Source: Educational Action Research, Vol. 19, No. 4, December 2011, 517–529.
(Reviewed by the Portal team)
The author examines at the relationship between mentors, interns, and field advisors on a theological internship programme from an action research perspective.
The author also attempt to bring together theory and practice as it relates to the university and field context.
The author uses the work of Hans Georg Gadamer as a conceptual framework.
Gadamer (1985) has developed the idea that the cultural disciplines are rooted in the fundamental structure of human understanding – a structure he describes under the model of ‘dialogue’ and ‘conversation’.
For Gadamer, understanding is like a dialogue or conversation where we actually use our prejudices and commitments in the understanding process.
Gadamer (1985) calls these prejudices and commitments ‘fore-understanding’ or ‘fore-concepts.’
Gadamer says we understand things only in contrast or relation to them.
Our prejudices in the sense of fore-concepts should not dominate our understanding totally but should be used positively for the contrasting light they can throw on what we study.
Design of the research project
The author interviewed three sets of mentors and interns in a theological context.
The interviews were semi-structured and conducted in person.
The findings reveal that three themes emerged:
One of the behavioural themes that came out of each interview with the interns and mentors was the as sense of the initial emotional uncertainty it is connected with the field advisor.
Another finding that emerged is the role of the field advisor as the reflective friend.
The author realized with all three intern and mentor pair, he was an another reflective friend that helps with the reflective process.
The author seemed to be more of a reflective friend for the two interns who worked with young adults and adults.
With the youth intern, the author had to intentionally help both the intern and the mentor to start to reflect more deeply about ministerial practice.
The third finding centres on the theme of the field advisor as being an insider/outsider.
The author recommends that the faculty needs to realise the importance of making connections between classroom learning and pastoral practice.
They need to converse with pastoral mentors in order to understand how learning is done in a field context and they need to structure the curriculum and instruction in light of their discoveries.
The author argues that the students, for their part, need to be convinced through clear modelling by faculty and pastoral mentors of the necessity of this dialogical approach to teaching, learning, and scholarship.