01 SES 01 A, Mentoring
Parallel Paper Session
Mentors have provided an invaluable service in the acclimation of novices into communities of practice often demonstrating what knowledge or skills are foundational to the profession at hand; and supporting novices, as they become more knowledgeable in the performance that mark the profession. In this investigation, we set out to test that expectation by focusing on the learning and perceptions of mentor teachers. Precisely, what do these mentors come to understand about themselves as educational professionals and their role in supporting beginning teacher professional growth? Moreover, how do those understandings of self as mentor, and the approaches taken change over the course of this partnership?
Most reviews of mentoring studies agree that the effects of mentors on new teachers are variable (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011). This variability may be explained by a lack of understanding of the mentor’s role and of the knowledge and skills mentors require when supporting beginning teacher development. It is frequently assumed that experienced teachers will know how to effectively mentor new teachers. This assumption ignores the fact that many mentors are novices when it comes to mentoring. Therefore, knowledge of teacher development and developing teacher expertise could well be hit and miss. How mentors learn to mentor, their beliefs about their role, the educational opportunities, are all issues that may influence the mentoring experienced by the mentee (Haggerty et al., 2011). Yet, regrettably our knowledge of such factors is limited from the extant literature; most studies have focused on mentee learning or well-being rather than that of the mentor (e.g Kessels et al 2008).
Yet nowhere is the importance of mentors more clearly demonstrated than in the teaching profession (Feiman-Nemser, 2001). Numerous empirical studies have been undertaken to document what mentors do and what mentees learn as a consequence of the mentor-mentee relationships (e.g Richter, et al., 2011). But, learning is never one-directional. Rather, there is presumed to be a reciprocal learning relation between teacher and student, or between mentor and mentee, in that both gain from the collaborative exchange of ideas. Although the degree of learning and development is not expected to be equal between parties when there is a more knowledgeable and less knowledgeable other involved (Vygotskii, 1986 ), there is still the expectation that changes in knowledge, skills, or perceptions should be evident in all who share in the professional development experience.
In order to address our research questions, we turned to professional learning conversations. Professional learning conversations are dialogues between individuals that have the intended goal of promoting learning of all participants. One of the hallmarks of learning conversations is that there is mutual respect among parties and meaningful effort toward shared understanding of contributors’ claims and values as they work toward goal-setting, instructional improvement, and professional decision-making (Earl & Timperley, 2008).
Earl, L., & Timperely, H. (2008). Professional Learning Conversations. London: Springer. Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). From preparation to practice: Designing a continuum to strengthen and sustain teaching. Teachers College Record, 103(6), 1013-1055. Haggerty, L., Postlethwaite, K., Diment, K., & Ellins, J. (2011). Improving the learning of newly qualified teachers in the induction year. British Educational Research Journal, 27(6), 935-934. Ingersoll, R., & Strong, M. (2011). The Impact of Induction and Mentoring Programs for Beginning Teachers: A Critical Review of the Research. Review of Educational Research (http://rer.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/04/15/0034654311403323), 1-33. Kessels, C., Beijaard, D., Veen, K., & Verloop, N. (2008). The importance of induction programmes to the well-being of beginning teachers. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Research Association, April, New York. Richter, D., Kunter, M., Ludtke, O., Klusmann, U., Andrs, Y., & Baumkert, J. (2011). How Different Mentoring Approaches Affect Beginning Teachers' Development in the First Years of Practice. Paper presented at the American Education Research Association, 8-12 April, Orleans. Timperley, H., Langdon, F. & Flint , A. (2009) Learning conversations: Adapting a model for analysis. Private meeting. 8 May, University of Auckland: New Zealand. Vygotskii, L S. ( 1986). Thought and Language. Editor: Alex Kozulin. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
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