Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 38, No. 3, 358–377, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study aims to investigate whether the experiences of teachers in general education and vocational education differ because of differences in their working contexts and challenges.
It also focuses the ways in which mentees perceive the results of peer-group mentoring (PGM) with regard the professional, personal and social dimensions of professional development.
The participants were 116 teachers, whose mentors had participated in the mentor-training program organized by the Finnish Network of Teacher Induction during the academic year 2011–2012.
The sample included 69 teachers in general education and 47 teachers in vocational education.
The participants completed an online survey in spring of 2012.
Discussion and conclusions
The findings reveal that the participants almost unanimously agreed that PGM is important throughout the entire teaching career.
Furthermore, the findings show that there were few significant differences between the teacher groups. It was found that teachers in vocational education were more likely to agree that participation in PGM had influenced their working methods, as compared to their colleagues in general education.
In addition, the results reveal that teachers in vocational education reported that they had been contacted more by their colleagues about their opinions and advice after participating in PGM meetings than had previously been the case. This finding suggests that the influences of PGM may not always be limited to participants in PGM meetings, but may also be reflected to the broader school community as well, especially in vocational education settings.
The findings also indicate that the division between the professional, personal and social dimensions of professional development is more tenable analytically than it is in practice. The authors suggest that the distinction tends to be somewhat artificial, as these dimensions are highly correlated with each other.
The study also suggests an alternative conceptualization of teachers’ professional development. This conceptualization is based that emerged in this study has also some practical implications. This conceptualization on the following components: strengthening professional identity and self-confidence, development of skills and knowledge, and development of work community.
The authors conclude that the results show that the participants highly appreciated PGM as a tool for the professional development of teachers. Moreover, PGM also seems to have the potential to affect the development of work communities, especially in vocational schools.