Inside Mentor-Mentee Meetings in Pre-Service Teacher School-based Teaching Practice in Zimbabwe

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Published: 
August 2019

Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 44(7)

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article reports the kinds of knowledge gained by pre-service teachers (from one Zimbabwean University) through mentor-mentee meetings during school-based practicum. The study addresses the question: ‘What kinds of knowledge do student teachers gain through mentoring meetings’?

Methodology

Research Site
Students who participated in this research were teaching in rural primary and high schools. Student teachers were accommodated at the schools except three who operated from their homes. Class sizes were between 50 and 60 pupils.

Research Approach
The purpose of the study was to explore the kinds of knowledge that the student teachers gain from mentoring meetings on a year-long residential TP.
As this study aimed to understand from the students’ perspectives, a qualitative approach was appropriate.

Participants
Participants for this study were selected through convenience sampling.
All 16 students who were in two districts, teaching at schools visited by one of the authors for TP supervision and support, were requested to participate in the study.
As the students were attached to mentors, the authors would then be able to explore the domains of knowledge that the student teachers gained from mentoring meetings.

Data Generation
Data were generated through questionnaires which had thirteen open-ended questions. A questionnaire with open questions was preferred as it enabled students to air their views individually within a short space of time.
The first section of the questionnaire elicited biographic data related to gender, year group, and classes taught.
The second part extracted information on mentor-mentee relationships, and the nature and frequency of meetings.
The last part focused on the kinds of knowledge that student teachers gained drawing on the domains of knowledge in the conceptual framework.
The instrument was administered on the co-author’s arrival at the school site and collected at the end of the day after all the university lecturers had finished supervising and supporting their students. This enabled 100% response rate and also allowed participants adequate time to respond without interfering with instructional time.

Data Analysis and Findings
Field work was conducted between August 2016 and March 2017.
From the data, students gained general pedagogical knowledge (GPK), pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), curriculum knowledge; knowledge of learners and their characteristics; and knowledge of educational contexts.

Relationships with Mentors
Silbert and Verbeek (2016) indicate that the kinds of knowledge gained and the success of interactions and learning, emanate from cordial mentor-mentee relations.
Students generally reported good relationships with their mentors.
All students except three had supportive mentors, who were described with words like helpful academically and socially, accommodating, understanding, very hard working, respectful, and friendly.
These mentors apparently fulfilled some of the critical mentoring roles.
Students’ mentors are expected to play multifaceted roles: guiding, supervising, supporting, critiquing, and instructing (Larkin, 2013).
The supportive roles that these mentors played seemingly positively influenced students’ TP.
The issue of respect raised is often driven by students’ concern for “acceptance” as colleagues (Mukeredzi, 2017).
Student teachers appreciate being respected, accepted, regarded as colleagues, and made to feel welcome in the school.
They often yearn to be accepted as a person, a teacher, and a part of the teaching profession.
Three of the students had ineffective mentors.
One of them described her mentor as hectic, unbearable and having given her hell, indicating that even the descriptor “hell” was an understatement.
Such qualities contradict the expected mentor responsibilities where mentoring is viewed as a professional journey; the mentor guiding, nurturing, and supporting mentee growth; offering them practical knowledge and wisdom appraising them on weaknesses and strengths; and encouraging them in lesson delivery during the professional growth and development process (Awaya et al., 2003).
In the absence of such supports, stressful and threatening situations often arise.
As such, a good mentor-mentee relationship is indispensable.
It is generally believed that mentor-mentee disagreement is a result of mentor inability to align the mentor’s mentoring style to the student's capacity to perform instructional tasks.

Conclusion
Knowing what to teach, how to teach it, and the appropriate strategies to use with particular topics, the specific kinds of pupils and their precise settings, often amalgamate into the knowledge and skills that define what students are expected to gain during teacher education including residential practicum.
This study explored the kinds of knowledge that student teachers gain from mentor-mentee meetings during TP.
The authors report that the research established that students had good relationships with their mentors and generally attended formal mentor-mentee meetings weekly, fortnightly or monthly. From these meetings, students gained GPK (16), PCK (7), curriculum knowledge (9), knowledge of learners (12), and of educational contexts (16).
Three students were ineffectively mentored, consequently may have accrued limited gains from practicum experiences.
The authors recommend comprehensive prolonged on-going mentor-training workshops.
Such workshops may rebuild/strengthen a sense of trust among stakeholders and ensure a shared vision of students TP mentoring.
This may also provide a platform for developing strategies that offer mentors greater exposure to mentoring practices and school-based supports to better equip them not only for student teacher mentoring but also for their own professional growth and rejuvenation of their classroom practice.
Though, the authors note that this is a small research that explored only 16 students.
Given the centrality of student TP to teacher development and of mentoring in school-based teacher education, they suggest that more comprehensive research is required.
Such work could address among others: questions around schools’ and mentors’ understandings of their responsibility in student TP; and mentors and schools’ experiences and conceptions of student TP mentoring.
Perspectives from such studies may be vital for reconceptualizing teacher development and pre-service teacher TP.

References
Awaya, A., McEwan, H., Heyler, D., Linsky, S., Lum, D., & Wakukawa, P. (2003). Mentoring as a journey. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19(2), 45-56. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0742-051x(02)00093-8
Larkin, D.D. (2013). Deep knowledge, learning to teach science for understanding and equity. New York. N.Y. Teachers College Press
Mukeredzi, T.G. (2017). Mentoring in a cohort model of practicum: Mentors and Pre-service teachers’ experiences in a Rural South African School. SAGE Open, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244017709863
Silbert, P., & Verbeek, C. (2016). Partnerships in action: Establishing a model of collaborative support to student and mentor teachers through a university-school partnership. Journal of Education, 64, 111-135.

Updated: Mar. 08, 2020
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