How can professional development serve experienced and inexperienced mentors of preservice teachers?
Murray, MJ, Hudson, P & Hudson, S 2011, 'How can professional development serve experienced and inexperienced mentors of preservice teachers?', paper presented to the Australian Association of Research in Education (AARE) Conference, Hobart, Tas., 27 November- 1 December.
Practicum is a vital component of preservice teacher education but national and international reviews have raised concerns regarding the low quality and quantity of mentoring received by preservice teachers. Without adequate mentoring and guidance, the professional development of preservice teachers may not be maximised during these crucial real-world learning experiences. Mentoring of preservice teachers while on practicum is typically undertaken by classroom teachers, many of whom lack understanding of mentoring requirements and may not have the necessary skills for facilitating preservice teachers‟ development. Therefore, government reviews recommend that higher education institutions prepare mentor teachers for their roles and Australian universities have responded accordingly. Such recommendations are made under an assumption that professional development will develop current knowledge and skills on effective mentoring. However, while it is expected that professional development will be beneficial to new mentors, it is not as obvious how it will benefit experienced mentors. Hence, this paper addresses: How can professional development serve experienced and inexperienced mentors of preservice teachers? By examining a 10-hour professional development program that aims to prepare teachers for mentoring preservice teachers, we have identified potential rewards. Content analysis of interviews with ten mentor teachers and oral and written program reflections from 27 participants revealed that mentoring professional development can benefit mentors of all levels of experience because it acts as: (a) a professional information source, (b) a prompt, and (c) an affirmer. It can also: (d) initiate professional dialogue about mentoring of preservice teachers and (e) reinvigorate educational professionals in their work with preservice teachers. These rewards were attributable to the following: the professional development program was founded on a research-backed theoretical framework, it provided opportunities for more experienced mentors to share effective practices with newer mentors, and it necessitated discussions within individual schools towards school-wide approaches for mentoring preservice teachers.