Eve Eisenschmidt has been the director of Haapsalu College from the very beginning in 1998. She founded a consulting centre for teachers who work in Haapsalu and the region. The college has built a growing network of teachers in the area of Haapsalu. Eve Eisenschmidt is convinced that people learn best when they learn from each other. In March 2009 the college hosted a videoconference with participants from all over Estonia. The main idea of the conference was to turn Haapsalu College into a competency centre of its region. Now the next step is to visit other competency centres in Sweden to learn how to organize and manage it.
Nordic-Estonian joint project
Eve Eisenschmidt is part of the Nordic-Estonian joint project, which supports young teachers after their graduation from the university. She notes that attitudes towards learning and teaching are quite different in Norway and Finland as compared to Estonia. She has noticed that in Norway novice teachers write about teamwork in their diploma. In Norway teamwork plays an important role in the pedagogical methods. In Finland teachers write extensive philosophical analyses for instance about the ethical role of teachers at school. But young Estonian teachers on the other hand usually only think about how to keep discipline in the classroom. Many graduating pedagogy students seem to believe that a good teacher is someone that can keep the pupils quiet in the class. Supporting the learning and development of new teachers is definitely a challenge for Estonian adult educators.
The induction year for novice teachers
The program for teachers in their first year of practice was launched in 2004. Eve Eisenschmidt has been the ringleader since the very beginning. The program provides every novice teacher with a mentor who helps to deal with and analyse the philosophical and ethical problems of teaching. Every other month all the novice teachers meet at the college and discuss their work experiences with university lecturers. Sometimes their mentors participate in these discussions, too. This way the young teachers get acquainted to teamwork. Eve says that in certain aspects Estonia has become even more profound in its induction year program than the Nordic countries. For instance here every novice teacher has his/her own mentor whereas in the Nordic countries mentoring is mostly done in groups and with peers.
In 2006 Eve finished her doctorate thesis: “Implementation of induction year for novice teachers in Estonia.” She conducted interviews with young teachers, their mentors and school headmasters and found out that almost all of them were very content with the program. Only very few of them considered helping young teachers a waste of time but the majority expressed great enthusiasm towards the process and the outcome. Many experienced teachers have taken the challenge to become mentors for their younger colleagues. And sometimes even teachers with decades of work experience called mentors to visit their lessons and discuss their teaching methods. In general the induction year program brought new ideas, new energy and more networking into schools. In some schools the new teachers shared their knowledge about new teaching methods such as group work and problem solving learning with their more experienced colleagues.
“Of course this is only a small step in the development of Estonian pedagogical methodology but the induction year has created a good starting point” sais Eve. Many school headmasters have pointed out that the new courses about networking, teamwork and ethical responsibility of teachers have been helpful for their schools work atmosphere.
Eve Eisenschmidt’s doctoral thesis has attracted attention in other countries, too. The induction year of novice teachers might be the key to keeping young teachers from acquiring other jobs and thus relieve the problem of lack of teachers in general.
Eve Eisenschmidt (2009) Newly Qualified Teachers in Northern Europe – Research and Development Network (NQTNE)
Eve Eisenschmidt, Hannu Heikkinen, Wiebke Klages (2008). Strong, Competent, and Vulnerable- Experience of the First Year as a Teacher. Göran Fransson, Christina Gustafsson (Toim.). Newly Qualified Teachers in Northern Europe- Comparative Perspectives on Promoting Professional Development (125 - 147). Gävle, Rootsi: Gävle University Press
Eisenschmidt, Eve (2008). Induction and the teacher professional development: an Estonian project. In: Teacher professional development for the quality and equity of lifelong learning: Teacher professional development for the quality and equity of lifelong learning. (Toim.) Ministry of Education of Portugal. Portugal:, 2008, 119 - 125.
Eisenschmidt, Eve; Löfström, Erika (2008). The Significance of the European Commission's Policy Paper "Improving the quality of Teacher Education" Perspectives of Estonian Teachers. Teacher Educators and Policy-makers. Brian Hudson, Pavel Zgaga (Toim.). Teacher Education Policy in Europe: a Voice of Higher Education Institutions (63 - 84). Umea, Sweden: University of Umea
Löfström, Erika; Eisenschmidt, Eve (2009). Novice teachers’ perspectives on mentoring: The case of the Estonian induction year. Teaching and Teacher Education, 1 - 9.
Eisenschmidt, Eve (2006). Novice teachers as members of professional learning communities. In: Education-line: European Conference on Educational Research, University of Geneva, 13-15 September 2006. Leeds: University of Leeds, 2006, 1 - 11.
DialogWeb 1/2007: The Supervising of Young Teachers in Estonia
Association for Teacher Education in Europe: Newly qualified teachers in Northern Europe