Supporting and fostering the development of alternatively certified teachers: creating a collaborative community
First-year alternatively certified teachers face significant challenges as they attempt to address the complexities of classroom teaching, particularly when they are assigned to teach in urban school settings. As the number of alternatively certified teachers continues to increase, it is important to provide them with professional development opportunities that address the challenges that they encounter in their first year of teaching. This action research study was conducted to examine a professional development model designed to support the development of a small group of first-year alternatively certified teachers in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College (MLFTC) at Arizona State University. As first-year teachers within the Induction, Masters, and Certification (InMAC) program, their professional learning needs were unique. They had an immediate need to effectively acquire knowledge and apply it in their teaching practice as they concurrently completed coursework to obtain their master's degree and certification while serving as the teacher of record. This study provided the opportunity for five first-year alternatively certified teachers to participate in a project that provided professional development to meet their specific needs. This two-pronged professional development model included two components: (a) a mentoring component provided by a recently retired master teacher, and (b) a learning community that included opportunities for observation, collaboration, and reflection with National Board Certified teachers. This study was designed to improve teaching practices and increase teaching self-efficacy among the first-year alternatively certified teacher participants. Results from the mixed-method study provided evidence that the model benefited the participants by improving their teaching practices and increasing their teaching self-efficacy. In the discussion, the importance of non-evaluative feedback provided by the mentors was emphasized. Further, highly developed interpersonal relationships, effective communication processes, and helpful collaborative procedures were useful in understanding how alternatively certified teachers benefited from mentor feedback and guidance. Finally, implications for future practice and further research were offered.