Revealing the professional learning needs of teachers for the successful mentoring of teacher candidate

Countries: 
Published: 
2021

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, 44:4, 538-554

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this current study the aim was to reconsider mentoring practices that currently take place in practicum schools in Turkey, to update the existing literature on mentors’ professional learning needs and to help researchers reconceptualise the state of mentoring within the field of teacher education.
It has been stressed in past research that in order to find new ways to prepare future teachers, it is necessary to move beyond the status quo and in doing so unveil new understandings of mentor teachers (MTs) so that they can more fully comprehend their professional learning needs and better realise their role as mentors (Clarke, Triggs, and Nielsen 2014).
Thus, the purpose of this current study was to reveal the professional learning needs of MTs in relation to the mentoring of teacher candidates (TCs).
Therefore, the following research questions were addressed:
(1) What are the views of MTs regarding their professional learning needs for mentoring TCs?
(2) What are the views of TCs regarding the professional learning needs of their MTs?
(3) What are the views of university supervisors (USs) regarding MTs professional learning needs related to mentoring TCs?
In an attempt to carry out a deeper and more detailed data collection process, it was designed as a qualitative case study to investigate a bounded-case within a restricted context and structure through the utilisation of various data collection tools (Creswell 2012). To help ensure the credibility of the data and consider the research problem from various perspectives, three study groups were utilised in order to enable the richness of the information gathered: MTs, USs and TCs.

Study groups

1st study group- mentor teachers - For the 1st Study Group, during the spring semester of 2014, a total of 20 MTs from 11 primary schools were chosen voluntarily from among 60 classroom teachers who had been assigned to practicum schools of three state universities all located in Ankara (University-1, 2 and 3).
2nd study group- university supervisors - The 13 USs for this study were chosen voluntarily from among 21 teacher educators who were responsible for conducting practicum courses during the spring semester of 2014 within Classroom Teacher Education Department (CTED) at the three state universities involved in this study.
3rd study group- teacher candidates - The 238 TCs involved in the study were also voluntarily selected from 314 university seniors attending practicum courses within CTED at three state universities located in Ankara during the spring 2014 semester.
Data collection and analysis Three data collection tools were utilised in this study: 1.
The MT Interview Form (MTIF), 2.
The US Interview Form (USIF) and 3.
The MT Competency Scale (MTCS). However, in this study, the authors only include the qualitative data.

Findings and discussion
A noteworthy topic of discussion is the diversifying of mentoring needs that were raised separately.
Initially, only the MTs mentioned their professional learning needs in regard to communication and collaboration.
The MTs of this current study were primarily experienced teachers.
Therefore, they may have had difficulties in understanding the behaviours of the younger generation of TCs.
It was also clearly revealed that there was a need for more mutual collaboration between parties, in this case, university and schools. Sending TCs to schools without much support and professional guidance is a potential ‘danger’, a word used by Zeichner, Payne, and Brayko (2015), where it is emphasised that placement of poorly prepared TCs into schools can endanger the quality of teacher training and ultimately cause universities to step away from teacher education all together.
Therefore, the authors see the university and school partnership as crucial for sustaining collaborative and quality educational training.
Although the aim of this research was to reveal the professional learning needs of MTs regarding core mentoring skills, it is evident that mentoring on its own cannot be regarded as a separate skill from all other teacher competences.
When a teacher can improve upon his/her qualifications, and as a result their teaching skills, this in effect, undoubtedly influences the mentoring ability.
Another reason for MTs’ need for teaching skills can be the one Roegman and Kolman (2020) highlight, that the mentoring profession is situated within two contexts which are teacher preparation and K-12 schooling. Thus, teachers constantly navigate between these two crucial roles.
Similarly, Kolman, Roegman, and Goodwin (2017) emphasise that the MT focuses more on the needs of his/her students, his/her teaching and K-12 schooling if the school has an environment of high-accountability such as from a school or district policy.
As a result, it is inevitable that the mentoring of TCs plays a secondary role in the profession of MTs.
What the authors also presented in this current study is that TCs, more realistically specify their mentors’ needs, and as a result, expect a more process-oriented approach to being mentored which focuses on their individual learning needs rather than a one-size-fits-all instructional guidance programme.
This finding also highlighted that TCs recognised the importance of contextualisation.
The authors also recognise that TCs’ concerns are much more related to the mentoring process itself, rather than professional knowledge and skills or social qualifications.
In this perspective, the TCs provide a significant suggestion for MT preparation that mentors should not only be familiar with the background of TCs and TEPs but also be able to move on from what they have learned in the distant past in regard to pedagogic approaches and policies acquired during TEPs.
Finally, the authors also conclude that MTs need support in professional knowledge and skills, core mentoring skills and social qualifications.
This finding supported Orland-Barak’s (2005) theory in regard to the holistic development of a mentor, by not only focusing on certain professional skills and knowledge, but instead directing some focus on competencies such as communicative and social functions.

References
Clarke, A., V. Triggs, and W. Nielsen. 2014. “Cooperating Teacher Participation in Teacher Education: A Review of the Literature.” Review of Educational Research 84 (2): 163–202.
Creswell, J. W. 2012. Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Kolman, J. S., R. Roegman, and A. L. Goodwin. 2017. “Learner-Centered Mentoring: Building from Student Teachers’ Individual Needs and Experiences as Novice Practitioners.” Teacher Education Quarterly 44 (3): 93–117. https://www.jstor.org/stable/90010905
Orland-Barak, L. 2005. “Lost in Translation: Mentors Learning to Participate in Competing Discourses of Practice.” Journal of Teacher Education 56 (4): 355–366.
Roegman, R., and J. Kolman. 2020. “Cascading, Colliding, and Mediating: How Teacher Preparation and K-12 Education Contexts Influence MTs’ Work.” Journal of Teacher Education 71 (1): 108–121.
Zeichner, K., K. A. Payne, and K. Brayko. 2015. “Democratizing Teacher Education.” Journal of Teacher Education 66 (2): 122–135. 

Updated: Dec. 12, 2021
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