Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 34, No. 2, May 2011, 139–159. (Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article describes a comparative study which conducted in Norway, Israel and The Netherlands to examine the perceptions of mentors and mentees the nature of assessment in practice teaching.
The authors took as criteria for comparison between the three countries:
(a) standards (i.e., the requirements and external demands for the measurement of quality of teaching performance);
(b) the practicum arrangement (i.e., the programme of practice teaching); and
(c) the assessment instruments (i.e., tools used in the appraisal).
Using these criteria, the authors could frame the mentoring of student teachers in Israel, Norway, and The Netherlands as typical different arrangements of the relationship between assessment and mentoring.
Given these differences in settings on mentoring student teachers the dual roles of mentors during practicum and their position in assessing performance both summatively and formatively, the authors would expect certain anomalies to occur in their perceptions on assessment depending on their views of (good) teaching and (good) mentoring.
The authors interpret these differences in setting on one dimension ranging from an open and integrated versus standardised and regulated relationship between learning to teach and assessment; on which Israel is on one extreme and The Netherlands on the other, while Norway takes (currently) a middle position.
The design of the study employs a semi-structured questionnaire survey administering a common set of questions to both students and mentors in each of the three countries.
In the Israeli setting 17 mentors and 19 student teachers participated in the study.
The Norwegian sample includes 19 mentors and 13 student teachers, all involved with teacher education for secondary school. In the Dutch setting, the mentor group consisted of 16 mentors and the student teacher group consisted of 42 participants.
The authors found high agreement between mentors and students on a number of issues related to assessment in mentoring both in the nature of teaching as well in the process of mentoring.
Both mentors and student teachers adopt a learning oriented view of appraisal in the practicum. However, while mentors tend to assess performance improvement, students are more concerned with guidance-oriented assessment rather than appraisal based on standards. These findings point to a need to integrate specific assessment perspectives; this may then allow for a combined viewpoint of a full appraisal of how a student teacher performs.
Furthermore, this study also found that there is a similar level of agreement in the three contexts regarding what to assess and how the assessment is done as there is about the mentoring activity.
The similarities in the findings regarding views of mentors and mentees across the three contexts, suggest there is a core foundation to build on in developing international mentor courses with relevance to multiple settings. In addition, these similarities also indicate the possibility of using mentors across contexts.
However, the authors also found few differences across the three countries mainly in terms of what is considered ‘good teaching’, seem to be related to national steering documents and standards. The more stringent the external framework operates, the more compliant the students and the mentors seem to be, as in The Netherlands, whereas in Norway there is a more open attitude to the professionalism of teachers.