Novice teachers' experiences with telemonitoring as learner-centered professional development
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This multiple-case study examines the experiences of ten novice teachers using telementoring services sponsored by the University of Texas’ WINGS (Welcoming Interns and Novices with Guidance and Support) program for its recently certified new teachers. This protégé-driven service allows new teachers to address self-perceived induction needs by selecting their own mentors from an online database of profiles submitted by experienced-teacher volunteers. The novice teachers in this study exchanged e-mail with their telementors regularly during a period of 15 to 24 months, typically sending or receiving at least one email message per week. E-mail exchanges were facilitated by WINGS staff and were automatically archived on the WINGS server with participants’ fully informed consent. Data gathered and generated for this interpretivist study included interviews with the novice teachers; their archived e-mail exchanges with their mentors and facilitators; information submitted by the protégés as they selected their mentors, plus professional profiles written by the mentors they selected; and interviews with WINGS facilitators. These data were analyzed using a constant comparison method, leading to the emergence of themes, which formed the basis for the study’s findings. Key findings were threefold. First, the participating novice teachers sought induction support online largely because they felt vulnerable when asking for assistance or support in their own school environments, perceiving such requests as possibly exposing them to negative judgment from on-campus colleagues, assigned mentors, or supervisors. Second, these protégé teachers generally felt that their telementors helped them by providing profession-related developmental assistance, ranging from practical teaching suggestions the new teachers could immediately apply in their classrooms to general suggestions that helped them assimilate into the social and professional cultures of teaching. The majority of these novice teachers also felt that their telementors provided them with valuable personal and emotional support, characterized by qualities that included caring, attentiveness, and positivity. The most successful of these telementoring relationships – seven of the ten examined – grew into collaboratively reflective professional-development exchanges. Third, facilitation provided by WINGS staff members was important in preventing telementoring teams’ correspondence from faltering and in resolving technological problems that disrupted telecommunications connections, which occurred more frequently than expected.