Teachers' Sense of Professional Practices as a Result of Mentoring
Formal mentoring programs focus on the probationary period of new teachers. Providing teachers with mentoring support during the initial years of teaching requires significant commitment and investment from school districts, mentors, and new teachers. Numerous studies argue the merits of mentoring programs, yet the research has been less clear about what happens once mentoring support has ended. The purpose of this study was to explore how mentored teachers, those beyond the formal mentoring experience, created sense and meaning of their teaching roles and developed professional practices after participation in a mentoring program. There is an assumption that there is a translation of mentoring experiences which are embedded in the mentored teachers’ professional orientation and instructional practices. This study examined new teacher’s reflections of the relevance of mentoring, including the identification of experiences which held meaning as defined by teachers. Specifically, this study explored what makes mentoring unique and how teachers defined their own individual and personal development as a result of having been mentored. The questions that guided the study were: What are the meaningful components of a formal mentoring program which are used to develop a teacher’s sense of what it means to be a teacher? What are the professional practices which mentored teachers have developed as the result of having participated in a formal mentoring program? What are the activities mentored teachers engage in, that are sustainable once mentoring has ended? Utilizing a qualitative research design that was based on a constructivist approach and rooted in phenomenology, this study addressed the mentoring phenomenon as described by teachers’ own reflections of adopted behaviors and practices which were the results of, or in association with being mentored. Use of in-depth interviews and observations offered insight into teachers’ perceptions of professional growth due to mentoring experiences. The study explored the ways in which teachers used their mentoring experiences to shape their overall professionalism, participation in the school’s structure, the development of instructional practices, and how they engaged students in the learning environment. The findings of the study, were created using the personal narratives from thirteen teachers in southwest Michigan, indicated that relationships matter with respect to their teaching practices. All participants suggested that their mentoring experiences have had some influence in their development as professional educators.