Supporting New Teachers: Clearly Defined Instructional Practices Build Confidence in the Classroom

May 1, 2024

Supporting New Teachers: Clearly Defined Instructional Practices Build Confidence in the Classroom

Welcome back to our season of reflection, taking shape as a series of blogs where I walk through a series of key support strategies we have seen proven to help retain and uplift our new teachers in the profession.

In Part 1, Constructive Feedback as a First Step, we heard new teachers describe quality feedback as critical, providing a foundation for learning. New teachers also shared that being involved in a positive cycle of feedback and development helps create connections and reduce isolation. 

Knowing that detailed feedback and guidance are essential for supporting new educators, how can school systems ensure the quality and consistency of that feedback?

Mentorship is a major factor in improved instruction

In conversations with new teachers, they highlight that when teacher leaders apply real-time data and lessons to their coaching sessions with new teachers, strong practices are more easily visualized and linked back to classroom instruction. The new teachers who felt most supported in their mentorship sessions were those who could glean lessons from their mentors, lessons that they otherwise generally wouldn’t know due to limited experience. 

“It's really nice having mentor teachers that are at our school and know how to implement the things they're talking about at these meetings straight into our classrooms,” one teacher shared. “They actually let us go and observe another class in small groups while someone watched our class just so we could see what it looks like from an outside perspective, compared to when we're doing it ourselves - so those have all been super helpful.” 

When mentor teachers have the localized experience and can put themselves into the shoes of new teachers having been there before, the feedback and instruction on best practices become significantly more targeted, defined, and applicable to the classroom. It offers new teachers a sense of confidence, instilling a can-do attitude.

Using rubrics to guide instruction is well-received

Many of these best practices are supported by detailed, research-based resources such as the NIET Teaching and Learning Standards Rubric.

“I was a big fan when my school introduced me to the rubric near the end of the first quarter. Coming through induction, there's a lot of trying to make you feel good but sometimes they don't spend a ton of time right out of the gate talking about the rubric, and how we're gonna be looking at this lesson plan and making sure everything's aligned and things like that,” one new teacher said. “But I was happy with that process because I feel like it allowed for a different lens to look at everything I was doing on a daily basis.”

The teacher went on to explain the progress they made through being able to refer to the rubric to analyze their instructional lessons, and how that focus on student work could then be applied to collaboration and professional development with peers. 

“You have an opportunity to start looking at your lesson plans a little differently and once you start adding clusters, you're running everything through that rubric. I feel like it's helped from the lesson planning to the organization, the teacher clarity, all of the different things mentioned on the rubric so that you are trying to align to them.”

This new teacher’s experience with the rubric was a powerful one, and a prime example of how clear directions and resources, like the NIET Rubric, combined with coaching from within-school mentors, lead to the professional growth that so many new teachers are looking for in their first year.