On 30 January 2017, the outcomes of the monitoring on teachers training and probationary period AY 2015/2016 were disclosed in Rome. The activity was carried out by Indire, entrusted by Directorate-General for School Personnel of the Miur. This article synthesises the main features brought out by the research. Slides and videos of the event are available at the end of the page; while the complete report will be published soon on this website.
In Italy, the training and probationary period has accompanied teachers in their pathway towards having tenure, for more than 20 years (Consolidation Act 1994). The structure of the training model for the probation year addressed to newly hired teachers and tenured teachers has been reviewed, starting from the AY 2014/2015 with the Legal Notice 6768 of 27/2/2015. Up to that date training was confined to 40 hours, often to be attended at the end of the year, when the probation period had already finished.
During 2015/16 in Italy, about 84,000 teachers were trained, together with about 65,000 tutors, and in the current year more than 25,000 teachers are in training.
Teachers’ training was supported by an online computer application developed entirely by Indire and managed on the institute’ s servers.
Among the novelties of the Italian training model during the probation year, which is currently in its third edition, it is possible to identify the introduction of some original elements, which are found and confirmed in the quality elements identified by national and international literature on teachers training, during the probation year. These elements are: the professional pact of inclusion in the school community; a more incisive role for the headmaster (who is obliged to supervise the teacher’s class at least once, during the probational period in order to acquire useful elements for his/her subsequent evaluation); the establishment of training workshops onsite, organised through learning centres; the role assigned to the tutor that is also included in the evaluation committee; the onsite mutual observation between tutor and newly hired teacher; the introduction of an initial and final skills profile and a future objectives plan; the use of a digital training portfolio that documents the entire training experience of the probation year.
In order to investigate the effectiveness of the training model and its devices, monitoring questionnaires were provided to trainee teachers, their tutors and a representative sample of Italian headmasters. Interviews, focus groups and discussion boards were also conducted with representative samples of teachers, tutors, representatives from the Regional School Offices, Territorial Offices and headmasters of the schools chosen as training centres.
The following reflection elements emerged from the monitoring action in relation to the analysed target:
Teachers and Tutors
- Teachers in the probation and training AY 2015/2016 were by 81% female. An equal gender proportion concerned tutors. More than 80% of the trainees tenured teachers were between 35 and 54 years of age;
- 45% of teachers were born in a southern region, namely Puglia and Campania; About 21% came from the islands, most of them from Sicily; about 13% were born in a region of the Centre, Lazio and Marche; 11% from the North West, Lombardy and 8% from the North East, Veneto. Only 3% of the teachers were born abroad;
- Generally, 31% took up service in the South, about 22% in the Centre, 20% in the North West, 15% in the North-east, and finally, 13% on the islands;
- Comparing this data with the geographic area of birth, emerged that about 85% of people from the south, the centre, the North East and the North West remained in the same geographic are of birth; Instead, as far as the islands were concerned, 47% moved to other geographic areas.
Some of the key findings of the surveys also show that:
- 92% of teachers enrolled in the online environment during the first month of availability of the service (February 2016);
- Initial and final meetings of the probation year were organised by grouping teachers in the province (63.6%), or by grouping them into small territorial groups or groups of schools (21.8%). Opening meetings were mainly addressed to informational aspects such as illustration of the training path and organisation (79%); only in 10% of the cases were addressed training issues and in 9% pedagogical aspects of reflection on the teacher’s educational role;
- From the methodological point of view, the training workshops followed by the teachers were structured as working groups for study and comparison in 49.1% of the cases; 36.4% were lecture-based lessons entrusted to experts; 11.7% were seminars involving discussion and debate.
- The thematic centres most dealt with in the workshops organised in AY 2015/2016 covered respectively: special education needs (96%), new technologies and didactics (91.5%), classroom management and relational issues (77, 2%), the National Evaluation System (56.2%);
- The peer-to-peer experience between the teacher and the tutor, which is one of the real pillars of the training system, was generally judged as very useful on the human and relational level (77% of teachers and 80% of Tutors), very useful on the level of cultural stimuli (60% for both teachers and tutors), very useful on the strictly operational and professional level (65% of teachers and 62% of tutors).
- Approximately, 90% of tutors affirmed that they wanted to continue working with newly hired teachers.
As far as the results of device surveys were concerned:
Newly hired teachers were asked to fill in a section of the questionnaire with their self-evaluation of current and future skills, divided into three areas of competences, a section of the questionnaire was dedicated to skills development. Finally, they were invited to reflect on each of these areas.
It turned out that for more than 84% of teachers the competence assessment was a useful tool to enhance self-reflective and self-regulated individual learning; the competence assessment provided an educational and mentoring tool and an in-depth analysis of teachers’ training, showing relevant professional development. Overall, the competence assessment was widely appreciated, as it dealt with the different aspects of the professional experience that characterises the work of a teacher.
From the interviews and the focus groups, emerged that the competence assessment helps people to reflect on their training and professional experience and make sense out of it. On the other hand, it also emerged how the competence assessment can be perceived as a request to demonstrate a certain degree of adequacy in covering the teaching role, rather than an invitation to become aware of the skills developed. Moreover, although the proposal to draw up a competence assessment was recognised as useful, its form was pointed out as periphrastic and redundant, and the language used was, in some cases, perceived as being far from the usual technical language of the field. Consequently, the importance of giving a degree of freedom in the use of this tool, was stressed, and a less confining format was suggested, together with the adoption of less technical language. Due to these outcomes, the initial and final competence assessment have been thoroughly reviewed and refined in the current year.
Teachers were asked to comment on the training pact, which proved to be predominantly a stimulus to take on an attitude of research and propensity to innovation (39% “Very useful” and 51% “quite useful”), only in part linked to the initial skills profile (26.2%).
The whole online path of AY 2015/2016 was, overall, defined “quite useful” by about 60% of newly hired teachers and was considered a useful supporting tool for the teaching practice to set professional goals and lay down a professional path. Only 12% of teachers considered the experience of little use.
These results are consistent with the premises supporting the designing of the path. The centrality of the designing-documentation-reflection phase of the didactic practice, and the importance of reflection on professional competences were confirmed by the answers received.
135 headmasters, selected on the basis of territorial sampling, were invited to be interviewed. 109 of them participated, revealing that:
- the tutors chosen by the headmasters were mostly selected on the basis of their disciplinary knowledge and their teaching grade level. (94.5%);
- Only 16.5% of the tutors were trained with specific courses, but they benefitted of supporting tools and at least one induction meeting (75%);
- The headmasters supervised the newly hired teachers’ classes once (57%) or more times (35%). Headmasters used appropriate observation tools, such as guidelines (61.4%), and in some cases, they had follow-up meetings with the new teachers (44%);
- According to the headmasters, the main strengths of the training model were: the 4 training workshops of 3 hours each (82%); the professional supervising of the newly hired by their tutor with the purpose of elaborating the Training Pact, and mutual observation in class (76%); online training aimed at building a portfolio including the initial and final competence assessments; the training curriculum and the lesson plan for two didactic activities, accompanied by final considerations (52%).