Source: Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 22, No. 3, 240–263, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was to explore differences in mentoring across three dissimilar clinical settings: student teaching, early field experiences, and entry year teachers.
The participants were 18 teachers, who had experience with mentoring teacher candidates in early field experiences, student teachers, and entry year teachers. The participants in this study were selected from multiple school districts from both urban (6 participants) and rural settings (12 participants), were representative of teachers from kindergarten through secondary school, and had at least three years teaching experience. Seven participants taught at the elementary level, eight in the middle grades (4th–8th), two at the high school level, and one was a multi-age special education teacher.
All participants were interviewed using a semi-structured interview protocol developed by the research team and designed to elicit differences in mentoring across early field experiences, student teaching, and entry year teaching.
The findings suggested a wide range of Pedagogical Knowledge across all three clinical settings. The mentors expected their mentees to know their content, to provide standards-based instruction, and to prioritize their students’ needs when designing and delivering instruction. Mentors also perceived mentees as more capable if they had more experience working with children.
In each of the three clinical settings, the mentors perceived their roles to be different. At the student teaching level, mentors perceived their role to help student teachers develop the confidence and skills to be successful in a classroom. At the early field experience level, mentors perceived their role to encourage professionalism and to help mentees confirm education as a career choice. At the entry year, mentors perceived their role to help first year teachers manage the myriad responsibilities associated with teaching and year-long curricular planning, to establish relationships with other professionals, and to become familiar with the school policies, practices, and procedures.
Two key differences influenced mentoring across these three clinical settings. The first was the amount of interaction time. The longer the interaction time, the greater the chance the mentor-mentee pair had of developing a positive mentoring relationship.
The second difference was the degree to which the mentor understood university expectations. When expectations were clearly understood, mentors were more likely to have confidence in their mentoring. Confident mentors who have a better relationship with their mentees reported using a wider range of strategies.
To improve mentoring, the authors recommend to lengthen early field experiences in order to create more interaction time between mentors and mentees. Lengthening early field experiences provides more time for mentoring interactions and a better opportunity to build a stronger relationship.
Furthermore, the authors recommend that teacher preparation programs develop procedures and supports for creating positive relationships between the mentor and the mentee. They also suggest that mentors and student teachers be provided with opportunities for relationship building prior to the beginning of the classroom experience.
They also recommend offering professional development in mentoring. Findings from each of the three clinical settings could inform such an initiative.
Mentors would also benefit from professional development that shows them how to be more reflective regarding the nature and depth of feedback they provide, in order to address the complex responsibilities assumed by the student teacher.
The authors conclude that the strategies of individual mentors vary according to the developmental level of their mentees, the type of relationship they have with their mentees, and their confidence in their own mentoring abilities. Mentors tend to use more directive mentoring strategies when working with low-performing candidates, when they don’t have a strong relationship with their mentees, and when they are not clear about the expectations for the mentoring context.