My cooperating teacher and I: how pre-service teachers story mentorship during School Placemen

From Section:
Mentoring & Supervision
Sep. 01, 2019
September 2019

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, 45:4, 373-388
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study the researchers aimed to explore pre-service teachers’ stories of their mentoring relationships with their cooperating teachers during their Final Year School Placement practicum.
In an effort to prioritise the voice of the pre-service teacher, an innovative research design was employed to gather the stories of the participants.
Seven pre-service teachers were prompted with a video recording from School Placement and their stories were collected using narrative interview techniques.

In this study the researchers aimed to explore pre-service teachers’ stories of their cooperating teachers during their Final Year School Placement practicum.
Video recordings of pre-service teachers’ practice were used as prompts to collate their stories.
Their responses were collected using narrative interview techniques (Labov and Waletsky 1967).
The study is guided by the following research question: How did your cooperating teacher support/challenge your development?

Participants  - The authors report that the study cohort comprised seven male, second level (ages 12–18 years) pre-service teachers representing different subject specialisations enrolled on a four-year concurrent initial teacher education (ITE) programme in the Republic of Ireland. initial teacher education.
The pre-service teachers included in the study were drawn from four discreet ITE programmes, which typically reflect larger proportions of male students.
The participants completed their placements in a variety of schools types.
Their concurrent ITE programme is structured across four years.

The Teaching Council of Ireland (2013) mandated that 25% of all ITE programmes should be allocated to School Placement experiences.
Students, therefore, complete an eight-week School Placement in their second year and a ten-week placement in their fourth and final year.
Study participants were in their final year, and therefore were expected to teach Senior Cycle (15–18 years) as well as Junior Cycle (12–15 years) as part of their placement experience.

Data collection and methods - Data collection occurred across two phases: video recording and video review.
One double lesson (typically ranging from 70–80 min) from each of the seven participants was recorded during School Placement in the fourth and final year of their ITE programme.
The following semester the pre-service teachers met with one of the researchers, on-campus to review their video.
Pre-service teachers were asked to engage in a ‘Role on the Wall’ activity while reviewing their recordings.
This is an English drama pedagogical tool, which is used to develop a character.

Findings and Conclusion

Two major themes emerged from the research: Cooperating Teacher as a Yardstick’, and ‘Instigators of Culture rather than a Source of Support’.

The authors conclude that the use of narrative interview using the ‘Role on the Wall’ activity seemed an appropriate method of prioritising pre-service teachers’ voice.
While the respective cooperating teachers did not physically feature in any of the seven recordings, watching the videos appeared to ignite a backlog of interactions and memories.
The impact of the cooperating teacher on each of the participants was evident and the narrative interview coupled with the video prompt provided the open platform for all participants to construct their stories.
The authors drew two conclusions from the findings.
Firstly, the pre-service teachers drew from a simplistic dichotomised cultural script; distinguishing either good or bad practice, based on a history of experiences of teaching and learning.
These experiences have worked together to create a frame of reference for what it means to be a teacher in the simplistic manner of positive or negative alignment.
The pre-service teachers appeared positive regarding practices/beliefs/appearances of the cooperating teachers which aligned with their own cultural scripts but when challenged they were quick to dismiss their cooperating teachers as ‘incorrect’.
The authors were encouraged to see evidence of influence from campus-based experiences, such as ‘enquiry based learning’ or storying learning philosophies, but the pre-service teachers appear to have no consideration of the subjective and individualistic nature of teaching or how ‘accurate’ their cultural scripts may be.
The authors see that this study proposes that these prior experiences, along with elements of ITE that satisfy their scripts, have shaped pre-service teachers’ cultural script of how other teachers should teach, and the expectations they have of the mentoring process.
As a result, they conclude that it is imperative that these previous experiences are addressed and acknowledged at the beginning of teacher preparation, as they not only dictate practice but also seemingly dictate the complex socialisation process of ‘learning to teach’.
Secondly, the authors conclude, it is absurd that the Teaching Council’s (2015) induction programme Droichead did not consider pre-service teachers within their framework.
While it was originally designed as a formal framework to ease newly qualified teachers’ transition into the work place, this small scale study has shown the jarring impact of induction that pre-service teachers experience during School Placement, but little attention has been paid to this at a policy level. It is important to understand pre-service teachers’ perceptions of collaboration and mentorship, as these meanings and beliefs will permeate into their practice as both newly qualified and experienced teachers.
They also conclude that any policy should reflect a clearer understanding of the interwoven nature of the continuum of teacher preparation, instead of naïvely viewing each step in the continuum as a distinct and separate entity as this only serves to undermine the value of such initiatives.

Labov, W., and Waletzky, J. 1967. “Narrative Analysis.” In Essays on the Verbal and Visual Arts, edited by J. Helm, 12–44. Seattle: University of Washington Press
Teaching Council of Ireland. 2013. Guidelines on School Placement. Maynooth: Teaching Council.
Teaching Council of Ireland. 2015. Droichead: A Guide for Schools 2015/2016. Maynooth: Teaching Council.

Updated: Sep. 26, 2019
Mentoring | Practicum | Preservice teacher education | Teacher placement