Complexity in Mentoring in a Pre-Service Teacher Practicum: A Case Study Approach

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International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education






Emerald Publishing Limited

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Purpose – Significant effort has been made to support pre-service and novice teacher learning in the K-12 context. Less attention has been paid to promoting pre-service and novice second language teacher learning via collaboration with peers and more expert educators at the university level. In order to facilitate this type of teacher collaboration, a mentoring project was incorporated into the existing practicum of a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) program at a US University. The purpose of this paper is to examine the nature of the mentoring experiences of four ESL mentor-pre-service teacher pairs in the US University context. Design/methodology/approach – For this research project, eight teachers – four mentor-pre-service teacher pairs – participated as pairs in mentoring sessions focussed on activities such as co-planning, co-teaching, and co-reflecting on teaching. Informed by a sociocultural perspective on teacher learning (Vygotsky, 1978), this study presents case studies of all four pairs in order to demonstrate the complex nature of mentoring. The data analysis focussed on the content of the teachers’ interactions and their perceptions of the mentoring experience. Findings – The study traced the developmental trajectories of the participating teachers over one 15-week academic semester. The study uncovered some critical contradictions that the participants encountered during the mentoring experience, thus pointing to its complexity. The study also uncovered the varied nature of mentoring: whereas in one pair the mentor acted as a more expert other (Vygotsky, 1978), in another pair, the mentoring relationship was more reciprocal. Practical implications – This study showed that pre-service teachers can develop further through mentoring. Such mentoring can help teachers gain confidence and share teaching strategies. At the same time, the study revealed certain challenges associated with introducing a mentoring project in a pre-service teacher practicum. It is recommended that program faculty as a whole read the rich dialogues produced by participating teachers engaged in relationships focussed on collaborative learning, thereby discovering a foundation for revisions that go beyond individual teaching practices to the programmatic level. Originality/value – This study’s principal contribution to the field is that it showcases the complex nature of mentoring experiences and the ways in which they differ from each other.