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Open Access
Article
Publication date: 31 May 2024

Erica Gilbertson, Amy Murphy, Sonia Janis, Kathy Thompson and Michael Harris

The purpose of this action research study was to design, implement and evaluate interventions that enhanced the induction program for new teachers in a P-12 school district. At…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this action research study was to design, implement and evaluate interventions that enhanced the induction program for new teachers in a P-12 school district. At the outset, we hoped the study would provide new teacher support resulting in improved teaching practices, increased job satisfaction and/or increased teacher retention among the target population. With this in mind, our research question was: What structures and supports from a school-university partnership facilitate capacity-building among university teacher education faculty, school and district leaders, mentor teachers, and new teachers in the context of an induction program?

Design/methodology/approach

This study used an intervention-centered mode of action research methodology that aims to make systems-level change. This type of action research intends to solve real organizational problems with a focus on conducting “research in action” rather than “research about action” (Coghlan and Brannick, 2014, pp. 5–6). This approach necessitates that data collection and analysis are iterative processes, occurring throughout the research process, instead of solely at the end stages of the research process. Our action research process used Coghlan and Brannick’s (2014) action research cycle model. The cyclical four-step process includes constructing (verifying the problem in the local context), planning action, taking action and evaluating action. Facilitated by the interim director of a Professional development schools (PDS) partnership in the Southeastern United States, a team of co-researchers which included three university teacher education faculty and four school district administrators used action research methodology to create systemic change that enhanced the district’s induction program. We collected data through multiple qualitative methods, including surveys, focus groups, observations and interviews during the course of three action research cycles. These data and our theoretical framework (complex adaptive systems theory and social network theory) informed two major interventions that supported new teachers during the challenging first year of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Findings

The interventions and the research process were mutually beneficial for both institutions and contributed to professional learning and growth at the individual, group and system levels. The three major findings described include: (1) engaging in collaborative action research is mutually beneficial for both schools and universities; (2) induction programs benefit from university resources; (3) learning communities build all educators’ professional capacity.

Research limitations/implications

Our research recommendations are: (1) more research is needed on the benefits of school-university partnerships to induction programs; (2) school-university partnerships should leverage action research to improve systems; (3) within school-university partnerships, the connection between collaborative leadership and sustainability requires further research. One limitation was that this study was conducted in a single school-university partnership context involving a large public university and a mid-sized public school district that had a well-established partnership. More induction-centered research is needed in different types of school-university partnership contexts that have varying levels of longevity and partnership structures.

Practical implications

Our recommendations for practice include (1) school-university partnerships should leverage collaborative learning communities to catalyze individual, group and systems-level learning and change, and (2) school-university partnerships must prioritize induction support to strengthen the teaching profession.

Originality/value

Since Hunt’s (2014) literature review on induction support in PDS partnerships, very few empirical studies have been conducted in this research area. This study, which examined induction support in a PDS partnership over a two-year period, makes a significant contribution to the scholarly literature on induction teacher support in school-university partnership contexts. Facilitated by the interim director of a PDS partnership, a team of co-researchers, which included three university teacher education faculty and four school district administrators, used action research methodology to create systems-level supports that enhanced the district’s induction program.

Details

School-University Partnerships, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1935-7125

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