01 SES 02 B, Aspects of Mentoring
In a number of countries across Europe there are moves towards teaching becoming a ‘masters-level’ professional. The policy context in Scotland is strongly supportive of this. Donaldson’s (2010) influential report Teaching Scotland’s Future highlights the need for teachers to become ‘extended professionals’, able to act as agents of change within schools and ‘masterliness’ is seen as a key attribute of the extended professional. However, in order to secure systemic improvement and benefits for pupils the development of extended professionalism, and the masterliness which is assumed to underpin this, needs to be conceived within a theory/practice nexus which embeds teacher professional learning in sites of practice and this, in turn, necessitates partnership between schools, local authorities, and universities.
A number of theoretical orientations contribute to the reconceptualization of professional learning as occurring in and through practice, including socio-cultural theories and socio-material theories (see Fenwick et al, 2012), but a key idea is the need to see the workplace as a ‘pedagogic site’ (Zukas, 2012) within which practitioners’ knowledge is continually evolving in relationship with others (others which may be conceived as both animate and inanimate). Yet traditionally, work-based or practice-based learning linked to masters-level has been seen as the individual acquisition of skills which does not necessarily lead to organizational change (Lester and Costley, 2010). There is thus a need to develop models of university accredited professional learning that support individual and organizational change and build capability and capacity in educational systems.
In response to this we have developed a model of accredited practice-based professional learning, in conjunction with four partner local authorities (LAs), which seeks to develop the capacity of practices to support masters-level learning for teachers, thereby contributing to sustainable professional development. The overall Masters programme structure being developed combines university taught modules with modules undertaken in schools. But crucially, and innovatively, the development of the model is predicated on a partnership approach, guided by a working group comprising university and LA staff which seeks to move beyond the traditional ‘service provider’ relationship between universities and LAs. Furthermore, the practice-based element of the programme includes a support structure provided by our LA partners. Partnership is therefore an inherent feature of both the development and the implementation of the programme.
This paper focuses on the development of the support structure and in particular on the role of what we have called ‘Critical Colleagues’ (CCs), members of staff drawn from across our partner LAs, who support students undertaking the course. First we set out how, in partnership with our LA colleagues, we developed this role. A major concern was to move beyond an instrumental approach to coaching/mentoring which, research indicates, tends to reinforce the status quo (Langdon, 2013). Rather we adopted the metaphor of ‘educative mentoring’ (Feiman-Nemser, 2001) in which both parties seek to challenge and interrupt thinking around practice conceived as an ethical endeavour. In this paper we consider the extent to which the CC, as a member of staff of the local authority and therefore ‘inside the whale’ (Orwell, 1969), can take on the role of critical challenger of practice necessary for the role of the ‘educative mentor’. Next, we explore the practices developed jointly by the CC and students as this relationship develops and we consider the extent to which the role is shaped by CC and students’ perceptions of practice. Finally, we consider the implications of this for masters-level practice-based learning.
Davies, B. and Sumara, D.J. (2006) Complexity and Education: Inquiries Into learning, teaching, and research. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Donaldson, G. (2010) Teaching Scotland’s future. Edinburgh: Scottish Government Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001) Helping novices learn to teach lessons from an exemplary support theory. Journal of Teacher Education 52,1,17-30. Fenwick, T., Edwards, R. and Sawchuk, P. (2012) Emerging approaches to educational research: tracing the sociomaterial, London: Routledge Langdon, F.J. (2013) Evidence of mentor learning and development: an analysis of New Zealand mentor/mentee professional conversations. Professional Development in Education, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19415257.2013.833131 Lester, S. and Costley, C. (2010) Work-based learning at higher education level: value, practice and critique. Studies in Higher Education, 35,5,561-575 Orwell, G. (1961) Inside the whale and other essays. London: Penguin. Schatzki, T. R. (2001) Practice theory, pp.1–14 in T. R. Schatzki, K. Knorr Cetina, E. von Savigny (Eds) The practice turn in contemporary theory, London: Routledge. Watson, C. (2012) Analysing narratives: the narrative construction of identity. In, S. Delamont (Ed.), Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education, London: Edward Elgar, pp. 460-473. Zukas, M. (2012) Regulating the professionals: critical perspectives on learning in continuing professional development, pp. 455-467, in D.N. Aspin, Second international handbook of lifelong learning, Dordrecht: Springer.
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