Mentoring of New Teachers as a Contested Practice: Supervision, Support and Collaborative Self-development

From Section:
Mentoring & Supervision
Australia,, Finland,, Sweden
Oct. 01, 2014

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 43 (October, 2014), p. 154-164.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article aims to examine contested practices of mentoring of newly qualified teachers within and between New South Wales in Australia, Finland and Sweden.

The study used the dialectical approach of philosophical-empirical enquiry.
More specifically, the empirical work has been conducted employing a multiple case study approach with an explicitly ontological focus.

Data collected through field notes, transcripts of interviews (including focus group interviews) and written, audio and video records of observations of mentoring sessions.
Data also includes documents collected in each country: policy documents, reviews of national research literature, teachers' reflections and other texts.


The meta-analysis revealed three main archetypes of mentoring:
Supervision - assisting new teachers to pass through the formal juridical requirements for probation,
Support - traditional mentoring where a more experienced teacher assists a mentee.
and Collaborative self-development - assisting new teachers collectively to develop their professional identities.

These three different views of mentoring are found in Australia (NSW), Sweden and Finland. In Australia and Sweden, practices and traditions of mentoring as support have been contested by the emergence of practices of, and practice architectures for, mentoring as supervision.
This change has been prompted by a desire, among policy-makers and politicians, for greater surveillance of teachers and teaching.
In turn, this desire has stimulated the construction of elaborate systems of monitoring and governance of the profession (practice architectures( that make mentoring as supervision possible .

In Finland, the education profession has debated and accepted mentoring as collaborative self-development as an advance, and the new view of mentoring has been secured culturally, discursively, materially, economically, socially and politically.
The profession, the wider community, and municipal and national education agencies are broadly agreed that mentoring as collaborative self-development is an appropriate form of mentoring in education as a highly regarded profession with the autonomy to organize such matters as mentoring.
Moreover, the authors have also shown that, within countries as well as between them, different versions of mentoring co-exist.
For example, mentoring as supervision co-exists with mentoring as support, and with weak forms of mentoring as collaborative self-development in NSW, Australia.

The authors suggested that these three different archetypes of mentoring form very different dispositions in mentees and mentors.
In Finland, current practice architectures of mentoring as collaborative self-development seem likely to produce and reproduce teachers.
Teachers from the beginning of their careers, understand themselves as responsible professionals able to draw on their own expertise and the expertise of their colleagues in the profession to meet the challenges of their professional work and lives.

In NSW in Australia, the practice architectures of mentoring as supervision have become more widespread and more established.
It seems likely that this part of new teachers' life experience will produce and reproduce dispositions of compliance to authority, in both mentees and mentors.

In Sweden, mentoring as support seems once again to have taken its place as the dominant form of mentoring.
Mentoring as support is likely to produce and reproduce a kind of individualistic professionalism in which new teachers are supported in their first years on the job, and in which wiser and more experienced teachers are sometimes asked to take on the role of inducting their new colleagues into the mysteries of the profession and its practice.

The practices of mentoring that foster these different projects and different dispositions are not the only experiences new teachers have, however, so they may not be decisive in shaping new teachers' identities and their modes of relationship with their profession.

Updated: Dec. 22, 2019
Beginning teachers | Mentoring | Professional development | Supervision | Teacher induction