Mentoring to enhance the learning of pre-service teachers on practicum Dr Ngaire Hoben Faculty of Education, University of Auckland January 2008
Conventional wisdom is that school-based teaching practice is where PSTs learn to teach
Both in-service [practicing] and pre-service teachers report that this was where they learned to teach
When asked: “How did you learn to teach?”
“ In the classroom, definitely…I learnt a lot more in the classroom than I ever did at teachers’ training college. It’s very valuable… you get to experience what it’s really like…to see what a teacher really does ”
What did they learn about teaching?
What were the practices of their cooperating [supervising] teachers that helped them learn this?
Was this what was intended they should learn?
Focus of study became:
What do cooperating [supervising] teachers actually do to teach their pre-service teachers to teach within a secondary classroom?
To what extent are these practices enhancing the learning of pre-service teachers, in order that they might, in turn, provide their pupils with opportunities to learn.
In this presentation:
Some background information about becoming a teacher in NZ
Features of this particular teacher education programme
School-based teaching practice [practicum]
The project: data sources and sample
Opportunities to learn to teach
This presentation continued……
A tale of two placements: Kate’s story
Examining the mentoring practices that Kate experienced
A model for mentoring which provides opportunities for a PST to learn to teach
Conditions and experiences which allow that to occur on practicum
Practices of exemplary cooperating teachers/mentors
Becoming a secondary teacher in NZ
Main route into secondary teaching in NZ: 3 year undergraduate degree plus
one year post-graduate diploma
Teacher education now undertaken at university.
Should have a “major” in a subject taught at secondary school.
School-based teaching experience [practicum] a long-established feature [14 weeks]
Working as a cooperating [supervising] teacher with pre-service teachers restricted to registered teachers [3 rd year+] & is entirely voluntary
Becoming a secondary teacher continued…
Small payment to individual cooperating [supervising] teacher, but no time allowance & no preparation for the role
Graduating Teaching Standards to be introduced 2008
No national testing of literacy, numeracy or ICT skills of pre-service teachers [PSTs]
No curriculum for teacher education & no inspection of teacher ed. providers
Some key features of the programme in this study
Underpinned by theory of effective teaching as the provision of opportunities for pupils to learn .
Students assessed against the criteria supporting opportunities to learn
Opportunities to learn
Effective teachers provide opportunities for their pupils to learn what they need to learn ( Berliner, 1987).
Opportunities to learn occur when:
1] lessons are aligned to appropriate and important curriculum objectives
2] pupils are cognitively and behaviourally engaged with these objectives
3] pupils enjoy a high rate of success with learning tasks, and
Sufficient time is allocated for all this to happen.
Practicum or school-based teaching practice
A school-based coordinator liaises between school and university: arranges cooperating [supervising] teachers and timetables
Two seven-week blocks
PST typically placed with 2-3 cooperating [supervising] teachers
usually three classes in total, maximum 4
12 [16 maximum] hours timetabled per week
Cycle of observe/teach/ reflect/ teach etc
Data sources for this study
Semi-structured interviews with 55 school-based personnel, 18 pre-service teachers [PSTs] and 5 teacher educators
Reports on PST teaching practice by cooperating teachers [CTs]
Journal entries by PSTs
Feedback written by CTs
Observation notes by researcher as VL
12 state co-ed schools in Auckland, NZ
Decile range 1-10 [ where 1 = low SES]
[lower = 3, middle = 5, upper =4]
Range of school size:
Small [roll under 1000, n = 2]
Medium [roll 1000-1500, n = 5],
slightly larger [roll1500-2000, n = 2] and
large [roll greater than 2000, n = 3]
A framework [or simple model] for evaluating practicum
Process of developing research questions revealed teacher educators involved had no means of knowing what PSTs gained from practicum - yet
PSTs spending 44% time on practicum
university paying relatively large sums to host schools, but with no evaluation of outcomes
Resulted in design of framework/model for evaluating practicum as an opportunity for PSTs to learn to teach
Incorporated within this model:
the criteria associated with opportunities to learn (Berliner, 1987, 1990), and
the values of “Model II” dialogue (Argyris and Schon, 1974)
Factors connected with cognitive & affective engagement with teaching (Borko and Mayfield, 1995, Beck and Kosnik, 2001)
Reflected in two dimensions: a task dimension and a relational dimension
Features of a high quality opportunity to learn to teach:
Task dimension :
Criterion 1: Opportunities to teach & to observe cooperating teacher [CT] teaching and reflecting on own practice.
Criterion 2: Shared planning of outcomes, resources & aligned pedagogy.
Criterion 3: Provision of quality feedback which is evidence based, critically constructive and sufficiently regular.
Features of a ‘high quality’ opportunity to learn to teach, continued:
Relational dimension :
Criterion 1: High mutual empathy
Criterion 2: Openness of CT & PST to learning from one another.
Criterion 3: The CT and PST engage in disclosure and checking of assumptions, expectations and reactions.
Mentoring practices in relation to this framework/model
When framework applied to mentoring PSTs experienced, it was evident that practicum was a very variable experience.
Fewer than 25% of PSTs in the sample enjoyed a ‘high quality’ opportunity to learn to teach.
Espoused practices of CTs:
Planned with the PST in preparation for teaching
Modeled teaching for the PST and articulated their own practice.
Observed the PST teach and provided feedback after
Stated their expectations and familiarized their PST with their programme
Actual practices as reported by PSTs
Minority [9/32] CTs stated expectations, few made PST fully familiar with programme & very few gave any idea of where proposed lessons fitted.
Accessibility meant different things to CT and PST. 15/32 met regularly, only 3 of 15 gave a set period each week
28/32 observed most teaching, half gave some written feedback- “unevenly distributed”- and absence of focus on learning
Very little time given to chatting about teaching – “ they’re so busy ”
Cooperating teachers [CTs] motivated to work with PSTs from sense of goodwill to profession
“ Someone once did this for me ”.
