The Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and the College, Career, and Civic Life Standards (C3) are a new concepts for many new teachers, and learning to put the standards into instructional practice can be challenging for them. Not only are teachers beginning a new career at a new school, daily planning, grading, building student relationships, and more, they are being asked to implement a new way of teaching standards into their daily instruction which they have limited knowledge about.
"New Teacher Learning Teams" (NTLTs) are a great way to support new teachers learn about all of the new standards, and help them intentionally and purposefully set aside time to design instruction keeping the new standards in mind. Planning for NTLTs can be done at the beginning of the school year, and should be facilitated by teacher leaders, teacher mentors, or other content experts in a building. NTLTs build new teacher capacity in their content area while building comradery in a school between new teachers learning together; in addition, they are a direct catalyst to improved student achievement and closing the learning gap.
Often, new teachers are overwhelmed with daily tasks, and can't see the trees through the weeds; therefore, NTLTs provide new teachers an opportunity to purposefully stop, plan for practice, and reflect on practice with new colleagues they work with. According to the New Teacher Center (Goldrick, 2009), "Beginning educators, on average, are less effective than their more experienced peers. Research has consistently found a positive relationship between years of teaching experience and higher student achievement, with teachers who have five or more years in the classroom demonstrating greater effectiveness. Despite good intentions, new teachers have yet to develop their skills and knowledge." Not only do new teachers have limited time in the classroom, they have limited time outside of the classroom planning and grading, among other tasks. That being said, research shows that beginning educators are less effective than experienced teachers due to a lack of knowledge and experience; by putting teachers together in NTLTs, it enables them to grow their knowledge in their content standards which can bridge many learning gaps. In addition, NTLTs enable teachers to feel supported both by colleagues who are having similar experiences, and those who have experience with the standards.
Here are ten guidelines for establishing and facilitating successful NTLTs:
Building teacher capacity and knowledge is only one benefit of NTLTs; they also increase student achievement, which is an element new teachers might struggle with. Because teachers take an active role in learning the standards and work with their instructional coach over the course of the school year, they are able to create lessons that are more rigorous and allow for deeper student processing. In addition, teacher planning is more intentionally focused on the standards and the learning focused improvement process, allowing teachers to not only learn the standards, but practice them and refine them in the classroom based on coach and colleague feedback.
New Teacher Learning Teams facilitate learning of the standards and grow the capacity of new teachers. It is critical for NTLT leaders to establish goals with the group in order to keep them focused on a few small standards for the year in order to not overwhelm new teachers. In addition, staying focused on a few standards allows teachers to work at their own pace in order to refine and master their practice. It is also critical for NTLTs to begin with the end in mind and map out a plan of growth for the year and set measurable goals along the way so that teachers can meet them as their year progresses. Without measureable goals, new teachers may get frustrated with the process, give up, or become unable to see the benefits of the group. New teachers must also feel safe to take risks in the classroom and try strategies out of their comfort zone in order to learn the standards; in addition, they must also receive feedback, consultation, and coaching on their practices so they can reflect and refine them in order to improve their craft. Instructional coaches and mentors must take the lead on supporting new teachers in their growth plan to help them move forward in their learning. Without mentoring and coaching, new teachers may again get frustrated and give up on the process; therefore, mentors and coaches should regularly visit new teacher classrooms, be an active part of the NTLT process, and help teachers reflect on their practice by having regular learning focused conversations.
New Teacher Learning Teams can drive new teacher and student learning and build capacity in the standards, taking both new teachers and students to new levels of learning. When new teachers feels supported and have a plan for professional growth with measurable goals, they will blossom into rigorous educators who create thought-provoking deep lessons for their students.
Goldrick, Liam. "New Teacher Center Policy Brief." (2009): 1. New Teacher Center. NTC, 01 June 2009. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.