A small scale preliminary investigation of HCT student teachers’ perceptions of their mentors

Introduction

The impetus for this study that led to this chapter came from a desire to improve my own mentoring during the teaching practice component of the B.Ed English Language Teaching in Schools program at the Higher Colleges of Technology’s (HCT) Abu Dhabi Women’s College (ADWC). After working on the program for almost eight years, I realized that more could be done to look at the mentoring process and how the student teachers perceived their mentors. As the teaching practice coordinator for ADWC, and therefore being responsible for placing students in schools and with mentors, I was aware that there were issues that were not always brought out into the open for discussion. Therefore my focus was to first find out how student teachers perceived their mentors prior to investigating further how to help give the students a more meaningful support during the practicum.

The most common issue noted to date, from the perspective of faculty and student teachers, is that there are differences in teaching strategies, where a more traditional teacher-centered approach is followed by some of the English teachers who are mentors in co-operating schools. A study by Cohen (1993) found that “few mentor teachers practice the kind of conceptually oriented, learner-centered teaching” (cited in Feiman-Nemser 1996, p.3). There have also been concerns raised about what the student teachers observe about the mentor’s teaching. This leads to speculation on whether or not the student teacher will pick up habits or mimic what they observe in class from the mentor or implement what they have been taught in college. A question that has been asked is; ‘if they observe poor practice, will they themselves become poor practitioners?’

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