Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 33, Issue 4, pages 375 – 390. (November 2010 ).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
In May 2008, the Inquiry Committee Report was presented in Sweden. On the basis of this the Swedish Government issued a consultative document. This Inquiry Report deals with teachers' qualifications and authorization and proposes registration for teachers and a mandatory induction program with mentors. An essential component in the proposal is that a mentor should participate in the formal assessment of a newly qualified teacher. This is in contrast to traditional Swedish educational values which indicate that a mentor should not be involved in the formal assessment of new teachers' competences, but should simply promote their professional development (Aili et al. 2003; Fransson et al. 2008).
The aim of this article is to analyze how the mentor's role in the assessment process, together with the relationship between the mentor and mentee, is discussed in these responses to the consultative document.
The analyzed data consisted of the texts of the 108 official responses that were submitted to the Ministry of Education in October 2008. The ministry invited organizations, authorities or interest groups to respond to the consultative document.
The 108 responses were sorted into six categories, each category covering different types of interest groups: independent schools, unions, local authorities, higher education institutions involved in teacher education, public authorities or committees and special interests groups or individuals.
The results show that only 23 of the 108 responses mention assessment. However, none of these 23 responses explicitly state that it is a good idea for mentors to participate in the assessment of the new teacher.
Furthermore, only four responses include an explicit discussion of the relationship between mentors and mentees. The focus in these responses is on the risk that, if they are assessed, new teachers might be reluctant to expose weaknesses in order to avoid being regarded as incompetent. The line of reasoning is the following: the space for critical thinking and experimenting based on the new teacher's own ideas may be threatened, an adaption to the existing school culture could occur, and this would not promote the new teacher's professional development nor constitute an endorsement for school development.
The issue of mentors assessing new teachers is not mentioned at all in the Swedish literature on mentoring (cf. Aili et al. 2003; Fransson et al. 2001) or in research focusing on mentors and newly qualified teachers (cf. Andersson 2005, 2008; Andersson and Andersson 2008; Fransson 2006; Lindgren 2003, 2005).
However, the proposals put forward by the Government Inquiry (SOU 2008:51) can be seen as a further step in the restructuring of the teaching profession in Sweden towards emphasizing control, assessment, accountability and a redesigning of teachers' roles, rules and responsibilities (cf. Carlgren and Klette 2008; Helgy and Homme 2007).
The analysis shows that the role of mentors in the assessment of mentees was not discussed to any great extent in the official responses examined for this study. One conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that the educational context sets the prerequisites for whether or not it is regarded as appropriate for mentors to be involved in the assessment of their mentees.
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