Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Mentoring to enhance the learning of pre-service teachers on practicum

Keywords: mentoring, learning on practicum, pre-service teachers practicum experiences

Author: Doctor Ngaire Hoben (University of Auckland)

Pre-service and in-service teachers consistently identify practicum or school-based teaching experience as the high-point of their preparation to become teachers, stating that this is when they 'learn to teach'. The research discussed in this presentation arose, in part, from a need to understand exactly what supervising teachers do that results in such a positive impact on their pre-service colleagues.

This research study investigated the classroom practices of secondary English teachers in Auckland, New Zealand, who voluntarily undertook to be associate or supervising teachers and accepted pre-service teachers into their classrooms. The study asserts that programmes of pre-service teacher education need to provide pre-service teachers with opportunities to learn requisite skills and knowledge if they, in turn, are to enhance the learning of the pupils they teach. The practices of the supervising teachers were examined in terms of the opportunities provided for pre-service teachers to learn to teach while on practicum.

One finding from this study is that a disjunction exists between the aspirations and practices of supervising teachers and, as a consequence, pre-service teachers have very variable experiences while on practicum. The absence of mentoring training for supervising teachers is identified as one possible reason for this disparity between aspiration and practice.

A framework for mentoring pre-service teachers was developed to ensure supervising teachers attend to the task and relational dimensions of learning to teach. This framework draws on the work of David Berliner (1987, 1990) in relation to opportunities to learn and that of Chris Argyris and Donald Schon (1974) in relation to the governing principles of a Model II style of communication. Through the framework supervising teachers are encouraged to see themselves as teacher educators, able to both mentor and provide high quality opportunities to learn to teach to those undertaking teaching practicum in their classrooms.

A great deal is known about aspects of practicum, but little is known about the actual practices of associate or supervising teachers as they teach their secondary-level pre-service colleagues how to teach. This presentation addresses that gap and will be of relevance to practitioners who work in a field-based setting, researchers and policy makers.

Date: Thursday 24 January 2008, 2.00-2.30

Venue: Carrick Two

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Organised by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services in association with PEPE (Practical Experiences in Professional Education).