Source: Teaching and Teacher Education 61 (2017) 153-163
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study examines how students perceive a new Finnish model of teacher development that uses the peer group mentoring (PGM) method for combining pre-service and in-service teacher education.
The participants were 19 master's students of teacher education in Finland, who were in the final phase of their studies. All of the students had some experience of teaching, at least of teaching practicums included in their pedagogical studies. The participants were asked to reflect on their experiences of the meetings and their professional growth as a teacher.
The authors collected data through the participants' reflective reports and analyzed thgem using the phenomenographic method.
The findings reveal that the students' experiences of participating in peer mentoring group were positive. The findings also highlighted the importance of prospective teachers having authentic connections to working life and colleagues already during initial education.
The findings also show that experiences varied in terms of depth and effectiveness and the kind of learning that they promoted. The students considered the activity as (1) a coffee break, (2) peer-support, (3) identity construction and (4) a professional community.
The authors argue that the four categories of description reflect well the objectives set for the peer mentoring group: 1) promoting students' professional identity work 2) combining theoretical, practical, sociocultural and self-regulative knowledge following the idea and principles of integrative pedagogy, and 3) empowering students to take steps towards working life.
The authors also found that there was a disconnect between theory and practice. The students were oriented towards learning from the practical experiences of working teachers and not so much about sharing their own expertise or integrating theoretical viewpoints into the discussion.
In conclusion, the students' experiences reveal that participating in a mixed peer mentoring group of pre-service and in-service teachers can relieve student teachers' anxiety in the transition phase. These experiences also can provide tools for professional development and promote mutual interplay between schools and universities.
The authors also suggest that in further development more emphasis should be placed on integrating more theoretical and critical viewpoints into discussions about practical experiences in order to promote deeper learning.
Finally, the authors argue that using peer group mentoring as a method for combining pre-service and in-service teacher education has substantial benefits, including increased interaction between schools and universities, advanced culture of induction, and smoother transition from studies to working life.