CASE STUDY OF MENTOR AND INTERN RELATIONSHIPS IN A PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SCHOOL CONTEXT AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL

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CASE STUDY OF MENTOR AND INTERN RELATIONSHIPS IN A PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SCHOOL CONTEXT AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the  mentor and intern relationships within a Professional Development School collaborative at the high school level.  This investigation utilizes case study methodology informed by phenomenological perspectives.

The attitudes and beliefs of six  mentors and five interns were explored and analyzed. Data consisted primarily of  interviews collected over a full school year beginning in September and ending in June.

Data analysis involved reading of transcripts, searching for common themes and patterns, within cases as well as across cases. Three research questions were investigate for this study: 1) How did the dyad understand and interpret their interactions?;  2)How did the relationships and ways of working evolve?; and 3) What factors, both within the PDS and within the school, impacted the development of the relationship?

Within the study of the different dyads specific themes surfaced. At the beginning of the school year conversations with mentors and interns flushed out these themes as crucial in affecting the development of the dyads: (1) early uncertainty, ambiguity and unclear expectations of the intern’s role, (2) mentor expectations of the intern initially, and (3) the influence of the mentor’s past experiences working with interns and student teachers. As the school year progressed the

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following themes emerged as crucial to the development of the relationship:  (1) the amount of mentor support provided the uncomfortable intern, (2) the degree of empathy for the intern, (3) the amount and frequency of communication, and (4) the time spent between the mentor and intern.

Through a cross-case analysis the following assertions about what affected the mentor-intern relationship were established: a)the start of the school year which is filled with ambiguity is most important for the developing the relationship; b)the mentor is the key to the successful relationship;

  1. c) past experiences of the mentor impact the relationship; d)clear and frequent communication is essential; and finally e)the intern’s level of confidence which the mentor influences impacts the relationship.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS……………………………………………………………………………………viii

 

Chapter One                 Background and Overview………………………………………………………1

Introduction…………………………………………………………………………..1

Purpose and Research Questions……………………………………………….4

Importance of Study………………………………………………………………..5

Chapter Two                Literature Review………………………………………………………………….11

Introduction………………………………………………………………………….11

Mentoring…………………………………………………………………………….12

Mentor Behaviors, Roles, and Styles…………………………………………14

Relationship Factors that Impact Mentoring……………………………….18

Obstacles and Barriers…………………………………………………………….21

Chapter Three              Research Design…………………………………………………………………….25

Theoretical Framework……………………………………………………………25

Context…………………………………………………………………………………26

Participation Selection……………………………………………………………..27

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Intern/Mentor Pairing Selection…………………………………………………29

Roles of Associate Within PDS Program……………………………………..30

Roles of Researcher…………………………………………………………………31

Preconceived Views…………………………………………………………………33

Methods of Data Collection……………………………………………………….34

Data Analysis……………………………………………………………………….,,….37

Establishing Trustworthiness………………………………………………………..39

Member Checking………………………………………………………………………40

Audit Trail…………………………………………………………………………………41

Chapter Four                Portrait of Mentor-Intern Relationships…………………………………………..42

The Story of Marilyn and Angela……………………………………………………42

The Story of Mark and Rebecca……………………………………………………..53

The Story of Elaine and Arlene……………………………………………………….61

The Story of Vince and Tom…………………………………………………………..70

The Story of  Hank and Vince………………………………………………………….78

Chapter Five                 Cross Case Analysis ………………………………………………………………………89

Uncertainty and Ambiguity……………………………………………………………….90

Mentor expectations………………………………………………………………………..98

Influence of Past Experiences…………………………………………………………….99

The Need for Mentor Support………………………………………………………….103

The Need for Empathy……………………………………………………………………105

 

Communication……………………………………………………………………………..108

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Time……………………………………………………………………………………………113                                Validating Input and Ideas………………………………………………………………116

Space Issues…………………………………………………………………………………119

Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………..121

Chapter Six                  Assertions About the Relationship…………………………………………………123

Assertion One…………………………………………………………………………….129

Suggestions to Help the Relationship Develop………………………………………………………………..131

Lessons Learned About Research…………………………………………………………………………………136

Recommendations for Future Research………………………………………………………………………….139

REFERENCES………………………………………………………………………………………………………….142

APPENDIX A                 Date of Interviews………………………………………………………………………..154

APPENDIX B                List of Interview Questions…………………………………………………………….155

APPENDIX C     Informed Consent Letter………………………………………………………………..158 viii

 

Chapter One BACKGROUND AND OVERVIEW

Introduction

As schools in the United States prepare for the influx of students who will be entering the classrooms in the twenty-first century, one of the main concerns is filling the void of retiring teachers with qualified, novice teachers. This qualitative study addresses that concern by examining mentor and intern relationships within a Professional Development School collaborative at the high school level. The research encompasses the full school year, from September through June, examining how these relationships developed and how the structures of the PDS program, as well as the school structures, impacted these relationships.

