Complexities Involved in Mentoring Towards a High-Leverage Practice in the Induction Years
by Randi N. Stanulis & Susan K. Brondyk — 2013
Background/Context: For years mentoring has been promoted as an essential element of effective induction programs. Since research reports of the impact of mentoring have been uneven, it is critical to closely examine the complex aspects that could affect the ways teachers enact ideas into the practice of mentoring. This study is about mentor teacher learning that supports beginning teacher development. This research examines two teachers as they learned to mentor toward a targeted practice of helping novices lead discussions.
Purpose: The purpose of this research is to understand features of complexity that could influence how two induction mentors in the same district, and who participated in the same university-based professional development enacted the ideas and practices in different ways. The mentoring professional development targeted the high-leverage practice of helping beginning teachers learn to lead classroom discussions. Specifically, we examine features of the activity settings that influenced how two mentors enacted their work. We explore the question, why are two mentor teachers, who are experiencing the same professional development and scaffolded learning opportunities, enacting their practice differently?
Research Design: In this longitudinal descriptive case study, data from two mentors’ work with beginning teachers collected over a two-year period, revealed variations in the ways that these mentors talked about and used new ideas. Activity theory provided a lens to examine mentor cases to see how individual and contextual factors related to identity and authority intersected and influenced mentors’ learning and the implementation of a new practice. Key features of activity settings used to analyze data are that they have histories, are goal-oriented, and involve culturally shared language and tools linked to issues of identity and authority.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Understanding ways in which two mentors implemented a new practice in their school context revealed complexities in learning to mentor in ways that may shift the way we think about preparing mentors. We suggest that identity and authority influenced role enactment. Two issues emerge from these cases that have implications for professional development providers, educators and researchers: (a) mentor learning and growing authority in promoting reform-based practices, and (b) preparing mentors for a more powerful role in enacting reform-oriented practices in schools.
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