What Do Student Teachers Want in Mentor Teachers?: Desired, Expected, Possible, and Emerging Roles

May. 15, 2016

Source: Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 24, No. 3, 250–266, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aimed to add to the discourse about possible roles for mentor teachers and how to best support student teachers and mentors in negotiating these roles.

The participants were seven secondary student teachers—six female and one male—completing the semester-long student teaching requirement of their degree program at a large state university in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.
Using a conceptual framework grounded in the mentor-teachers' roles, the researchers explored what seven student teachers said during multiple interviews about the roles they wanted for their mentor teachers.


The findings indicated that student teachers have clear ideas about what they desire in a mentor teacher. The authors found that some participants preferred emotional support and others wanted instructional support. However, none of the participants wanted socialization.

In addition, the authors identified a new interpretation of the mentor teacher role (mentor as gatekeeper) that might be viewed negatively about the function of student teaching for some student teachers. Gatekeepers can be positive or negative: they can keep people in or out, and they can be patient and calming or threatening. In our study, rather than being socialized, participants identified and highlighted the sanctioning role that mentor teachers play. The participants all shared some desire or acknowledgment of the mentor teacher as a gatekeeper during student teaching.


The relationships formed between the student teacher and mentor teacher are influenced by previous life experiences and by expectations each side brings into student teaching. However, the authorsmay be able to help shape them by facilitating discussions about the relationship, and expectations for this relationship.

In this study, the authors emphasized the need to include student teachers in conversations about expectations that they may have for their mentors or student teaching in general. The participants had clear conceptions of the type of support they wanted but did not know how to communicate these needs when they did not get that support. The role of mentor as gatekeeper is one that may not be viewed positively, however it was salient for the participants. If this sanctioning role is not discussed openly, then it will continue to exist un-scrutinized and possibly affect the actions of student teachers.

Updated: Sep. 06, 2017