Capturing Mentor Teachers’ Reflective Moments during Mentoring Dialogues

Feb. 28, 2010

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 16, No. 1, (February 2010), 7–29.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The goal of this study is twofold. First, to capture differential frequencies of mentor teachers’ reflective moments, as indicators of different levels of consciousness in mentor teachers’ use and acquisition of supervisory skills during mentoring dialogues.
Second, the authors explore methods for registering mentor teachers’ reflective moments in mentoring dialogues.

Research questions
The research questions are as follows:
(1) What is the frequency of reflective moments experienced by mentor teachers during mentoring dialogues before and after training in supervisory skills?
(2) If shifts in the frequency of mentor teachers’ reflective moments during mentoring dialogues occur, are they related to shifts in the use of supervisory skills?
(3) Does concurrent application of stimulated recall and a push-button technique produce evidence relevant for questioning and/or refining results generated by each method separately?


Context of the study
This study was carried out in the Netherlands in the context of the implementation of a training program for mentor teachers (Crasborn, Hennissen, Brouwer, Korthagen, & Bergen, 2008) entitled Supervisory Skills for Mentor teachers to Activate Reflection in Teachers (SMART).


Mentor teachers who took part in the SMART training also participated in the research project. A total of 30 mentor teachers from primary education were participated. The whole group of participants included 18 women and 12 men. In combination with their primary teaching tasks, all mentor teachers guided and supported a student teacher in their final year of teacher education. The participants’ ages ranged from 25 to 54 with an average age of 44. On average, each participant had almost 20 years of teaching experience. None of them had been trained in supervisory skills before, and they each had an average of almost 10 years experience in mentoring student teachers.

Data collection
For each of the 30 participants, two mentoring dialogues were analyzed: one before and one after they were trained in supervisory skills. To capture the frequency of reflective moments, the stimulated recall technique and a specially developed push-button device were combined in a two-method approach.

Conclusion and discussion

The results show that before mentor teachers were trained in supervisory skills, their use of distinct supervisory skills entails, on average in one-seventh of the conversational turns, a reflective moment. The frequency of reflective moments increased significantly after training, up to a quarter of the mentor teachers’ conversational turns.

Furthermore, the findings to some extent point towards a synchronization of mentor teachers’ thinking and doing during the mentoring dialogue. Shifts in frequency of use of the skills ‘asking for concreteness,’ ‘summarizing content,’ and ‘giving information’ harmonize with shifts in the number of reflective moments.

Finally, the application of the two-method approach showed that each method registered a different number of reflective moments. Also both methods for a large part captured reflective moments at different points of time.

To conclude, the data of the study suggest the existence of different levels of consciousness in acquiring and using supervisory skills, the possibility of measuring reflectivity using concurrent and retrospective methods simultaneously and the potential of such measurements to inform and improve professional development opportunities for mentor teachers.


This study provides data about three aspects of mentor teachers’ use and acquisition of supervisory skills that have not been well studied:
1) the relationship between mentor teachers’ reflective moments as they relate to the use of supervisory skills in mentoring dialogues;
2) practical support for theoretical models such as Korthagen and Lagerwerf’s (2001) three-level model and Eraut’s (2000) distinction between types of learning; and
3) exploration of new methods and approaches to studying the occurrence of the so-called ‘interactive cognitions’ (Clark & Peterson, 1986) that are in operation during a person’s actions and are manifested consciously during reflective moments.

Clark, C.M., & Peterson, P.L. (1986). Teachers’ thought processes. In M.C. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed., pp. 225–296). New York: Macmillan.

Crasborn, F., Hennissen, P., Brouwer, N., Korthagen, F., & Bergen, T. (2008). Promoting versatility in mentor teachers’ use of supervisory skills. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(3), 499–514.

Eraut, M. (2000). Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70(1), 113–136.

Korthagen, F., & Lagerwerf, B. (2001). Teachers professional learning: How does it work? In F. Korthagen, J. Kessels, B. Koster, B. Lagerwerf, & T. Wubbels (Eds.), Linking practice and theory: The pedagogy of realistic teacher education (pp. 175–206). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Updated: Sep. 07, 2010