Within the last fifteen years teacher education programs in the United States have worked to create improved clinical sites in teacher education, establishing Professional Development Schools (PDS), “sites where teacher education is ideally a collaborative venture between public schools and higher education” (Bullough, Kauchak, Crow, Hobbs and Stokes, 1997, p. 153). According to Arends and Winitzky (1996) the purpose and function of PDS is to provide a field placement site for teacher candidates, to provide professional development for the experienced teacher and to increase the knowledge base on teaching and learning by supporting inquiry, research and reflection.

If we are going to have better schools, we are going to need better teachers. If we want better teachers, we need better schools (Goodlad, 1994). A report of the Holmes Group (1986) pointed out that the student’s performance in American schools will not improve without the quality of teaching significantly improving. Improving the quality of teaching requires dramatic improvements in teacher education. In addition, teachers are overwhelmed with responsibilities, spending the majority of their time isolated with students, and given little opportunity to work with other adult professionals to improve their knowledge and skills (The Holmes Group, 1986). Schools need to change this paradigm and create a structure within which teachers are supported and receive professional development throughout the school year.

A Professional Development School provides the opportunity for this to happen and can improve schools. According to Hopkins, Hoffman, and Moss (1997) a PDS can provide school teachers an opportunity to improve learning experiences within the classroom, participate in the development of the profession, and most importantly develop a sense of responsibility for teacher education through its active involvement in preparing preservice teachers for their first year of teaching. A PDS offers professional growth for the mentor and intern from the university.

Since the traditional student teacher model appears to be falling short in preparing our future teachers for the challenges of teaching, a new program, the professional development school (PDS), has become a vehicle to prepare prospective teachers, as well as rejuvenate veteran teachers (Kennedy, 1991). The Holmes Group, a consortium of education deans and chief academic officers from major research institutes all over the United States (Tomorrow’s Teachers, 1986) has identified the PDS as an avenue for reforming teacher education. In 1990 the Holmes Group originally advocated PDS programs as a way to reform education through developing a collaborative partnership between universities and schools (Anderson and Maxwell, 1998).

The majority of PDS’s beliefs are founded in the following six guiding principles of the

Holmes Group (1990) for establishing Professional Development Schools:

! Committing to teaching for understanding

! Organizing classrooms and schools as learning communities

! Setting ambitious goals for all children

! Establishing an environment that supports continuous learning for all

! Making reflection and inquiry central to the school

! Developing a new type of organization to adhere to these principles

These principles offer public school teachers involved in the PDS program the opportunity to positively influence the school setting, to help develop themselves professionally and to seriously impact the preparation of the preservice teacher. PDSs, according to Ross, Brownell, Sindelar and Vandiver (1999), encourage inquiry on ways to improve the quality of teaching, the preparation of beginning teachers, and the professional development of practicing teachers.

According to Clark (1999) the PDS program has great potential to improve the conditions of schools for the better. Clark believes that “under the correct conditions, broad-based schooluniversity partnerships can successfully create PDS’s that, in turn, can successfully produce the teachers needed for better schools.” This is one of the major goals of a PDS program.

The key words in Clark’s statement are “under the correct conditions.” This study looks at the interactions among the participants through examining their developing attitudes and beliefs. One of the conditions that needs to be created is a strong relationship between PDS preservice teachers and veteran teachers. Levinson (1978) viewed the relationships in mentoring as varying greatly in the degree and form of mentoring involved. According to Levison, mentoring is not a simple, all or none matter. For certain, a teacher mentoring an intern is not an easy task and necessitates a great deal of energy, as well as thought from the veteran mentor teacher.

