Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Roles, Responsibilities, and Relationships in Mentoring: A Literature Review and Agenda for Research

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Roles, Responsibilities, and Relationships in Mentoring: A Literature Review and Agenda for Research

Article excerpt

Mentoring in the preparation and education of teachers is of interest and concern in many countries. In the USA, mentoring plays an important role in the inservice education of teachers (Little, 1992). In other countries, including England and Australia, the time that preservice or student teachers spend in schools on initial teacher education (ITE) courses has increased in recent years (Department for Education, 1992; Tisher, 1995) accompanied by necessary redistribution of responsibility and resources from higher education institutions (HEIs) to school. Schools and mentors are increasingly equal partners with the university in the preparation of new teachers. Some have greeted the shift with unreserved enthusiasm: It offer(s) the opportunity for a quantum increase in the power and effectiveness of ITT (initial teacher training) (Tomlinson, 1995, p. 2). Others have responded with alarm, warning that mentoring may become simply a label for a new bureaucracy of teacher training (Smith & Alfrod, 1993, p. 104).

The mentoring literature illuminates the roots of both the enthusiasm and the alarm. The inadequacy of theory-practice models of teacher education (Goodlad, 1990) and the increased adoption of reflective practice approaches to teacher education (Schon, 1987) concentrate attention on the work of schools in ITE. For some, the moves toward school-based training are the overdue empowerment of teachers as equal partners in the education of student teachers (Wilkin, 1992b). Recent research into how student teachers learn to teach has increasingly emphasized the need for student teachers to recognize previously constructed images and beliefs about teaching and examine the impact of these history-based personal beliefs on their professional development (Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Cole & Knowles, 1993; Holt-Reynolds, 1992; Johnson, 1993; Watzlawick, 1978). This emphasis casts doubt on the applicability of traditional academic HEI environments as conducive settings for learning to teach (Elliott & Calderhead, 1993).

Much literature on mentoring is either descriptive or declarative with little analysis or theoretical underpinning to the study and practice of mentoring. This paucity is cause for concern. The reasons for the largely pragmatic approaches characterizing much of the current literature are easily understood. For example, the speed with which legislation in England (Department for Education, 1992) had to be implemented led to an almost inevitable emphasis on the management of the transition. This emphasis was exacerbated by implementation happening within schools, institutions where the prevailing culture tends to be one where doing is given greater value than thinking (Fenstermacher, 1992; Richert, 1994). In consequence, several studies provide overviews of mentoring and its management (McIntyre, Hagger & Burn, 1994; Wilkin, 1992b), but few examine or analyze the intricacies of mentoring interactions (Glickman & Bey, 1990), how mentoring relationships operate between the individuals involved, or how and what student teachers learn from their mentoring experiences.

In this article, I review literature relevant to an examination of the nature of these interactions between mentor and student teacher. This review has limited scope and does not represent a full or comprehensive review of all mentoring literature. I do not consider many important issues, such as mentors' pedagogical and subject knowledge, the impact of institutional cultures, and the management and implementation of mentoring programs.

Approaches to Examining the Literature on Mentoring

Four distinct but related approaches characterize research into mentoring. First, some writers have examined the particular expertise of the different personnel involved in the training of student teachers and developed distinct roles and responsibilities for those involved. Second, other writers have taken a functional approach, identifying the stages of development that student teachers go through and developing corresponding models of mentoring designed to meet the mentee's current needs. …

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