Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Mentoring Preservice Teachers in a Community of Practice Summer Literacy Camp: Master's Students' Challenges, Achievements, and Professional Development

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Mentoring Preservice Teachers in a Community of Practice Summer Literacy Camp: Master's Students' Challenges, Achievements, and Professional Development

Article excerpt


We need more direct studies on mentoring...especially in urban environments. We also need to know how mentors learn to work with novices in productive ways. (Feiman-Nemser, 1996, p. 2)

Members of a community of practice are practitioners who work toward common goals in an authentic context (Lave & Wenger, 1990; Richards, Bennett, & Shea, 2007). Typically, experts in a community of practice mentor individuals who are newcomers to the group, and help them acquire skills and dispositions specific to a community's purpose (Peddy, 2001; Podsen & Denmark, 2007; Richards et al.). As newcomers gain knowledge and experience vital to a community's function, experts redefine their mentoring responsibilities. They gradually step back, and help newcomers move from the periphery of the community to its center (Lave, & Wenger, 1990; Wang & Odell, 2007). At present, communities of practice are not well known in teacher education. Yet, recent research indicates education majors' professional development is enhanced when they have opportunities to collaborate in a community environment in which newcomers are mentored by experts (Richards et al.). Unlike communities of practice, "mentoring is a critical topic in education today" (Podsen & Denmark, p. 9). However, as mentoring programs gain momentum there is little information to guide mentors or those who assist mentors in understanding the mentoring role. Moreover, a review of the literature shows that, with the exception of Bryan (2006), research on mentoring has not yet begun to examine the problems mentors face and attempt to solve in field-based settings. Therefore, in an effort to add to the body of literature and acquire insights that might help my own practices as a supervisor of master's student mentors and preservice teachers in an educational community of practice, I responded to Feiman-Nemser's (1996) call for research on direct studies on mentoring. I decided to specifically focus on the master's students who served as experts (i.e., mentors) to preservice teachers (i.e., newcomers) in a community of practice because minimal attention has been given to those who serve as mentors to beginning teachers (Billett, 1996).

Informing the Inquiry

This study was grounded in contemporary perspectives from the field of communication particularly the examination of the dynamics and nuances of interactions between message senders and receivers (Burgoon & Dillman, 1995). As communication experts note, when individuals develop close interpersonal relationships over time, they also develop mutual respect, empathy, trust, and common goals (Knapp & Daly, 2002). As they become more secure and confident about their abilities and identities they reveal more of themselves and express "an attitude toward each other that is honest, open, spontaneous, and nonjudgmental, and based on equality rather than superiority" (Beebe, Beebe, & Redmond, 2005, p. 7). Interpersonal communication principles are closely tied to mentoring frameworks. For example, it is well known that skilled mentors recognize the importance of establishing reciprocal rapport and trust with mentees (Podsen & Denmark, 2007). In fact, trust and open communication are the heart of mentoring. Therefore, Pitton (2006) notes "interactions between mentors and mentees must be based on trust" (p. 19, also see Hicks, Glasgow, & McNary, 2004). This process is not linear; rather, it is a circular loop. Open communication builds trust. In turn, trust promotes open communication (Pitton). Excellent mentors also listen actively. They take time to listen to mentees' overt messages as well as their subtle covert messages so they can discern the intended meaning behind verbal communication. In addition, successful mentors convey genuine interest and offer consistent attention to those whom they mentor (Johnson & Ridley, 2008).

Literature on teacher mentoring served as another foundation for the research. …

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