Developing Professional Identities through Participation Within a Hybrid Community of Practice: Illustrating the Front-Line Experiences of Four Pre-K Mentor–Teachers

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Oct. 01, 2013

Source: Action in Teacher Education, Vol. 35, Issue 5-6, p. 387–404, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this article is to describe a case study explored how a hybrid community of practice comprised of four pre-K mentors and a university program coordinator supported the development of new understandings about how to effectively supervise preservice teachers.

Research questions that guided this qualitative study included
(1) In what ways did a community of practice comprised of pre-K mentor–teachers evolve, online and face-to-face, as they engaged in the coconstruction and sharing of local knowledge related to improving mentor practice?
(2) How did participation in a community of practice affect and contribute to changes in each individual pre-K mentor’s thinking, practice, and identity?

Method
The authors employed a collective case study approach.
The participants were four pre-K classroom teachers who mentored preservice teachers enrolled in an undergraduate licensure program at a large university in the Southeast.
Data were collected through through interviews, online discussions, face-to-face exchanges, and classroom observations.

Discussion

The mentor discovered that participating in a community of practice contributed to changes in their thinking not only about their current mentoring situations, but also about guiding novice teachers as a professional calling.
As they grappled with how to handle everyday struggles, they experienced an evolving conflict between when to take over and when to stay on the sidelines, what to expect of preservice teachers, and how to guide their fledgling attempts at effective mentor practice.

As the mentors engaged in social discourse about daily practices, unsettled thoughts often emerged, leading them to both transform some of their thoughts and decision-making strategies while rationalizing others.
Furthermore, the mentors began this study with preconceived notions of what it meant to be mentors that were somewhat black and white.
However, they left feeling overwhelmed by the knowledge that mentoring is a complex act characterized by dual responsibilities of being teacher educators and early childhood teachers.

The participants concluded that the role of a mentor is complex, influenced and informed by a myriad of factors.

 

 
Recommendation for the field of teacher education

This study provides a glimpse into how members of one community used reflection, discourse, blogging, and other tools to gain new insights about what it means to be an early childhood mentor–teacher.
The orientation to studying mentoring included in this study has implications for higher education teacher licensure programs and school systems.
Because mentor–teachers are teacher educators and are at the forefront of practicum experiences, there is a need for university supervisors to support mentors by facilitating face-to-face and virtual communities of practice.

Additionally, mentor–teachers should be provided extended blocks of time throughout the school year to participate in collaborative exchanges.
Through these processes, they will not only improve their abilities to educate current preservice teachers, but develop a shared repertoire of skills and knowledge they can carry forth into their future endeavors as educators of both children and adults.

Updated: Mar. 15, 2015
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