Preservice Teachers’ Professional Identity Development and the Role of Mentor Teachers

From Section:
Mentoring & Supervision
May. 10, 2016
May 2016

Source: International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. 5 No. 2, 2016, p. 127-143
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was two-folded. Firstly, it investigated the changes in preservice teachers’ professional identity after a four-week block practicum; Secondly, it examined the role of mentor teachers in creating changes in their professional identity.

The first group of participants were eight secondary preservice teachers (five females and three males) from the disciplines of music and drama. They were all enrolled in a one-year Graduate Diploma of Education, Secondary course in one of the largest teacher education programs in Western Australian University.
The second group of participants included nine mentor teachers (six males and three females) with teaching experience from 3 to 34 years. Four of the mentor teachers were new to the mentoring role and the rest had mentored preservice teachers over their teaching experience ranging from 5 to 25 years.

Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with preservice teachers and their mentors, reflective journals and observation checklists.

The results revealed that preservice teachers experienced changes in their teacher identity as they went through their first placement. The participants felt that their confidence and teacher voice grew and their vision of the teacher they wanted to be altered. These variables are regarded as components of teacher identity. Hence, the perceived changes in preservice teachers’ confidence, teacher voice and vision are indicative of development of their teacher identity. 

However, it was found that three preservice teachers did not experience promising changes in their vision, although this still indicated formation of a teacher identity. The author explains that the experiences associated with practicum can bring about undesirable changes, in participants' perceptions and understanding of their role as teachers.

Moreover, the participants mentioned that the negotiation of feedback was one of the most significant factors in their mentoring experience. The second contributing factor to their mentoring experience was maintaining a positive mentoring relationship with mentor teachers. All participants mentioned that they received outstanding support and encouragement from their mentors, and established a good rapport with them.

Furthermore, it was found that the support and advice the participants received from their mentors instilled a sense of confidence and engendered their enthusiasm for the job.
The author concludes that mentoring relationships played a significant role in shaping preservice teachers’ teacher identity. The detailed feedback mentor teachers provided and their positive interactions, helped preservice teachers build higher levels of confidence, and demonstrate a deeper understanding of their role as a teacher.

The study has several implications. 

First, mentor teachers should be encouraged to resolve to deliberately provide academic and emotional support and encouragement during the practicum.

Second, preservice teacher education needs to provide thorough mentor training programs to equip mentors for their crucial roles. Hence, the author recommends that teacher education programs in every context should design comprehensive mentoring programs. These programs should discuss key issues such as who should be a mentor, significance of mentoring, keys to effective mentoring, establishing responsibilities and expectations in the mentoring relationship, importance of individuals’ learning differences, and helping in their transition of learning to workplace

Third, preservice teacher education programs need to exercise more caution about recruiting mentor teachers. As mentors are highly likely to be regarded as an ultimate example of a teacher by preservice teachers, their professional conduct and enthusiasm for their job are of utmost importance. 

Updated: Nov. 09, 2019
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