Mentoring for effective primary science teaching


Peter Hudson

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Primary science education is a key area in the curriculum, yet primary science education is still less than adequate, both in the number of teachers implementing a primary science syllabus and the quality of primary science teaching. Mentoring may support both teachers in their roles as mentors and preservice teachers as mentees to develop their primary science teaching practices. This research investigated mentoring for developing preservice teachers of primary science, which was divided into two stages. Stage 1 was concerned with the development of an instrument aimed at measuring preservice teachers' perceptions of their mentoring in primary science teaching. Stage 2 involved developing a mentoring intervention based on the literature and the instrument developed from Stage 1 of this research, and further investigated the influence of the intervention on mentoring practices. Stage 1 involved a survey instrument developed from the literature and a small qualitative study. This instrument was refined after pilot testing and then administered to 331 final year preservice teachers. Stage 2 involved pilot testing a mentoring intervention, which was then implemented with 12 final year preservice teachers and their mentors over a four-week professional experience (practicum). Using a two-group posttest only design, these 12 final year preservice teachers (intervention group) and 60 final year preservice teachers (control group) from the same university were compared after their four-week professional experience program. The survey instrument developed from Stage 1 was used to measure both the control group's and intervention group's perceptions of their mentoring in primary science teaching. Stage 1 results indicated that five factors characterised effective mentoring practices in primary science teaching and were supported by Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA). The final CFA model was theoretically and statistically significant, that is, X2(513) = 1335, p < .001, CMIDF = 2.60, IFI = .922, CFI = .921, RMR = .066, RMSEA = .070. These factors were Personal Attributes, System Requirements, Pedagogical Knowledge, Modelling, and Feedback, and had Cronbach alpha reliability coefficients of .93, .76, .94, .95, and .92, respectively. Stage 2 findings indicated that mentees involved in the intervention received statistically significant more mentoring experiences in primary science teaching on each of the 5 factors and on 31 of the 34 survey items. It was concluded that the mentoring intervention provided mentors and mentees with opportunities for developing their primary science teaching practices. Additionally, this approach simultaneously targets mentors and mentees' teaching practices and was considered economically viable.