Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 41, No. 5, 493–513, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article presents a research and intervention methodology developed in an online continuing teacher education programme. This programme aimed to develop mentoring activities to help novice teachers to lighten their everyday professional difficulties.
In particular, this article analyses experienced teachers’ (the mentors) professional development processes and the contributions to professional development of their participation in the research group responsible for Online Mentoring Programme (OMP).
This programme included a group of researchers from a Brazilian public institution (Federal University of São Carlos) and experienced elementary school teachers.
The OMP was a four-year programme. The researchers invited ten female experienced elementary schoolteachers, recognised as good teachers by the school community, aiming to construct collaboratively the OMP.
The researchers implied the establishment of a bi-directional work process with the mentors in order to promote their professional development.
The study was developed in three phases. The first two included the construction of the OMP by the researchers and the future mentors. The third phase focused the activities of mentoring involving mentors and novice teachers.
This programme collaborative research involved an articulated dialogue between researchers and teachers aimed at constructing new knowledge and searching for solutions to concrete practical everyday problems of the OMP. The data revealed that the mentors, in collaboration with the researchers, have been able to critically examine their work with the novice teachers, to develop, implement and evaluate interventions. This collaboration allow the mentors to promote both their own and the novice teachers’ teacher development and construction of new knowledge. It has implied cooperation, a focus on practical problems, an emphasis on professional development, mutual understanding, consensus and democratic decision-making and shared action.
The work carried out by the research group shows that the mentors’ learning processes are centred on practices and are evidenced at the individual level as well as at collective level in a dynamic movement.
Furthermore, the study shows the configuration of their teacher knowledge base or their set of understandings, knowledge, dispositions of different natures needed for teaching other teachers how to teach.
The data also demonstarte that strong professional communities can promote professional learning and improve instructional practices regarding face-to-face and distance teacher education programmes for the elementary school.
This study suggests that the education activities carried out by the research group present the following characteristics: they are situated, involve social interaction processes and are distributed, since no mentor holds all the knowledge and skills needed for individual teaching.
This analysis assists in understanding how new knowledge is constructed at the meetings of the research group, i.e. from the collective examination of ideas deemed as relevant.
This work evinces that written accounts of practices (reflective journals and emails) have allowed the mentors to examine, discuss and improve the strategies they adopted in their work with the novice teachers.
The findings indicate that the development of activities related to the OMP has implied great personal investment of the part of the mentors. The mentors' investment depends on their motivation and involvement, besides the establishment of an atmosphere of mutual trust among themselves and between them and the researchers.