Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

Tangled Threads: Mentoring within a Community of Practice/fils Emmêlés: Le Mentorat Au Sein D'une Communauté De Pratique

Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

Tangled Threads: Mentoring within a Community of Practice/fils Emmêlés: Le Mentorat Au Sein D'une Communauté De Pratique

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. Tangled Threads, a case study of a group of women art educators, examines the nature of mentoring relationships within the context of a professional association. Grounded in literature on community of practice, relational and peer mentoring, and an ethic of care, the study uncovers the complex interconnections between women's professional and personal lives that serve to create contexts for fluid and diverse mentoring experiences.

FILS EMMÊLÉS: le mentor at au sein d'une communauté de pratique

RÉSUMÉ. Fils emmêlés (Tangled Threads) est une étude de cas regroupant un groupe d'enseignantes en art. Elle examine les relations de mentorat prévalant dans le contexte d'une association professionnelle. Basée sur la littérature publiée sur les communautés de pratique, le mentorat relationnel et par les pairs ainsi que sur l'éthique des soins, cette étude lève le voile sur les interconnections complexes se tissant entre les vies professionnelles et personnelles des femmes. L'étude de cas souligne ainsi la manière dont ces liens favorisent la création d'un contexte propice à des expériences fluides et diverses de mentorat.


This paper presents a portrait of a group of educators who have connected through the Early Childhood Art Educators (ECAE) special issues group of the professional organization, the National Art Education Association (NAEA), that serves educators working in school, museum and college settings. In a collaborative and reflective examination of the professional and personal relationships that we have developed over a 20-year time span, we have come to understand more deeply the role this organization has in providing a venue for developing a strong community of practice in that members "share a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis" (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002, p. 4) and how in creating this community, we have also created a community of mentors. One of the purposes of this paper is to describe the kinds of relational (Fletcher & Ragins, 2007; Ragins & Verbos, 2007) and reciprocal mentoring that developed over time within a group of women brought together through their interest in art education for young children (children 0-8 years of age) and the impact this has had on their professional and personal lives. Apparent within this mentoring is an ethic of care (Noddings, 1992).


This research is a case study (Merriam, 1998) in that it examines a particular group at a particular time and is exploratory in nature. It is rooted in narrative inquiry in that "narrative is retrospective meaning-making - the shaping or ordering of past experience" (Chase, 2008, p. 64). The research reflects an autoethnographic approach (Bosetti, Kawalilak & Patterson, 2008) and like Bosetti et al., we have constructed deeper understanding through sharing our stories (p. 99). Within the context of interpretive research practice, the relevant literature and descriptions of methods and procedure are woven into the fabric of the paper (Creswell, 1994).

This study had its origins at the NAEA convention in New Orleans (2008) when the author sat back during a presentation and marveled at the wonderful friendships and relationships that had developed within this group of women since her first NAEA conference in 1987. I observed that our professional and personal lives have become intertwined into "tangled threads." I wondered how this entanglement had come about when meeting together only once a year. How could this be so powerful? What does this say about the importance of such groups within the larger NAEA organization and, subsequently, of possible importance to other professional organizations? Is this experience typical for members in other groups and other organizations? Is this experience a particularly feminine experience? Finally, I wondered whether these questions would intrigue other members of the ECAE special issues group? …

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