Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 28, Issue 6, p. 818-826. (August, 2012)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study is to investigate the idiographic roles of mentors who supervise student teachers in distance-learning pre-service teacher education programs during practicum.
The participants included 358 cooperating teachers who mentored 4th-year student teachers in a Distance English Language Teacher Training Program in Turkey.
To determine the roles that were perceived as mentoring roles by the cooperating teachers in the distance practicum, an inventory of 10 primary mentoring functions was constructed.
The findings of the study revealed that the cooperating teachers identified the following tasks as their mentoring responsibilities: ‘Providing facilitative information to enhance classroom performance’, ‘Giving constructive feedback on teaching performance’, ‘Helping student teachers form a professional identity and become aware of their professional development’, ‘Providing moral support’, ‘Facilitating socialization of the student teacher’, ‘Scaffolding lesson planning’, ‘Willingly offering facilitative information’, ‘Helping students to use and understand observation forms’, ‘Preparing for the mentor role’ and ‘Interacting with other cooperating teachers’.
The most common mentor approach perceived by the cooperating teachers seems to be ‘critical constructive mentoring’.
The author found that the functions of ‘Giving constructive feedback on teaching performance’, ‘Helping to use and understand observation forms’, ‘Scaffolding lesson planning’, and ‘Helping to use and understand observation forms’ seem to refer to the critical constructivist mentoring approach.
These mentoring functions are interrelated, and when they cluster, a multidimensional role phenomenon for the mentors is constructed that includes academic supporter, psychological supporter, social supporter, self-trainer and networker.
Furthermore, the findings indicated that the mentors take on five main roles: ‘self-trainer’, ‘networker’, ‘social supporter’, ‘academic supporter’, and ‘psychological supporter’.
The mentors in the present study are not trained in their mentoring roles and the mentoring process.
In addition, in opposition to the cooperating teachers who mentor student teachers in traditional teacher education programs, the mentors in the distance teacher education program do not have the opportunity to receive face-to-face guidance from university-based mentors.
The mentors can only phone or e-mail the university based mentors in the programs, which does not appear to be practical.
Therefore, to provide themselves with the required information and mentoring skills, the mentors train themselves by reading the handbook that is provided by the faculty, asking help from other mentors, and so on.
The results of this study have provided a better understanding of how cooperating teachers perceive their roles during practicum.
The study is also significant in that it provided a better understanding of which mentoring approaches mentors use.
Another outcome of this study is the construction of a data collection tool (the Cooperating Teacher Role Inventory, CTRI), which is aimed at the investigation of the perceptions of cooperating teachers regarding their mentor roles.
Student teachers who are provided with effective mentorship are likely to experience professional growth .
Therefore, steps should be taken to improve the mentor-protégé relationship.
Another suggestion for increasing mentorship quality is to provide specific mentoring training. Such mentoring preparation is one of the conditions for effective mentoring.