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Educational research on mentoring: What is of relevance to study in student teachers' initial professional learning?
Recent research on education promotes mentoring as a valuable form of teacher development since it gives student teachers an opportunity to learn their profession by practicing teaching under their School Advisors’ supervision. Given the importance of mentoring as a key component in ‘learning to teach’, researchers have placed greater emphasis on this activity, considering it not only as a supervisory function, but also as a new specialization within the teaching profession.
However, research has largely focused on the metacognitive side of mentoring (i.e. scaffolding, learning how to learn and being more supportive) and little on the outcomes of this process, i.e. how mentoring helps student teachers to learn the profession by gaining new practical knowledge.
This presentation serves two purposes. The first focuses attention on the content of learning in mentoring rather than on how personal and professional relationships are framed. Ultimately, what makes mentoring substantial is the fact that it can generate knowledge about teaching that may not be revealed by other means such as reflection, self-observation or teaching courses. In addition, only by disclosing what student teachers’ learning outcomes are gained by mentoring will we be able to know to what extent it differs – or not – from the other advisory situations.
The second aim lays stress on how this construct is being approached. Similar corpuses are analyzed using a variety of methods, leading thus to different interpretations. I suggest that research needs to meet at least two methodological criteria to deal with discrepancies in such results. Propositional analysis could be an eligible method to meet these two criteria.