Pre-Service Teacher Supports in Urban Schools

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Published: 
Spring, 2021

Source: Action in Teacher Education, 43:1, 54-66

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Given the promise of mentoring, the purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of clinical teachers and preservice teachers in two high-need, urban schools related to collaborative mentoring supports provided during student teaching.
This study explored the research question:
What were the perceptions of clinical teachers and pre-service teachers related to benefits or challenges of University mentor supports provided during student teaching?

Method
This qualitative study examined the perceptions of pre-service teachers and clinical (supervising) teachers of general successes and challenges during provision of non-evaluative mentor supports (provided by two university graduate student mentors) during the student teaching semester.
Semi-structured interviews and follow-up surveys were administered to 11 clinical teachers and nine preservice teachers (N = 20) receiving external university mentor support to probe their perceptions of support provided by university mentors in an educative mentoring model.

Program Model
This study examined the mentoring component of an undergraduate teacher preparation program restructuring project (Project INCLUDE) that targeted a collective revision of all courses and related field placement activities to include consideration of diverse learners (including those of varying abilities);
pre-service field placements in diverse, urban schools, and mentoring support provided by two graduate students (who were also former teachers in urban schools) in an iterative and flexible mentor support model based on pre-service teacher/clinical teacher input throughout the student teaching semester.
A University Professor in Residence oversees the field placement and student teaching process and provides support to both graduate student mentors and pre-service teachers in bi-weekly observation follow-up meetings over the 14 weeks of the student teaching semester.
The graduate student mentors served as support for both clinical teachers and pre-service teachers to help facilitate a community of practice during student teaching.
Pre-service teachers participated in reflective activities to link coursework theories and researched-based knowledge with practical applications in the field to develop a better understanding of “the complexities of teachers’ actions and interactions with students and contexts” (Blanton, Bremme, Gallego, & Nonon, 2003, p. 507).

Participants
The clinical teacher and pre-service teacher participants were selected from a student teacher cohort in the University teacher preparation program.
The participants represent 100% of the pre-service teachers and their clinical teachers who completed student teaching during the fall semester.
The clinical teachers (N = 11) included six elementary level teachers and five secondary teachers (in areas of math, biology, and English/language arts).

Data Sources
Data sources include eleven semi-structured interviews with eleven supervising clinical teachers and nine pre-service teachers (N = 20).
The interview protocol consisted of 10 questions related to preparedness of pre-service teachers to meet student needs in the classrooms and mentor supports.
Data also included field notes from interviews and responses from follow-up member checks with pre-service and clinical teachers as well as with mentors (for clarification on practices and supports noted).
The survey was a narrative response survey completed by pre-service teachers consisting of five items that included items related to categories that emerged from coding such as “How did you effectively meet the needs of your students?” “What topics did you discuss with your University mentor during student teaching?” and “Did you find this contact helpful to you?”

Findings and discussion
The key themes that emerged from the data were:
(1) challenges and benefits of teaching academically diverse youth in urban settings,
(2) the need for congruence between teacher preparation programs and local schools, and
(3) perceptions of support and external mentorship.
The authors’ findings on the importance of urban school experience for pre-service teachers are congruent with previous research (e.g., Schaffer, 2012).
Pre-service teachers and clinical teachers both expressed the critical need for pre-service teacher and novice teacher preparation programs to include meaningful experiences in urban schools.
Clinical teachers explicitly noted the high attrition rates in their schools and suggested that extended and supported field experience has the potential to appropriately prepare and retain new teachers.
Identifying appropriate supports to adequately prepare pre-service teachers is critical, since attrition of novice teachers in urban districts is as high as 50% in some districts (National Research Council, 2010).
One such support is an educative mentoring approach.
As their findings illustrate, urban school student teaching experiences supported by “external” mentoring that supports the development of communities of practice between pre-service teacher, clinical teacher, and university mentor during student teaching has the potential for supporting authentic program to practice implementation.
Educative mentoring model approaches in teacher preparation programs in collaboration with schools can create spaces for support and dialogue and the interrogation of “assumptions about urban education in order for field experiences to function as sites for transformation” (Jacobs, 2015, p. 33).
Their findings also illustrate the potential of a non-evaluative role for mentoring within student teaching. In their study, the external mentors provided support to both clinical and pre-service teachers.
In the case of the former, mainly as support in listening and trouble-shooting; but in the latter, their roles were to provide a safe, non-evaluative space for reflection on instructional practice and challenges in navigation of high-stakes accountability urban schools.
Their findings reveal the importance of clarifying roles and responsibilities of the pre-service teacher, clinical teacher, mentor, and university supervisor in order to facilitate effective mentoring.
Both clinical and pre-service teachers expressed the importance of mentor support with “ongoing communication that was meaningful and honest” to promote pre-service teacher competence and growth.
The mentor relationship with pre-service teachers provided a “safe space” for pre-service teachers to share their challenges without impacting the relationship with the clinical teachers.
Critical to implementation of a mentoring model for student teaching was “mutual respect” and that all parties were committed to the development and ultimate success of the pre-service teacher.
Of note is their acknowledgment that developing trusting relationships in university–school partnerships takes time as their findings are reported from the second year of a mentoring model partnership.
Key to pre-service teacher mentoring is that teacher preparation programs must emphasize that culturally responsive competence involves understanding that each school, be it urban or not, is unique in context and therefore will require unique ways of teaching and learning specific to that setting.
Culturally relevant pedagogy must be at the center of teacher preparation programs that seek to prepare novice teachers to effectively work within the accountability systems of urban schools.
The authors’ findings serve to highlight how pre-service teacher mentoring with explicit attention paid to disrupting deficit thinking can help to capitalize on opportunities that can lead to better urban teacher preparation.
The aspects of the educative mentoring model that include mentoring as joint work (in planning) and mentoring as situated practice focused on student learning (in observations, debriefings, and University mentor support) were critical aspects that contributed to the development of the pre-service teachers who felt they were successful in meeting the needs of the culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students in their classrooms.

References
Blanton, W., Bremme, D., Gallego, M., & Nonon, H. (2003). Effects of participation on the undergraduates: Creating and sustaining alternative forms of educational activity. In M. Cole (Ed.), Sustaining alternative learning environments (pp. 505–513). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Jacobs, K. B. (2015). “I want to see real urban schools”: Teacher learners’ discourse and discussion of urban-based field experiences. Perspectives on Urban Education, 12(1), 18–37.
National Research Council. (2010). Preparing teachers: Building evidence for sound policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Schaffer, C. L. (2012). Urban immersion: Working to dispel the myths of urban schools and preparing teachers to work with diverse and economically disadvantaged students. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 78(2), 42–49. 

Updated: Apr. 19, 2021
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