Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Vol. 35, (October, 2013), p. 25-33.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study examines the evolution of one novice’s teacher’s informal virtual mentoring network to determine if characteristics of traditional mentoring networks and relationships mirror characteristics of a Twitter mentoring network.
The goal of this study is to examine how one novice teacher used Twitter to form a network of mentors, how the structure of that network evolved, and what resources were provided by the network to the novice teacher.
The study followed a novice mathematics teacher over a nine month period as she transitioned from student teacher to full-time teacher in a public school in USA.
The mixed-method study uses both qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze the interactions and structure of the mentoring network.
Results indicate that the novice teacher’s network was used primarily to seek information from other professionals, since her two primary informal mentors were secondary mathematics teachers.
Novice teachers have less experience and might have less confidence in their ability to answer questions of others.
In addition, novice teachers typically have more information needs than more experienced teachers and would likely need to ask more questions and have fewer resources to share than experienced teachers.
Teacher C may have forged distant contacts because the teachers in her school did not use Twitter.
Furthermore, the frequency of interactions decreased over time despite the potential ease of posting to Twitter.
The results are consistent with results of other studies of Twitter networks which demonstrate that networks shrink as less useful contacts are no longer utilized and that network characteristics like density are relatively stable over time.
Difficulty in finding appropriate mentors for novice teachers has led to the establishment of telementoring or e-mentoring programs.
Telementoring overcomes the geographic limitation of face-to-face mentoring by making it possible for literally anyone in the world to be a mentor.
Specifically, findings concern what aspects of homophily are important might inform how protégés and mentors in virtual mentoring programs are matched.
The prevalence of mathematics teachers in Teacher C’s mentoring network suggests that the subject matter taught is an important aspect of homophily to consider when matching virtual mentors and mentees.
Virtual mentoring programs might also focus on fostering interactions between teachers during breaks or at the beginning of semesters when novice and experienced teachers alike are less busy and have more time to interact.
The article concludes that novice teachers may find it easier to share problems and concerns with colleagues outside of their school that have no role in their formal evaluation.
Social networking tools allow novice teachers to form relationships with individuals outside their school, their state, even their country.
Outsiders can provide access to different points of view as well as a safe space to discuss concerns.
Participation in mentoring networks can give new teachers greater access to information and help them to be retained in the profession.
The interactions between Teacher C and her virtual mentoring network certainly exhibit many of the characteristics of peer mentoring networks including collaborative planning, shared reflection on practice, and social support.