University of Mary Washington (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 2944-2949
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
Within the field of special education teacher attrition has been a chronic problem for decades. In 1997, Darling-Hammond reported that 30% of special educators leave within the first three years and 50% leave within five years, and the same figures were reported by Brill and MacCartney in 2008. In fact, Butler (2008) reported that special educators are two and a half times more likely to leave their positions than teachers in other disciplines. Retaining a stable special education teaching force is critical to the quality of student learning, especially in light of persistent achievement gaps between students with disabilities and their peers (Pugach, Blanton, Correa, McLeskey, & Langley, 2009). To reduce attrition, mentoring and induction programs have been implemented and increased support is correlated with intent to stay in teaching (Gersten, Keating, Yavanoff, & Harniss, 2001). However, despite increased programs, special educators continue to leave at disproportionately high rates when compared with educators in other fields. Furthermore, while induction programs have the potential to address beginning teacher quality and retention (Kamman & Long, 2010) and many scholars agree that induction is an important support for beginning teachers (Billingsley, 2004; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999; Feiman-Nemser, 2001b; Wang, Odell & Schwille, 2008); the research is less conclusive (Kamman & Long, 2010).

Many teacher induction programs have primarily focused on the personal comfort levels of novices (Feiman-Nemser, Schwille, Carver, & Yusko, 1999; Gold, 1996) and easing the transition into teaching (Huling-Austin, 1992). However, induction programs focused on situational and psychological support do not take into account that even the best teacher training programs do not fully prepare new professionals for full-time teaching responsibilities. Induction programs need to be examined for the extent to which they focus on curriculum and teaching standards (InTASC,1992) because current empirical evidence does not “shed light on how induction activities can advance teacher learning” (Bay & Parker-Katz, 2009, p. 27). Furthermore, Sindelar, Heretick, Hirsch, Rorrer, and Dawson (2010) states, “we know nothing about what happens during mentor and mentee exchanges which requires studying mentoring pairs over time and fine-grained analyses of their interactions” (p. 16).

This study utilized the text-based interactions between special education mentors and mentees within the Electronic Mentoring for Student Success Program (eMSS) developed by the New Teacher Center (NTC). The purpose of eMSS is to move beyond the survival mode and to focus on content-oriented professional practice which aligns with the NTC’s mission “to transform the lives of new teachers through intensive, mentor-based induction” (Kepp & Mike, 2009, p. 2).

This study sought to determine whether private paired discussions between a beginning special education teacher and a mentor in a computer-mediated environment is an effective avenue for co-construction of knowledge among teachers. Qualitative methods were utilized since the primary objectives were to “describe what is going on (Creswell, 1997, p. 17).
Mentoring, electronic mentoring.