2006

Project: National Writing Project, New Teacher Initiative (NTI)

Authors: Barbara Heenan, Nina Houghton

With assistance of: Dawn Huntwork, Ellen Meyer, Mark St. John

Type: Report

Publication: March 2006

The National Writing Project’s New Teacher Initiative: A Study Of Outcomes, Design And Core Values

1. Introduction and Overview (pdf, 10 pages)

2. The Benefits to New Teachers of the National Writing Project’s New Teacher Initiative (pdf, 25 pages)

3. The Emerging Practices of the National Writing Project’s New Teacher Initiative (pdf, 18 pages)

4. The Design Features of the National Writing Project’s New Teacher Initiative (pdf, 24 pages)

5. New Teacher Initiative Designs: A Function of National Writing Project Core Values and Supportive Infrastructure (pdf, 24 pages)

Abstract

1) Introduction and Overview
This module provides important grounding in describing what the New Teacher Initiative (NTI) is and where and how it fits into the National Writing Project (NWP), as well as the role of Inverness Research as an outside evaluator of the project. This piece also provides an overview and guide to the rest of the linked reports.

2) The Benefits to New Teachers of the National Writing Project’s New Teacher Initiative
This module describes the extent to which and the ways in which new teachers benefited from their participation in the NTI programs. This paper serves as the cornerstone of our NTI study because we believe it is important to document the nature of program outcomes. Ultimately, the NTI has value only to the degree it is able to serve new teachers in ways that enable them to be better teachers and better teachers of writing. For this reason, we provide an array of evidence that helps illuminate the diverse range of benefits that accrued to the NTI new teachers.

We have organized our discussion of the benefits in a hierarchy that is roughly Maslovian in character. We begin with benefits or outcomes that address new teachers’ basic needs. We then discuss the benefits that pertain to the teaching of writing, and end with those benefits that pertain to the overall professionalization of the beginning teachers. In this paper we also begin to explore the idea that the accrued benefits suggest that there are particular practices, design principles, and ultimately core cultural values that produce particularly rich outcomes and that under-gird the work of the NTI.

3) The Emerging Practices of the National Writing Project’s New Teacher Initiative
An accomplished teacher develops a proven and diverse repertoire of classroom practices over time. In the same way, a professional development project develops a repertoire of activities, strategies, and ultimately practices and models for educating and supporting teachers. The 18 participating NTI sites developed, tested and refined various activities and strategies as they worked to find ways to serve new teachers. Just as the NWP supports veteran teachers in sharing their teaching with each other, who thereby refine and improve their classroom instruction, so too has the New Teacher Initiative helped the NTI sites to observe, reflect, and share their new teacher support activities with one another.

This report provides a description of four of the most common strategies or practices that have emerged from the NTI work to date: Workshop Series; On-site Mentoring and Coaching; On-line Support; and Teacher Research. For each emergent strategy or practice we include a summary description, specific site-level examples, and an analysis of the benefits and challenges of the practice. We also discuss lessons learned that cut across sites and particular strategies, and conclude with some of our own summary thoughts.

This module report, although of interest to external audiences, is intended primarily to inform the internal Writing Project audience. It can be thought of as a teaching tool to assist NWP sites in designing programs for new teachers.

4) The Design Features of the National Writing Project’s New Teacher Initiative
Any skilled practice, no matter whether it refers to a classroom or to a NTI program, reflects a set of design features that help define the practice and give it coherence. These design features, in turn, both depend on and manifest underlying design principles, which in the NTI we found to be derivatives of underlying foundational NWP beliefs and values. As we observed the New Teacher Initiative unfold we saw a handful of unique design features appear frequently and consistently across the sites.

This module describes those key design features that came to characterize the 18 NTI programs. We identified them as the NTI is: discipline-specific and discipline-centered; new teacher centered; respectful of what new teachers know; voluntary; community-centered; student-centered; and focused on enculturation into the profession. Taken together these design features helped to define the unique profile of the overall initiative, shaped the collection of practices that emerged from the NTI efforts, and made the practices at the individual sites effective.

Throughout this report we refer to current research literature, highlighting how the key features of the NTI are congruent with the design criteria recommended by the most recent research and advocacy reports for high-quality new teacher support programs. We also explore how the most salient design features are closely linked to the larger National Writing Project culture in which the initiative resides.

5) New Teacher Initiative Designs: A Function of National Writing Project Core Values and Supportive Infrastructure
This final module examines a third, underlying dimension of foundational capacities that produce the outcomes we described in our first report – the benefits to new teachers participating in the NTI. The work of the NTI is embedded in and draws heavily upon the rich cultural capacity of its parent, the National Writing Project. This cultural capacity consists of an ethos, an oral and written history, and a large bank of knowledge developed over the past 30 years of NWP work with teachers of writing.

In our study of the NTI two key aspects of the NWP cultural capacity emerged as critical elements in the efficacy of the initiative. First, we observed a set of NWP core values appear throughout the NTI efforts, serving both as design principles and as ethical standards to the NTI leaders. NTI leaders sought to achieve congruence between their programs and core values. Second, we observed a well-honed NWP infrastructure or modes of accomplishing work, aimed specifically at supporting sites in the realization of those core NWP values.

In this report we identify, describe and discuss the two key features of the NWP’s cultural capacity that defined the NTI work, namely the core values and the infrastructure designed to enable sites to enact those values. We also discuss the dynamic between these features and the evolving design work at the sites, drawing on specific illustrations from the NTI sites. Finally we posit two related ideas. The first is the notion that as the NTI sites matured and developed a site-level “practice” of new teacher support, they did in fact achieve a high level of congruence between the NWP values and the design of their programs. The second is the idea that the dynamic relationship among the highly articulated core values, the infrastructure supplied by the NWP, and the emerging designs was made possible by a high cultural capacity and drove the overall NTI improvement process.

Intended Audience

The National Writing Project, Federal and state policy makers, Funders, Educators, Teachers, and general public.

Disclaimer

Any and all errors are claimed by the authors of this document, Inverness Research, Inc.

Distribution Policy

Inverness Research Inc. grants permission to print and distribute copies.