Mentoring New Mentors: Learning to Mentor Preservice Science Teachers

Jan. 15, 2008

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education (2008), 19:113–116

(Reviewed by The Portal Team)

Novices need to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to impact student learning. In addition, and they need to learn how to become a productive and capable member of their profession. One approach used to support new members is to assign experienced members of the profession as mentors. Mentors can also play an invaluable role in guiding preservice candidates in learning to teach science. In addition, mentors are often selected based on their experience and skill in teaching science.

Because mentors are in the classroom with the candidates and are themselves teachers, they can guide candidates’ learning from classroom settings.

First, as classroom teachers, mentors can model for candidates appropriate practices with students and collaborate with candidates to support student learning. Mentors can focus candidates’ attention to specific features of teaching and share ideas about how those features might impact
student learning.

Second, as teachers for candidates, mentors can take an active role in guiding candidates’ thinking as they plan lessons, practice teach those lessons with students, and then reflect on their experiences. Mentors can structure planning and teaching tasks based on their candidate’s learning needs and provide feedback that will encourage reflective thinking.

Third, as partners in teacher education, mentors can complement and support the work of university faculty. Mentors can communicate with college faculty to refine tasks for candidates, assess candidate
learning, and evaluate candidate progress. Finally, as professionals, mentors can continue to refine their understanding of learning and teaching. Mentors can participate as learners as they continue to study how students learn science and how candidates learn to teach science.

One approach to prepare new mentors is to explicitly support teachers who are hosting a preservice candidate in their classroom in learning about reform-oriented practices and how to mentor a novice in their about how to guide novices in planning lessons that promote inquiry, support novices’ initial interactions with students, assess novice teachers’ ideas and learning, and provide useful feedback. Teachers and candidates can be given complementary tasks and shared goals during planning, teaching, and reflection.

Finally, by encouraging host teachers to actively guide candidate learning and scaffolding their initial attempts,
mentors can become authentic partners in teacher education.

Updated: Oct. 23, 2008