Source: Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 22, No. 2, 162–180, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study examined aspects of mentor recruitment in relationship to the content and logistics of mentoring (frequency, initiation, regularity), mentors’ feelings of role conflict, satisfaction from mentoring, and their attitudes towards the need for matching mentors and new teachers.
The study was conducted in the context of the Israeli induction program.
Data were collected by a questionnaire from a national sample of 118 mentors and through in-depth interviews with 14 mentors.
The findings indicate that mentor selection can have important implications for how mentors function and how they perceive mentoring. Who selects the mentors was found to affect mentoring dynamics: mentors selected by educational authorities tended more often to take the initiative to meet with new teachers and tended to provide more pedagogical support with the use of teaching materials.
In addition, it was found that recruitment at the start of the school year as well as formal selection by principals promotes situations which enable mentors to devote more time, thought, and commitment to mentoring. Those mentors who began working with new teachers at the start of the school year tended to meet with them more often on a regular basis, to derive more satisfaction from mentoring, and to attribute greater importance to mentor-new teacher matching on school subject and grade level. Apparently,
Another aspect of mentor recruitment is matching. In this study, nearly all mentors were matched with their mentees on subject and grade and, in general, they attributed great importance to matching. However, they tended to view matching on subject matter as more critical than matching on grade level, regardless of school level (elementary or secondary).
Furthermore, training status had implications for mentoring practice. Trained mentors tended to focus significantly less on classroom management issues as compared with their untrained counterparts and consistently they report less engagement in all areas of mentoring.
Training was also found to be related to role conflict. The mentors in the program were required to assess the performance of the new teachers for licensing purposes in addition to their role as agents of professional development. This dual role has the potential to create a dilemma for mentors: they are expected to be supportive and understanding and at the same time are required to judge and evaluate the suitability of the mentee to the teaching profession. The authors found that particularly when the mentees performed poorly, mentors felt greater conflict between these roles. Most mentors reported experiencing some degree of role conflict. Trained mentors tended to experience more role conflict, possibly because they have higher expectations from their mentoring capabilities which are not always consistent with the new teacher’s functioning. It is worth noting that despite feelings of conflict, most mentors expressed a high degree of satisfaction. However, satisfaction was greater among those mentors who reported no feelings of role conflict.
In summary, aspects of mentor recruitment were found to influence both mentoring dynamics and mentors’ attitudes and satisfaction. The most significant aspect of recruitment was when they began mentoring. Hence, school principals need to be aware of the possible undesirable consequences of late start for mentoring and try to circumvent them. One way can be to supplement mentoring by having several veteran teachers share the responsibility together with the mentor for assisting the newcomer.
In addition to variation by mentor recruitment, mentoring activities tended to vary by school level and gender. Accordingly, elementary school mentors as compared to their secondary school counterparts reported dealing more with the new teachers’ capacity to cope with difficulties (emotional support). Since elementary schools tend to be small and the teaching staff predominantly female, it is more likely that seeking help from the mentor about situations of coping is more commonplace. In addition, male mentors were found to focus more on helping the new teachers adjust to school culture.
In conclusion, results of this study suggest the importance of several aspects of mentor recruitment. The findings indicate that mentor selection, training, gender, and school level can have important implications for how mentors function and how they perceive mentoring. Administrators need to be aware of the potential positive effects of early planning and timely implementation, and act accordingly to improve mentoring of new teachers.