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Mentoring experienced teachers: A cultural historical perspective

Morcom, V.ORCID: 0000-0002-0944-1705 and MacCallum, J.ORCID: 0000-0002-0212-3341 (2018) Mentoring experienced teachers: A cultural historical perspective. In: EARLI SIG 14 Learning and Professional Development, 12 - 14 September 2018, University of Geneva, Switzerland


Teacher retention in the classroom is a pervasive and complex global issue with large numbers of graduate teachers leaving the profession after 3-5 years and experienced teachers feeling frustrated with constant change (Darling-Hammond, 2003; Fullan, 2001). Mentoring is one means to support new teachers’ transition into the classroom and retain experienced teachers through renewal of practice. However, mentoring remains ‘a contested concept’ without conceptual cohesion and often used for multiple purposes that can be in conflict with each other (Kemmis, Heikkinen, Fransson & Aspfors, 2014). Different purposes create different mentoring practices resulting in different mentee dispositions that orient them differently to themselves, to others and their professional work (Kemmis et al., 2014). Vygotsky’s cultural historical theory (1978) and Hedegaard’s (2014) concepts of demands and motives are used as theoretical frameworks to underpin conceptualisation and interpretation in the current research. The aim was to examine the dispositions, motives and practices of three teachers, mentored by a teacher-leader to navigate the demands made on them by students, parents and the school administration. ETC.

Two teachers were experienced year 1 and 4 teachers and the third was a year 4 teacher in her second year. The teacher-leader taught a year 2 class that included students previously taught by the year 1 teacher who was being mentored. All teachers had worked on various school projects together but not in a formal mentoring program with each other. Qualitative methods were chosen as suitable for data collected from the naturalistic setting of the classroom and to highlight teachers’ perspectives from the formal teacher focus group meetings (Patton, 2002). The main sources of data for this paper are based on the transcripts of the teacher focus groups, pre and post teacher surveys, teacher reflective logs in emails, and the teacher mentor’s reflective log that provide insights into the issues that underpinned different teachers’ motives and orientations to engage in new practices in the classroom. The data are examined using Hedegaard’s (2014) institutional, activity and person perspectives.

New demands in transitions created the possibility for teachers to renew their classroom practice. Although teachers expressed interest and value in the research project and commitment to innovate in the classroom, institutional demands restricted the practice teachers perceived was possible. Examining teachers’ participation in the mentoring activity shows the dynamic of teachers’ motives and orientation to the demands made on them by the principal and parents despite the support they experienced from each other and the teacher-leader. Teachers develop motives through participation in institutional practices which are embedded in the “the dynamic relation between person and practice” (Hedegaard and Chaiklin, 2005, p. 64). The findings lend support to Weldon’s (2018) analysis that environmental factors are important in understanding teacher attrition. The current research has implications for how mentoring is conceptualized and implemented in schools where the purpose is pedagogical renewal and retention. Developing robust professional cultures that support renewal require school policies that articulate an understanding of mentoring as an integral part of everyday practice for all teachers (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2000).

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
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