10 SES 12 B, The Roles of School-based Mentors in Initial Teacher Training
The school-based mentor is one of the most powerful sources of influence on student teachers. Therefore, mentors require extensive preparation covering both content and process. The development, and subsequent deployment, of mentorship skills can be an important stage in the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) pathway of experienced teachers (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education [EADSNE], 2010:15). The power of the school mentor to influence student teachers has been widely documented (Anderson, 2007; Overton, 2008). They play a crucial role in helping shape students teachers’ professional attitudes and instructional approaches. They are exemplary role models and they set standards of excellence for future teachers by demonstrating the care and competency that contribute to a productive learning environment for students. They literally are at the chalkface so enjoy credibility with student teachers. However a poor placement experience can be more damaging than none at all so the role of the mentor is vital in the so called school placement triad.
This is at a critical juncture in the evolution of the role of the school based mentor/ cooperating teacher in the Irish context with the relatively new publication by the Teaching Council (TC) of Guidelines for School Placement (2013) in which the role of the cooperating teacher (CT) is specified. As defined by the TC, in the Irish contest, the co-operating teacher is a teacher in the placement school who supports and guides the student teacher and who acts as a point of contact between the HEI and the school (TC, 2016).
The purpose of this mixed methods research is to explore cooperating teachers and student teachers perception of the role of the cooperating teacher and how it is fulfilled in the light of the TC guidelines. Student teachers from across three Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) providing second level teacher preparation in Ireland, were surveyed, and a similar cohort of student teachers from two HEIs in London. An on-line questionaire using Survey Monkey was used order to ascertain their perceptions. The PGCE students form the IoE in London’s UCL who completed the UK adapted survey answered questions in the light of their experience on the role of the subject mentor which is more developed in the UK . This for the purposes of comparison and insight. These findings were then explored in the light of the findings from the questionnaire exploring the perception of their own role as cooperating teachers’ with one cohort of Art & Design teachers from one HEI. Emphasis is placed on how participants perceived CTs fulfilled the role as it is specified by the TC. and how HEIs could better support them in order to maximise the School Placement (SP) experience for all.
The research questions:
- The TC have specified guidelines for CTs and this study seeks to establish if student teachers (ST) and CTs think they are fulfilling the role as specified.
- What is the perception of the role of CTs across 4 HEIs, several subject disciplines and 2 jurisdictions. from CT and student teacher viewpoints
- Anecdotally and based on preliminary findings; Art teachers are a group of teachers who act as strong mentors to student teachers. Is this the case and how?
- The TC have invited HEIs to help in the dissemination of the School Placement Guidelines (2013) What can we in UCD/NCAD/TCD do to more effctively support our CTs
- OFSTED have specified standards for subject mentors and this study will establish if STs think they are fulfilling the role as specified.
- What if anything can, the Republic of ireland (RoI) learn from the English experience which is more established, of subject mentor teachers.
This was a mixed methods study using an on-line questionnaire (specific to RoI and UK settings) through Survey Monkey. These were distributed to second level student teachers in January 2017 in UCD (n=200), NCAD (n=60), UCL IOE (n=500), TCD (n=200) and Roehampton University (n=20) in order to ascertain what was the student teachers experience of subject mentors/ cooperating teachers. All these student teachers were furnished with a link to forward to their SMs /CTs this academic year asking for their view of how they perform their role and if /how we in the HEIs could help. The CT questionnaire was also sent to the 2016-2017 cohort of cooperating teachers from NCAD (n=200). Ethical approval was sought and granted in NCAD and UCL. In Dublin, across three Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) providing second level teacher preparation, students were surveyed, using the Survey Monkey questionnaire, yielding a response of (n=85) (65 in process). They completed closed and open ended answers. PGCE students form the IoE in London’s UCL (n=44) also completed a similar survey looking into the role of the subject mentor as this is more developed in the UK with a view to gaining additional insights. These findings were explored in the light of the findings of research into the self-perception of cooperating teachers’ with one cohort of Art & Design teachers from one HEI, (n=82). Emphasis was placed on how participants perceived CTs fulfilled the role as it is specified by the TC and how HEIs could better support them in order to maximise the School Placement (SP) experience for all. The questionnaire had multiple choice, ranked and open ended questions. The questionnaire was designed based on the requirements of the Teaching Council (2016) for cooperating teachers and adapted to the requirements of OFSTED for subject mentors. Findings were analysed in survey monkey and transferred to Excel. Descriptive and inferential statistics were drawn up. Open ended responses were analysed using thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006).
