Source: International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. 4 No. 4, 2015, pp. 255-268
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article aims to examine the critical features and outcomes of an Australian collaborative university- and school-partnership. This partnership was based on an immersion project for mentoring final year pre-service primary teachers in the area of special education. It was established to support the personal and professional formation of primary school teachers in the area of special and inclusive education.
It was a tree-year project.
The participants were pre-service teachers, who were selected and allocated to one of primary schools during the each of the three years of this project.
The school leaders and teacher mentors, who were involved in the project, were required to host the same selected pre-service teacher for the full academic year.
The mentors worked in partnership with the university and school coordinators, and collaborated with school leadership and teaching staff to ensure pre-service teachers were immersed in a range of school experiences. The mentors met participants at a compulsory two-day induction programme, which was conducted at the commencement of each year.
Data were collected through pre surveys and post surveys, two one-to-one semi-structured interviews, and reflexive journal entries.
The Special Education Immersion Project provided scaffolded, authentic opportunities for pre-service teachers that were also beneficial for school staff, students and the school community. Mentors ensured that time spent in schools comprised a high-quality experience, and that pre-service teachers had formal opportunities to observe, discuss, trial and reflect upon theory and practice.
The findings highlighted the benefits and challenges identified by participants and mentors as they engaged in authentic pedagogical experiences that were embedded both in research and practice philosophy. This study identified the importance of unique features of the project, including the provision of time in schools, financial reward, sense of empowerment and enhanced employability status. The authors found that participating in school experiences that span the full academic year, with the same school mentor, contributed significantly to pre-service teachers feeling valued and sufficiently prepared to address the needs of individual students in mixed groupings. The project features enhanced pre-service teachers' sense of responsibility and their status across the school community.
The authors conclude that participants experienced real growth and challenges whilst being supported by school mentors and the university coordinator for the full academic year. This enhanced the participants' own development and that of the school students with whom they worked.