings from the literature we reviewed on mentoring in special
education induction programs are encouraging, questions remain. For example, Whitaker
(2000a) found that beginning special education teachers and their mentors focused more on
personal adjustment and the mechanics of the job than on students and their learning. This
finding prompted her to pose two questions that we feel need to be considered seriously and
systematically studied as mentorships are conceptualized and implemented:
Do mentors provide less assistance in the areas that focus directly on the student
because the first-year special educator is not ready for such assistance or because the
mentor is less comfortable or capable in providing this type of assistance?
Can and should mentors assist in moving first-year special education teachers more
quickly through the early stages into the stage that focuses on students? (p. 562)
Both questions address the role of the mentor and the possibility of interrupting stages of teacher
development in which a student focus is not at the forefront. Time is of the essence for students
with special education needs who are often seriously lagging in achievement. It is imperative
that mentoring programs are designed and mentors selected and prepared to promote beginning
teachers' focus on teaching and learning as soon as possible. Important areas for research are:
(a) qualities of mentors (e.g., curriculum knowledge, their own focus on teaching and learning,
confidence to push novices to move beyond adjustment) and (b) a mentoring process (e.g.,
intensity, format, feedback mechanisms) that facilitates a focus on students.
Alternative certification. Surrounded by controversy, alternative route certification
programs continue to multiply (Rosenberg & Sindelar, 2001). Support for new teachers prepared
outside of traditional teacher education programs is crucial. Initial placement settings are
important. All new teachers, especially those learning to teach on the job, deserve placements
with a reasonable number of students, adequate materials, and supportive colleagues (Boyer,
1999). Mentoring in ARC programs, as in other induction programs reviewed, is a prominent
feature; however, unlike traditional programs, the nature of the support may need to be
intensified. For example, mentees may require visits from mentors at least once a week,
continuing through the mentee's second year of teaching (e.g., Dieker & Winn, 1999; Lloyd et
al., 2000). Beyond mentoring, another rare feature of ARC programs is the involvement and
sincere commitment of colleges and universities (IHEs) in the induction process (e.g., McKibbin,
McCabe, Evans, & Reid, 2003; Miller & Wienke, 2001; Rosenberg & Rock, 1994; Winn &
Dieker, 2001). These linkages allow IHE faculty to share information with mentors and
supervisors, provide training, work with districts to identify placements, and hopefully lessen the
gap between research and practice (i.e., what interns/novice teachers glean from their courses
and from the field).
A myriad of issues remain in ARCs. One centers on the intensity of effort expended to support
novices prepared in this manner. Despite recommendations that support provided to new
teachers in ARC programs should be greater, Rosenberg and Sindelar (2001) state:
We remain unsure of the actual level of support that ARC (alternative route certification)
candidates require, a factor that can be especially critical when the cost/benefit aspects of
a comprehensive teacher development program are being considered (p. 16).
As alternative route certification programs grow, it is critical that researchers in teacher
education examine the type and amount of induction support from both districts and IHEs
required to support new teachers learning to teach on the job. Research is needed to define and to
identify the most important aspects of induction support, for example:
amount of time on-the-job teachers need to be with their mentors
nature and sequence of mentoring activities most beneficial to the teachers and
most profitable ways to link the school districts with teacher education programs
ways assignments can match teachers' strengths and needs.
An important area for research is identifying how to define and implement these topics on an
individual level, particularly within larger programs.
Attending to the differences between the induction needs of student teachers going through
traditional and ARC special education teacher preparation programs are important. By
examining the type and effectiveness of supports in alternative route certification programs, we
also identify induction practices that can benefit all beginning special education teachers.
School culture and new teacher induction. Optimal teacher induction is created when
factors that reform the school culture are embraced and then practiced. These factors allow new
teachers and their students to achieve their potential and simultaneously improve conditions in
schools and special education classrooms. These factors, which have been presented elsewhere
(Kilgore, Griffin, Sindelar, & Webb, 2002) and supported by Darling-Hammond (1997) and
others interested in school reform, include: (a) strong leadership, (b) shared governance, (c)
collaboration, and (d) professional growth.
Successful schools require strong and nurturing leadership from the principal that includes
support for innovation without risk and for setting high standards for all school personnel. It is
also critical that principals communicate the importance of teaching and learning-for everyone.
Improvement is possible in schools where teachers are involved in making school-wide
decisions, where they work with assistance and support from others and not in isolation, and
where they have opportunities for ongoing professional development. It is in a school with this
kind of culture that significant change can occur, and significant dilemmas-like how best to
support new teachers-can be addressed and truly effective approaches created and
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