10 SES 14 B, Mentoring Student and Early Career Teachers: The role of teachers as teacher educators
This paper references an empirical research study aimed at investigating mentor and mentee understandings of mentoring primary education student teachers within Scottish school placement contexts, and their perceptions of the use of formative assessment principles and practices to support professional learning within that process. Three sequential research questions were constructed:
- What are mentors’ and student teachers’ understandings of mentoring within a school placement context?
- What are mentors’ and student teachers’ understandings and perceptions of the use of formative assessment in mentoring student teachers within a school placement context?
- To what extent does formative assessment support mentor and mentee professional learning?
This paper addresses the second and third research questions in its exploration of mentors’ and student teachers’ perceptions of the use of formative assessment in mentoring within a school placement context. It offers a contribution in terms of further understanding the complexities of the mentoring process with regard to the assessment of beginner teachers. Scottish education policy is used to frame and exemplify points made alongside those from international literature to inform discussions.
The professional learning of student teachers involves consistent assessment of their teaching competence by mentors. Assessment should be an integral part of the education process, continually providing both ‘feedback and feedforward’ and therefore needs to be incorporated systematically into teaching strategies and practices (DES, 1988). In this respect it helps in providing an emerging picture of learning and achievements such as those espoused by competency frameworks in the case of student teachers (QAA, 2006). The predominant assessment policy in Scotland for some time has been ‘Assessment is for Learning’ (AifL). This policy evidences the research basis and identified underpinning principles and strategies of formative assessment (Black and Wiliam, 1998). Given the reported positive outcomes of this type of assessment for pupil learning (for example, Black and Wiliam, 2001; Harlen, 2005; OECD, 2008), it may be suggested that this should be reflected in the ways in which student teachers are supported in their professional learning.
Existing mentoring literature evidences little explicit acknowledgement of salient connections between mentoring beginner teachers and key formative assessment principles and practices. One example is evident from the Netherlands (Tillema and Smith, 2009) which addresses the effect of lack of agreement between mentees, university tutors and school mentors regarding the assessment criteria for lesson ‘appraisals’ on students’ acceptance of feedback and subsequent progression in the process of learning to teach. The majority of recognition evidences individualised, implicit examination of aspects such as critical reflection, feedback, self-regulation and shared criteria (for example, Bleach, 1997; Kullman, 1998; Hargreaves and Fullen, 2000; Stanulis and Russell, 2000; Mullen, 2000; Harrison, Lawson and Wortley, 2005; Perry Hutchinson and Thauberger, 2008; Wang, Odell and Schwille, 2008).
As noted previously (Mackie, 2016; Mackie 2017), this study is underpinned by constructivist epistemology. Constructivism is subject to a number of definitions (Larochelle, Bedwarz and Garrison 1998) however two conceptions are commonly deployed within education contexts, namely cognitive constructivism, with its emphasis on construction of knowledge by individuals, and social constructivism where knowledge is constructed through interacting with others (Phillips 2000). Its exploratory, process-focused facets mean constructivist research fosters in-depth investigations aimed at understanding the perspectives of ‘actors’ within their social and historical contexts (Littledyke and Huxford 1998; Jonassen 2006). These epistemological conceptions are appropriate for this study as it addresses the perceptions of mentors and mentees in interpreting the use of formative assessment within the mentoring process. This process is subject to both individual and social constructs where participants develop knowledge and understanding both independently and collaboratively.
As noted previously (Mackie, 2016; Mackie 2017), an instrumental, collective case study was employed. Instrumental in that the focus is on looking at an overarching case, the mentoring process, to understand a phenomenon (Cohen et al., 2007): mentor and mentee perceptions of the use of formative assessment within the mentoring process. It is collective to promote a more holistic view of that phenomenon (Stake, 2005) where individual cases are investigated but situated within a collective study. Within the overarching collective case, four individual cases were explored: class teacher mentors, mentees, school management mentors and local authority mentors. A purposeful sampling strategy was selected: student teachers at a particular stage on a specific programme (an undergraduate primary education degree) were recruited. The rationale for this strategy is that students in year three have experience of the mentoring process from a previous placement and would be able to use the experiences gained through this study to build on and enhance professional learning, and to reflect forward to their final year four placement. The class teacher mentors (CT mentors) of these student teachers were recruited to make up six mentoring pairs. In addition, the school management mentors from each primary school and associated local authority mentors were included. To promote methodological congruence, data gathering, analysis and interpretation are understood as active (Esterberg 2002) and shared processes with participants as co-constructors of data and meaning. As such, semi-structured interviews were used as their inherent flexibility promotes comprehension of participants’ lived world (Kvale, 2007) during the interview and so presents opportunities for the interviewer to probe viewpoints further thereby fostering depth of analysis (May, 2001). Constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006) was employed as an approach to data analysis and theory generation as it offered systematic guidelines for analysis where theories are constructed from the data gathered. Classic notions of the ‘discovering’ of data and theory are rejected, where the researcher is silent (ibid.), instead favouring the researcher as author in rebuilding participants’ experiences and understandings (Hallberg, 2006). The British Educational Research Association’s Ethical Guidelines (2011) were used as the main reference document for ethical considerations. Key aspects relevant to this study are informed consent, confidentiality, accuracy of reporting and positionality.
