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Listening to the mentor teacher’s voice

Radford, MR 2020 , 'Listening to the mentor teacher’s voice', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Globally researchers acknowledge that the mentor teacher role is a vital component of initial teacher education. Yet when it comes to the actual lived experience of mentor teachers, and what they believe is important to being effective in their role, the available literature is largely silent. This thesis has two main goals: first, to address this silence by listening to the mentor teacher voice, and second, to provide practical knowledge for all those involved in initial teacher education.
A five-year partnership program between a department of education and a regional university in Tasmania, Australia provided an important opportunity to learn from mentor teachers. A case study approach was adopted using the method of interviews and 30 mentor teachers accepted an invitation to participate. The site of the case study saw the placement of selected pre-service teachers in a small number of socially and economically disadvantaged schools for a year. This was very different to the much shorter block practice sessions the mentor teachers were accustomed to and this extended period provided a fertile context for exploring what these mentor teachers had been learning about the art of teaching about teaching. Hence, the research question asked: How did the mentor teachers in this study understand teaching pre-service teachers to teach?
Analysis of the interview data interpreted three dynamic and interwoven themes as the key findings: being relational, being intentional and being reflective. Central to the interweaving of the themes is the organising concept of relational responsibility. That is, conscious and intentional care for the relationship was core to becoming teachers of teaching. The data revealed nuanced variations in the ways participants understood the relevance of each of these core themes and the extent to which they assumed relational responsibility. These subtle variations provide valuable insights into what is crucial to a mentor teacher becoming a teacher of teaching.
This research asserts that the voices of mentor teachers are critical for improving the mentoring role. Schools and classrooms are demanding, complex and often ambiguous and uncertain places. It is only from the situated lived experience of mentor teachers that a deeper understanding of their role can be gained. As this study demonstrates, the rich and deep insights of mentor teachers fills an important gap in the literature on teacher education and can consequently inform the policy and practice of the school-based component of initial teacher education. The study also points to the potential for research that in partnership with mentor teachers seeks to understand further the granular aspects that make a difference to being a teacher of teaching.
The findings of this study will be of interest to mentor teachers, school leaders, major school employers, education researchers, and university initial teacher educator course coordinators.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Radford, MR
Keywords: mentoring, pre-service teachers, relational responsibility, relationships, intentionality, reflection
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Copyright 2020 the author

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