Induction Programs: Do They Really Matter?

Published
04 July 2019

Beginning at a new school can be just as daunting for staff as it is for students. There are many things that new employees need to learn and grapple with in their first few days, weeks and months – from how to set up their email to where they need to take students for assembly. Induction programs play a key role in making the transition into a new job easier for teachers. In a longer-term sense, induction programs also lay the foundation for new teachers to succeed in their role at the school and to continue their professional development. In addition, induction programs also reduce risks associated with having a new teacher fail to follow school policies and processes from the onset of their employment.

No two teacher induction programs will be exactly alike because the program needs to be tailored to the cultural and compliance requirements of the school and to the specific needs of each new teacher. Nonetheless, there are some common components that underlie most induction programs, as will be explored in this article. The overarching point is that induction programs for new teachers certainly do matter – they matter for the new teachers, for schools and for the students.


What is an Induction Program?

There are some common misconceptions about induction programs, most notably including the assumption that an ‘orientation’ and an ‘induction’ are the same thing. According to educator and teacher Anette Breaux, an orientation is just “one small activity that takes place during an overall systematic two or three year training process known as induction”. A teacher’s initial few days of orientation, where they learn the school’s basic policies and procedures, are an important foundation for induction but they are by no means sufficient.

As noted in a previous School Governance article the induction program must be an ongoing process, which not only makes new staff feel welcome when they begin in their role but also more broadly sets them up for long-term success at the school.

Why are Induction Programs Important?

As Breaux and Wong observe, “an induction process is the best way to send a message to your teachers that you value them and want them to succeed and stay”. Putting in the time and effort to help new employees transition into their role demonstrates the school’s commitment to supporting staff members and their professional development. Obviously, induction programs are especially important for graduates who have recently left university. While starting at a new school can be overwhelming even for an experienced teacher, a recent graduate is much more likely to struggle if not given support. For these young teachers, an effective induction lays the foundation for a successful and enjoyable career in teaching. Furthermore, induction programs have been shown to remarkably reduce the attrition rate of young teachers.

Induction programs are also important in terms of the effect they have on student learning. It can be argued that the better the training a teacher receives through an induction program, the better the student achievement is likely to be in the classroom. Moreover, induction programs not only equip teachers to support their students academically, but also provide valuable pastoral care tools. In this way, induction programs set teachers up to provide holistic support for their students.

What Should be Included in the Orientation Component of an Induction Program?

As noted above, the ‘orientation’ component of an induction program refers to those initial few days of training in which staff participate before the commencement of the school year (or sometimes the commencement of a new term). The length of an orientation will depend on the school, but it could range from one to five days. The key aim of an orientation is to make new employees feel welcome and to ensure that they become familiar with the school’s specific policies, values and procedures.

Schools should develop a pre-orientation checklist to use prior to the commencement of new staff members. The checklist should focus on the work resources and office requirements that need to be arranged, such as a desk, laptop, email log in, relevant paperwork and so on. This will minimise unexpected inconveniences once the new staff are onsite and ensure that everybody’s stress levels are kept as low as possible during orientation.

The orientation itself would usually consist of a general component applicable to all new staff, and a further induction applicable to the new employee’s specific role. The general component of staff induction is a formal process where all new employees are familiarised with their roles, responsibilities and entitlements. It is also an opportunity for them to learn about the school’s mission and philosophy, values, applicable policies, resources and support service.

The aspect of the orientation relating to the employee’s specific role will be primarily the responsibility of their line manager or head of department. This enables new employees to become familiarised with the specific responsibilities and entitlements of their role. It is also an opportunity for new teachers to form a strong working relationship with the senior staff member that they will be reporting to and learning from.

What Does an Induction Program Look Like after Orientation?

In terms of the ongoing induction that should occur after a teacher’s initial orientation, some important features include:

  • systematic training to take place over the course of two or three years
  • strong administrative participation in and support of the overall induction process
  • a mentoring component, which involves pairing up the new employee with an experienced staff member
  • study groups in which new teachers network and support one another
  • a structure for modelling effective teaching during in-services and mentoring
  • numerous opportunities for inductees to visit demonstration classrooms taught by successful and experienced teachers
  • a process to ensure the socialisation of new staff, such that their behaviours fall within the norms of the expected culture within the school.

The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers should also be considered when designing the ongoing aspect of an induction program. Note, for example, that it is the role of the school that employs a graduate teacher to provide opportunities for that teacher to move from Graduate Standard to Proficient Standard over a specified time frame. To read more about the standards developed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, and to get a sense of how they might influence an induction program, consider reading our article.

Conclusion

This article has sought to provide insight into the importance of induction programs for new teachers. Whether those teachers are starting out their careers or simply starting at a new school, induction programs have been proven to have a positive impact on both teacher retention and student outcomes. Importantly though, there is no one right way to conduct an induction program, because every school has different needs as do the teachers who are being employed there.

About the Authors


Craig D'cruz

Craig-1-1With 37 years of educational experience, Craig D’cruz is the National Education Lead at CompliSpace. Craig provides direction on education matters including new products, program/module content and training. Previously Craig held the roles of Industrial Officer at the Association of Independent Schools of WA, he was the Principal of a K-12 non-government school, Deputy Principal of a systemic non-government school and he has had teaching and leadership experience in both the independent and Catholic school sectors. Craig currently sits on the board of a large non-government school and is a regular presenter on behalf of CompliSpace and other educational bodies on issues relating to school governance, school culture and leadership.

Luci-1

Lucinda Hughes

Lucinda Hughes is a Legal Research Assistant at CompliSpace. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws at the University of Sydney.

CompliSpace Media

CompliSpace is an Australian company that helps over 600 non-government schools across Australia with their governance, risk, compliance and policy management. What makes us different is that we monitor over 200 sources of legal and regulatory change to ensure our clients have the updated policies and tools they need to meet new requirements. We share that knowledge with the broader Education community via School Governance.