CTs espoused practices, which if implemented would assist PSTs learn to teach, however,
The reality – a combination of factors, including an absence of time or preparation for the role, undermines good intentions.
The framework/model applied to two mentoring relationships
A tale involving the worst of times, fortunately followed by the best of times….
Cooperating teacher: practicum 1 Rose
Cooperating teacher: practicum 2 Sam
Cooperating teacher Rose
Year 3 teacher [ teaching 2 years 4 months when Kate arrived]
“ as crazy as it sounds, I’m a senior teacher here”.
Motivated by belief own training so recent she could help a PST
Recalled own training as inadequate “not enough practical stuff at TCOL”
Took on two PSTs simultaneously
Kate allocated to her for 4 hours per week.
Practicum 1: a story of mounting tension
Non-compliant PST [Kate],
CT under stress, absence of support in a department under stress
proximity of own training of little use,
absence of “wisdom” to fall back on?
“ my partner and I have a young family and are renovating a house and are working full-time ” Rose, year 3 teacher
A way of knowing that involves expert knowledge at a “personal-professional, theoretical and practical” level (Goodfellow and Sumison, 2000, p 248)
An alternative view? - possibly not well enough mentored herself to learn good practice while a PST]
PST Kate’s perspective
Issues to do with:
mismatched beliefs about discipline
Lack of credibility in feedback
perceptions of low expectations of CT
Absence of any sense of welcome either in CT’s classroom or department
The model applied
Task Dimension :
Criterion 1 : Opportunities to teach & to observe supervising teacher teaching and reflecting on own practice.
Kate did observe Rose, Rose observed Kate but provided no modelling or reflection on practice for Kate
Criterion 3 : Provision of quality feedback which is evidence based, critically constructive and sufficiently regular.
Very little feedback, perceived by Kate to be “all negative ”
Relational dimension : Criterion 1 : High mutual empathy- Kate felt unwelcome, CT frustrated, little time spent together and high level of tension developed between CT and PST
Relational dimension continued :
Criterion 2 : Openness of CT & PST to learning from one another – Kate identified those practices of Rose’s she felt she could work with .
Criterion 3 : The CT and PST engage in disclosure and checking of assumptions, expectations and reactions – no checking of expectations or assumptions and no discussion of points of difference.
Context worked against Rose:
i.e department under stress- understaffed, morale low, moving into new national assessment and qualification with unwilling Head of Department.
Coordinator [liaison between university & school] ill- no one to turn to for advice
Own resources & experience insufficient
Practicum 2: A story of development with a positive outcome
Kate now a little older and wiser & context changes .
After a lesson in which the kids weren’t that interested and were mucking around, Sam asked me “why do you think they weren’t engaged with this, What do you think you could have changed to make this more interesting for them? Is there a different approach you could have made with the same material?”, that kind of stuff, which was really good because it made me think, “well, maybe it’s not the lesson that’s totally crap, but the way I approached it” or “maybe the lesson was bad and the approach was OK”. I had to kind of think, “well, which is it?” (Interview with pre-service teacher Kate)
Cooperating teacher Sam
In 10 th year of teaching
Management units as assistant HoD
Kate with him TWO classes per week [8 hours] + form class [15 minutes daily]
Allocated one period a week to meet with Kate for planning, feedback etc
Co-leader of a small and welcoming department – worked closely together.
Differences in beliefs & practices of cooperating teachers Rose & Sam
Differences in key aspects:
in belief about place of ‘theory”
in provision of opportunities for shared planning
in provision of quality feedback
in level of welcome
in openness to learning
in extent to which inquiry and reflection were promoted
(And of course, in the context – their departments provided very different models of working)
Characteristics of departments providing ‘high quality’ opportunities for PSTs to learn to teach
Extended a warm welcome to PSTs
Placed great emphasis on collegiality and demonstrated it in practice
Engaged in extensive professional development including regular meetings
Smaller to medium sized
Two providing consistently positive experience for PSTs had commitment to mixed-ability teaching
Possible reasons for the gap between espoused and actual practices
Expectations not explicitly conveyed by the university [especially in relation to mentoring]
Mentoring PSTs is of necessity a low priority in schools
CTs hold variable beliefs about teaching and learning
Absence of preparation and time allowance for the role
The importance of good cooperating teachers or mentors….
“ Given that our student teachers are going to be our future colleagues in the teaching profession, every attempt should be made to ensure that practicum advisors are not only the very best people available for that task but well prepared to undertake that task” (Clarke, 1997, p. 168).
Some helpful views of mentoring
Mentor as “teacher educator” (Feiman-Nemser, 1998)
Mentor as “coach and co-inquirer” (Maynard and Furlong, 1993)
Mentoring: a definition.
A nurturing process in which a more skilled or a more experienced person, serving as a role model, teaches, sponsors, encourages, counsels and befriends a less skilled or experienced person for the purpose of promoting the latter’s professional and/or personal development. Mentoring functions are carried out within the context of an ongoing, caring relationship between the mentor and protégé (Anderson and Shannon, 1988, p.40).
“ The tools of mentoring – observation, co-planning, co-teaching, joint inquiry, critical conversation and reflection – are also the tools of continuous improvement in teaching” (Feiman-Nemser, 1998, p. 73).
Some thoughts at the conclusion of the study………………
Voluntarism may have served well in the past but current conceptions of mentoring exceed what might be asked or expected of a volunteer
Grace & favour, hands up, any warm body and baptism by fire have all had their day – but change will not happen without enhanced central resourcing
Professional goodwill is neither an infinite resource nor an appropriate one on which to base a role as significant as that of supervising teacher/mentor.
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