Prospective and Mentor Teacher Perspectives on Co-learning Events

September 2016

Source: Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 24, No. 4, 271–289, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aimed to examine practicing mentor teachers (MTs) and prospective teachers' (PSTs) perspectives on their experiences in co-learning events. These events designed to maximize co-construction of knowledge that might lessen the gap between theory and practice. Specifically, the authors focus on (a) what the participants feel that they learned during these events, and the challenges or tensions that they identify, and (b) how these perspectives might relate to different conceptualizations of MT/PST roles in mentoring relationships.

The participants were 16 prospective teachers (PSTs) and 22 practicing mentor teachers (MTs) that participated in one of the two iterations of the Beyond Bridging project. The Beyond Bridging project focused on the design of a co-learning model for preparing elementary mathematics and science teachers. They attended co-learning events associated with the mathematics or science methods courses.
Data were collected through individual and focus group interviews.

Discussion and Implications 
The findings reveal there is evidence of a personal orientation toward mentoring interactions among both PSTs and MTs. MTs noted that the co-learning events helped them connect with and build relationships with PSTs, in particular the sessions when MTs joined the PSTs in their methods courses. MTs saw these personal connections to PSTs as supporting their ability to serve as mentors. 

Furthermore, MTs joined the methods classroom as events that supported relationship building between MTs and PSTs.
In addition, one of the authors' goals in designing the co-learning events was to create opportunities to elicit and connect multiple perspectives and knowledge bases. The authors found that many participants in this study found hearing others’ perspectives useful. The authors argue that participants seemed to be recognizing connections between the ideas and principles of methods courses and the realities of the field, which was a desired outcome of these events. 

Additionally, the authors demonstrate that some PST participants said that they are tolerant for divergent perspectives. This attitude is not common among PSTs who often seek clear solutions to problems of practice. This finding suggests that co-learning events have the potential to elicit multiple perspectives.
The authors also argue that the fact that co-learning activities resulted in instances where MTs and PSTs considered one another’s perspectives, suggests that purposefully engaging PSTs and MTs in co-learning activities may have the potential to support the development of educative mentoring interactions.

However, the authors also found that some PSTs resisted the positioning of MTs as learners during particular co-learning events. PSTs said that they considered the methods course as a learning space for them. Hence, when MTs joined the class, they expected them to instruct the class in particular content.
The authors argue that this finding has implications for the design of co-learning events because it suggests that mentors need to attend to PSTs’ expectations for methods courses, in particular the expectation that the focus remain on their learning. 

Updated: Feb. 15, 2018