While one could surmise that the more motivated CTs responded to the questionnaire the responses were overwhelmingly positive with all respondents taking their role as collaborators in teacher education seriously. While overall CTs rated themselves as fulfilling the role expected of them the interpretation varied greatly with considerable deficits reported regarding ‘guidance in planning’, ‘observation of the student teacher’ and ‘feedback’. Student teachers also viewed cooperating teachers as highly effective with the exception of very few criteria but again there were internal variations and the weaknesses identified tended to be around 'observation' and 'feedback' as well as 'sharing preparation for team teaching'. Three themes were isolated through thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 1996) from the open feedback from teachers; 'communication', 'clarity of the role', 'feedback and evaluation'. There was some conflicting feedback from teachers and student teachers for example a difference as to whether CTs remained in the room with STs but this can be explained as the STs and CTs are not matched, and so may be describing different experiences. Eg. the total % score for overall perceived effectiveness from NCAD student teachers were above 50% for all criteria reported on except 'Introduction to other staff 'and 'affording the opportunity to observe others'. Generally, all agreed that the SP triad was functioning well. The findings from the UK and two of the HEIs is in the process of being analysed. It is likely that there will be differences between subject specialisms and internationally.
Anderson, D. (2007). The role of cooperating teachers’ power in student teaching. Education, 128(2), 307. Beck, C. and Kosnik, C. (2000) ‘Associate Teachers in Pre-service Education: Clarifying and Enhancing their Roles’, Journal of Education for Teaching, 26(3), 208-224. Behets, D. and Vergauwen, L. (2006) ‘Learning to Teach in the Field’, in D. Kirk, D. Macdonald and M. O’Sullivan (eds) The Handbook of Physical Education, 407-424. London: Sage. Braun, V. and Clarke, V. “Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology”, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 2006, 3 (2). p. 79. Chepyator-Thomson, J.R. and Liu, W. (2003) ‘Pre-service Teachers’ Reflections on Student Teaching Experiences: Lessons Learned and Suggestions for Reform in PETE Programs’, Physical Educator, 60, 2-12. Duffield, S. (2006) ‘Safety Net of Free Fall: the impact of cooperating teachers’, Teacher Development, 10, 167-178. Dunning, C. “The development of a cooperating physical education teachers’ (COPET) programme and an investigation into how this programme impacts on the teaching practice experiences’ of the three members of the teaching practice triad”, Dublin, Dublin City University, 2012. Ganser, T. “How teachers compare the roles of cooperating teacher and mentor”. The Educational Forum, 2002, 66, p380-385. Hastings, W. (2004) ‘Emotions and the Practicum: the Cooperating Teachers’ Perspective’, Teachers and Teaching: teaching and practice, 10, 135-148. Hudson, P. “Mentoring as professional development:’growth for both mentor and mentee”, Professional Development in Education, 2013, 39:5, p771-783 Kelly, S. & Tannehill, D. “The mentoring experiences of an Irish student teacher on his physical education teaching practicum”,Graduate Journal of Sport, Exercise & Physical Education Research, 2012, 1: 47-64. Mitchell, J., Clarke, A., and Nuttall, J. (2007) ‘Cooperating Teachers’ Perspectives Under Scrutiny: A Comparative Analysis of Australia and Canada’, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 35(1), 5-25. Overton, K. A. (2008). The Impact Student Teachers Have on a Cooperating Teacher's Teaching Practices. ProQuest. Silverstein, T. (2006) “Host Art Teachers and Their Feedback During Student Teaching Practicum”, Marilyn Zurmuehlin Working Papers in Art Education, Iss. 1: Article 11. The Teaching Council. “Guidelines on School Placement 1st Edition-2013”, Kildare, The Teaching Council, 2013, p8. Wilheim, C. “A Case Study of three Cooperating Teachers in Art Education”, Ohio, Kent State University, 2007. Walsh, B. and Dolan, R. (2009) A Guide to Teaching Practice in Ireland. Gill & Macmillan.
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