Purpose and Research Questions

The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore the issues affecting the development of a positive relationship among mentors and interns.  My purpose was to study the experiences that affect the development of the relationships, to study the obstacles within the culture as well as factors that facilitate the growth of their relationship. I focused on the established structure within the program that hinders and facilitates the dyad interacting and developing as a collegial partnership. The relationships among these key individuals may have a dramatic impact on how well the PDS program functions within the school.

The overarching question of my study was:  what did the intern and mentor experience during the school year that impacted how their relationship developed? The following sub-questions were explored in this study:

! How did the dyad understand and interpret their interactions?

! How did the relationships and ways of working evolve?

! What factors, both within the PDS and within the school, impacted the development of the relationship?

In order to clearly understand this study the following words are defined:

! mentor teacher: a secondary level faculty member of the English department, who was chosen by the professor from the university and given the responsibility to supervise an intern for an entire school year

! intern: a college student enrolled in a university educational program who dedicates a full year of school working with a mentor, a student teacher is another term used to identify the intern

! university associate: a graduate student or veteran teacher working exclusively with mentors and interns, meeting them on a weekly basis, and coordinating professional development activities to support the interns and prepare them to become teachers.

The Importance of the Study

Schools are in serious trouble across the nation. Kennedy (1991) described the serious problem of our present day teacher-training program with this statement: “We are caught in a vicious circle of mediocre practice modeled after mediocre practice, of trivialized knowledge. Unless we find a way out of this circle, we will continue recreating generations of teachers who are not prepared for the technological society we are becoming” (Kennedy, 1991b, p. 662). Kennedy’s conclusion is a grave commentary on the present conditions of teacher training. A PDS program attempts to address this serious problem and develop the teacher education program to provide schools with teachers prepared to undertake ths challenges of the twenty-first century.

During the next decade, schools will hire over two million new teachers to fill vacancies (Postman, 1996). Much of the success of school improvement will hinge upon how these new teachers are prepared, and how they are inducted into teaching. At the present time, neither teacher educations programs nor schools are good enough (Clark, 1999). The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (1996) reinforces the need for improving the preparation of novice teachers. The commission proposes:

! What teachers know and can do is the most important influence on what students learn.

! Recruiting, preparing, and retaining good teachers is the central strategy for improving our schools.

! School reform cannot succeed unless it focuses on creating conditions in which teachers can teach, and teach well.

John Goodlad (1990) suggested nineteen postulates leading to conditions necessary for effective teacher education. Postulate fourteen points to the benefit of PDS programs: “Programs for the education of educators must involve future teachers not only in understanding schools as they are but in alternatives, the assumptions underlying alternatives, and how to effect needed changes in school organizations, pupil grouping, curriculum and more” (Goodlad, 1990, Teachers for Our Nation’s Schools, p. 61). PDS programs address Goodlad’s criteria for establishing an environment which fosters the development of preservice teachers. A PDS program supports these beliefs and strives to create these conditions.

I believe training prospective teachers is a difficult, challenging task. Based on my research and experiences as a mentor, if a novice teacher is to gain significantly from the experience and develop into an effective teacher, the relationship between the mentor and him or her is crucial to a meaningful, successful experience. A PDS program gains from choosing mentors who have the ability to work collaboratively with interns. A mentor may be very good at teaching classroom students, but they may not be qualified or prepared to teach novice teachers. In other words, a mentor may not be able to explain his/her practices or use his knowledge of teaching or teacher learning to guide novices.

A great deal of literature describes mentoring, but there is little analysis or theoretical data regarding the study and practice of mentoring (Hawkey, 1997). There is a need to examine the complexities of mentoring interactions and how mentoring relationships actually work (Glickman & Bey, 1990). Studying the relational dynamics among those involved in a specific set of mentoring interactions may help us understand how to maximize the potential benefits of PDS programs.

One study that described mentoring by Schneider, Seidman, and Cannone (1996) determined

that the mentor teacher was impacted by three significant issues: a sense of loss surfaced within the mentor as the intern replaced them in the classroom, an overwhelming feeling of a great workload as they balanced their interactions with the interns and students, and finally facing the struggle of interacting daily with a less than confident student teacher.

Stanulis (1995) also studied mentor teachers in professional development schools. She determined that four themes describe how teachers mentor their interns. Stanulis pointed out through her research that mentor teachers focus on developing intern’s thinking, work with interns to connect theory and best practices, help interns connect subject matter to children, and treat interns as colleagues.