Research Question 2 Findings indicate that formative assessment was used within the main mentoring relationship between CT mentors and mentees. It was employed subconsciously in contrast to the structured, explicit way it is used with school pupils based on the Scottish ‘AifL’ policy. Dialogue emerged as a key element of how CT mentors and mentee cases perceived the use of formative assessment in mentoring. Contrary to formative assessment research and Scottish ‘AifL’ policy, both cases reported that they did not have specific learning intentions or success criteria as targeted foci for mentee lessons. In addition, CT mentors lacked a consensus as to whether this particular formative assessment strategy might be helpful. In contrast with the use of success criteria as an assessment focus with pupils as part of the ‘AifL’ policy, findings indicate that the initial teacher education competency elements as defined by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) were not explicitly employed as assessment criteria within the mentoring process in that they were not a driver in discussions about mentee progression. Further, in opposition to traditional perceptions of formative and summative assessment as a duality, in this study they were viewed as connected processes in terms of the formative dialogue undertaken informing the summative report. Research Question 3 Formative assessment was viewed as helpful within mentoring in terms of its inherent knowledge, understanding and skills being potentially beneficial to both mentor and mentee professional learning. It was seen as assisting the progression of mentees' learning to teach through dialogue and peer assessment. Participants also noted that mentor self-evaluation skills could be fostered through engaging with formative dialogue. Further, CT mentors remarked that formative assessment had been useful in terms of increasing their knowledge and understanding about the mentoring process.
Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (1998) Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment, London: King’s College London Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (1998) Inside the Black Box, London: King’s College London Charmaz, K. (2006) Constructing grounded theory. London: Sage Black, P. (2003) The Nature and Value of Formative Assessment for Learning, Improving Schools, 6:3, 7-22 Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2007) Research Methods in Education, GB: Routledge Esterberg, K.G. (2002) Qualitative Methods in Social Research, London: McGraw-Hill Higher Education Hallberg, I.R-M. (2006) The ‘‘core category’’ of grounded theory: Making constant comparisons, International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 2006, 141-148 Hargreaves, A. (2000) Four Ages of Professionalism and Professional Learning, Teachers and Teaching, 6:2, 151-182 Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (2000) Mentoring in the New Millennium, Theory into Practice, 39:1, 50-56 Harrison, K., Lawson, T. and Wortley, A. (2005) Mentoring the beginner teacher: developing professional autonomy through critical reflection on practice, Reflective Practice, 6:3, 419-441 Kvale, S. (2007) Doing Interviews, London: Sage Larochelle, M., Bedwarz, N. & Garrison, J. (1998) Constructivism and Education, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Mackie, L. (2016) Understandings of Mentoring within Initial Teacher Education School Placement Contexts: a Scottish perspective. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University College, Dublin (August) Mackie, L. (2017) Understandings of mentoring in school placement settings within the context of Initial Teacher Education in Scotland: dimensions of collaboration and power. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University College UCC, Copenhagen (August) Mackie, L. (2017a) Understandings of Mentoring within Initial Teacher Education School Placement Contexts: a Scottish perspective. Professional Development, DOI: 10.1080/19415257.2017.1398179 May, T. (2001) Social Research: Issues, methods and process, Buckingham: Open University Press Phillips, D.C (ed) (2000) Constructivism in Education: Opinions and Second Opinions on Controversial Issues, Illinois: The National Centre for the Study of Education Quality Assurance Agency (2006) Quality Assurance in Initial Teacher Education, the Standard for Initial Teacher Education in Scotland: Benchmark Information, Gloucester: QAA Stake, R.E. (2005) Qualitative Case Studies. In Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y. (Eds) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, London: Sage Publications Ltd Tillema, L.C. (2009) Assessment for Learning to Teach: Appraisal of Practice Teaching Lessons by Mentors, Supervisors, and Student Teachers, Journal of Teacher Education, 60:2, 155-167 Tillema, H.H & Smith, K. (2009) Assessment orientation in formative assessment of learning to teach, Teachers and Teaching, 15:3, 391-405
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
The programme is updated regularly (each day in the morning)
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.