Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 40, No. 1, 20–33, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article aims to examine the ways in which a school–university mentorship programme promotes a range of growth experiences, both negative and positive, for the participating mentor teachers.
This article presents a qualitative study with a small sample of mentor teachers that uses an open-ended written survey.
Open-ended surveys were collected from all the intern mentors who participated in the Master’s Degree from the College of Education (MEdT) programme over a period of four years, working with two different cohorts.
The surveys were administered at the end of the programme.
This article has presented findings about how a school–university partnership, via the mentoring element of the MEdT programme, produced benefits for the mentors and the schools who participate in the programme. It also provides a deeper understanding of the complexity and vulnerability that even veteran mentors experience in their professional learning journey.
The findings reveal that mentors saw their mentoring experience as a positive one leading to personal and professional growth and giving them a feeling of accomplishment through witnessing the benefits student teachers were drawing from the experience.
The research also found aspects of the mentoring experience that have not been as thoroughly documented in prior research.
Primarily, this article shows that the interactions of the mentors with University of Hawai‘i (UH) faculty were seen by the mentors as a very valuable professional exchange and acted as a catalyst for their professional development.
The findings also indicate that the mentors experienced direct learning from their observations of the student teachers, thus breaking away from a novel/expert unidirectional definition of mentoring.
Moreover, the analysis shows that mentoring can be an effective way to renew the professionalisation of teaching by allowing mentors to recognise what they have to offer as veteran teachers, and so reaffirms the meaningful role they play in the formation of new teachers in Hawai‘i.
More importantly, this study indicates that there were some challenges to the mentoring experience that had an influence on the magnitude of the effect of mentoring on all parties involved.
For example, while some teachers felt that they could go back to their schools and share what they had learned with others, thus taking a leadership role and expanding their professional development benefits to the whole school, not all felt that this was a possibility.
The motivation for mentoring was not always driven by a selfless desire to improve the profession, but was influenced by administrators and colleagues and other structures of power inherent within the institutional structures of schools.
The embodied experience of mentoring analysed in this study shows that not all veteran teachers initially feel they have a lot to offer new teachers and that mentoring brings many surprises and moments of not knowing.
While the experience was unique for each participant and some found more challenges than others, overall, the mentoring component seems to hold promise as a tool for the professional development of teachers that is full of surprises, tensions and empowerment.
It would be important, though, not only to focus on the time and physical aspects of mentoring, but also extend this to teacher’s affective experience of mentoring.
As the findings suggest, feelings of vulnerability, inadequacy and insecurity about one’s role as mentor are important components in how veteran teachers negotiate the mentor journey.