I chose to conduct this study because I have spent a year myself as a mentor, struggling with how my relationship was or was not developing. I saw the difficulty of the relationship based on a number of factors. As I mentored, I have realized the importance of my mentee developing her style and approach to teaching. Everston and Smithey (1999) pointed out one of the challenges of mentoring is how to give feedback to an intern that does not threaten her growing sense of autonomy and efficacy. They found that interns value mentors who encourage reflection, rather than simply offering answers and suggestions. This is a difficult position for mentors who feel comfortable and are accustomed to providing answers and suggestions to their students over the years.

The relationship between the mentor and intern can become the most important aspect of a

PDS program. My experience is that the different stages in the school year affect the relationship. The mentor and intern’s interactions is a crucial element that determines how successful is the year long relationship.

As the year begins the intern and mentor work to develop a level of trust. For the intern to

gain confidence and a degree of self-efficacy a trusting relationship must develop. The mentor forms an impression of the intern initially that remains with him or her throughout the school year. During the first few months the intern too decides how much the mentor trusts him and that may affect positively or negatively the relationship.

When an experienced teacher and a novice teacher moved successfully through the many phases of a mentoring relationship, both gained knowledge about teaching and could, at the end, redefine their roles and identities. Interns who reported learning in a supportive relationship talked about what it meant to be a professional, a colleague, and a teacher, and the mentors reported learning what it meant to be a reflective professional leading another adult to learn to teach. (Everston and Smithey, p.34)

In order to study the effects of the relationship, it is important to collect data on how it developed from the beginning stages and progressed through the year. Many researchers have addressed the topic of the mentor relationship stages (Fuller, 1969, Caruso, 1977, Haberman, 1983, Piland, 1992, et al.) Although researched over thirty years ago,  Pogue’s study still has important implications in understanding the student teacher as the school year begins. Pogue (1969) discovered that student teachers initially appear self-centered, concerned with their appearance, their choice of words, and supervisor’s view of them. In my view this continues to be true today.

Many other factors can affect the development of the mentor and intern relationship. An intern enters the school in September with a lack of identity and understanding regarding what it means to be a teacher or intern. It is a difficult transition from a university student to a novice teacher working with a mentor. Caruso (1977) focused his study on student teacher feelings and attitudes, which could affect the relationship with the mentor. These feeling “brought about by the difficulties inherent in the concurrent development of a personal and professional self-identity, the timing and sequence and training experiences, the ambiguity of the role of the student teacher, the development of personality and role of conflicts within others, unfamiliarity with the school context and the adventure and uncertainty always associated with the unknown” (p. 63).

Franke and Dahlgren (1996) wrote about the importance of mentoring in regard to teacher training. They found that mentors are the teacher educators who have the greatest influence on student teachers before they enter the profession.

How the relationship between the mentor and intern develops depend upon many factors. For a mentor teacher the responsibility can be time-consuming and emotionally draining. As Tatum and McWhorter (1999) point out “nurturing and encouraging an idealistic teacher candidate is another “preparation in a day full of lesson plans and student interactions.” The added responsibility and stress of interacting with another needy individual within the school day may impact how the relationship develops or does not develop between the mentor and intern.

When studying the developing relationship of this “marriage” it was vital for the study to examine what the mentor was thinking as he or she began the year with the extra responsibility of working with the intern. The beginning weeks of the year set the tone for the relationship and how the mentor approached the intern and how he or she chose to interact with the intern can impact how strong the relationship became over time.

This study adds to the present literature in a number of ways. First, not many researchers have presented a long term study. Also it focused on a full year which showed how the relationship changed from September until June. I discovered that the last two months of the year had a dramatic impact on the intern’s attitudes. Another reason I believe it was important for this study was that few studies focused specifically on the interns and mentors. Other studies looked  specifically at the mentor’s influence on the success of the relationship. While others looked at the shortcomings of the intern in regard to being prepared to student teach. But few studies examined how the attitudes of thementor could negatively and positively impact the success of the intern.  Finally, few studies examined the attitudes of the mentor and intern in regard to how their relationship developed. This is a crucial aspect affecting both the success of the internship as well as the success of the mentoring.

CASE STUDY OF MENTOR AND INTERN RELATIONSHIPS IN A PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SCHOOL CONTEXT AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL

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