Link to my PhD Thesis submitted in 2010
The Nature of the Mentor/Trainee Relationship in Physical Education Initial Teaxcher Training
A challenging journey to hell and back. I often used Churchill's words as a mantra
'If you're going through hell, keep going'
This study examined the nature of mentoring in Physical Education Initial Teacher Training (PE ITT) and how mentors and trainees in PE ITT from the Southern University Partnership established, maintained and ended their relationships over a fifteen-week school placement.
A qualitative approach was adopted and one Southern University four-year undergraduate course was selected as a single case study, within which six embedded units (mentor / trainee relationships) were studied over a fifteen-week school placement. Three mentors from three schools each worked with one year 4 and year 3 trainee on a final and intermediate placement respectively. The multi- technique approach used included guided reflection through semi-structured questionnaires and interviews and video recorded mentor / trainee meetings at the beginning, middle and end of the placements. This allowed for a wide-angle view of the relationships and generated rich data for analysis.
No clear definition of mentoring emerged in PE ITT. Mentors and trainees had not studied mentoring literature and found it difficult to articulate the nature of their practice and relationship. Mentors’ practice was not grounded in mentoring theory, planning was reactive and monitoring the quality of trainees’ attainment was not rigorous and often subjective. Mentors were aware trainees entered the placement at different stages of development, and differences in personality, knowledge, understanding and levels of confidence meant trainees progressed at different rates. Mentors and trainees recognised within their own relationships characteristics similar to Maynard and Furlong’s (1995) stages of trainee development and Walker and Stott’s (1993) stages in the development of mentor trainee relationships. Evidence showed that trainees became more confident and independent, and some undertook greater responsibility as the placement progressed. However, the extent to which trainees drove the relationship was questionable. In addition, although mentors and trainees became more familiar and at ease in each other’s company they remained primarily closed within the un-spoken boundaries of a professional relationship.
While there was opportunity for mentoring in PE ITT to go beyond Brockbank and McGill’s (2006) functionalist approach towards a more evolutionary approach, both limited time and inadequate facilitative skills of mentors and trainees curtailed this development. In meetings, mentors made no conscious use of active listening skills to improve the effectiveness of learning dialogues with trainees, which limited trainees’ depth of thought and analysis.
A number of recommendations emerged from the findings of this study. Further research is necessary into mentoring relationships within PE ITT partnership programmes. A Government policy is required that places obligations on schools to provide both adequate time for mentoring and funding for continuing professional development (CPD) in mentor education. Mentors in PE ITT should be prepared through a process of accreditation that may lead towards a higher degree with recognised status in schools as a skilled mentor. In turn, schools must fund CPD for mentors and raise the status of mentoring in PE ITT. Finally, university documentation must reflect the importance of greater status and protected time for mentors in schools.