Posted 20 April 2006 - 11:18 PM
I have pasted some feedback from my trainees about what they have found helpful and unhelpful in terms of mentoring. Hope it is of some use or interest.
A few general points, perhaps stating the obvious
The affective domain of mentoring is very important to them, it's not just a technical thing - being made to feel welcome etc, especially in the firsst few days when they are v. nervous.
Easing them in gently to whole class teaching, not all classes at same time- it takes them hours to do the simplest of lesson plans in the early stages.
Role changes over the course of the year mentors need to give a lot of help, support, guidance at first but on second placement let them stand on their own feet more, get them to be proactive in choosing priorities for development.
There should be lots of subject specific dialogue, not just general stuff about class management etc. There need to be discussions about how to approach interpretations, causation etc, lots of use of Teaching History - get them to read articles to talk through with you.
Feedback from History trainees
Most of the feedback received over the past 2 years has been unequivocally positive and reflects appreciation for the enormous amount of help, support, time and encouragement that history students have received in the course of their placements. Even the feedback of this nature gives some insight into how much importance student teachers attach to being made to feel welcome, part of the department, a potential asset rather than a burden. (See comments in Part 1)
Since I have worked in the partnership, we have received no feedback such as that noted in Part 2; feedback received from a student in a London partnership, which shows that whereas for many students, teaching experience is an enjoyable and interesting experience, for the occasional student, it is perhaps the most intensely miserable experience they have encountered in their lives. We have included it as a reminder of the importance of doing as much as possible in terms of encouragement, support, a positive welcoming environment, and the cultivation of constructive and mutually rewarding professional relationships.
Part 3 includes some comments which express reservations or constructive suggestions for improved practice. Although obviously, some of these might reflect the weaknesses and recriminations of students who were struggling, they might provide some insights into avoiding mistakes, or rectifying omissions, oversights etc.
Part 4 is a summary of some of the most widely expressed suggestions which have come history student teachers.
Part 1- It was not difficult to find many comments similar to these:
“The history department has a high profile and is extremely professional in its approach. All teachers in the school display a co-operative and friendly attitude to student teachers.”
“Excellent, enjoyable, helpful.”
“Excellent; particularly days spent in other departments.”
“Working with a broad range of teachers has been very helpful.”
“Honesty- good feedback, (no bullshit).”
“Excellent range of ideas.”
“Being allowed to try just about anything.”
“Daily brief talk with mentor in first stages of first practice was very reassuring and helpful.”
“Welcoming atmosphere was extremely important- nice to be told that they’ re happy to have us because we’ ll bring new ideas to the department.”
“Very important to have a friendly mentor who supports you and behaves as if he/she can learn from you as well as the other way round.”
“Welcoming letter and information booklet from the school was very helpful.”
“I’ve had freedom and scope to grow professionally.”
“Access to IT was limited but I was encouraged to use it where I could.”
“Mentor always approachable, always helpful.”
“This was as close to a perfect placement as one could hope for. Staff all helpful, mixture of ability classes and opportunity to try different methods.”
“Head of Department was excellent finding the right balance between specific, constructive and focused feedback and guidance, and space to find out for myself. The help she gave was both rigorous, fair and relevant, and was appreciatively received.”
“Excellent support from all staff, greatly enhanced by being treated as part of the staff from the beginning; vital for the development of one’s self confidence. Some formal and a great deal of informal feedback- informal feedback very helpful as it allows continuous lines of communication to be formed.”
“The school is wonderful. Both subject mentor and link teacher have gone out of their way to be helpful and supportive. I feel that my time in school is largely dependent on getting on well with my mentor and being committed and organised. I am very lucky; my mentor is a wonderful person and teacher. I have been to parents’ evenings and in on SEN meetings and curriculum planning sessions. I already feel part of the school.”
“Pupil shadowing was really interesting and helpful.”
Part 2- Included as a reminder of the importance of making students feel welcome and wanted, (this example is not from a UEA student, but that is not to say that there has never been a case of students receiving an indifferent or desultory welcome in the partnership).
“Very disappointing. Staff friendly enough in the main but I’ve had little support. I often feel lost and much of a spare part. The HOD is not very helpful and seems to resent my presence.
The department is well established, with two experienced teachers who excel in managing extra-curricular activities, but right from the start, there was no obvious effort to help me feel at ease or indication that they were there to support me. In fact it was made very clear to me how much extra work they were being forced to do because of me. No time was ever set aside for me to talk to either of them about how I was getting on.
To sum up, I found both members of the department unapproachable, quite oblivious to any needs or worries I might be having, and very unsupportive. They just do not have the communication skills, personalities or temperaments to support a beginning teacher on teaching practice. Any beginning teacher placed at School in the department is very much in the position of ‘sink or swim’, and this is not a pleasant or very valuable learning environment to be in.
Part 3- Comments suggesting omissions, niggles, things which weren’t quite right etc.
“Good pace of induction but would have liked to receive timetable earlier to get started on preparation.”
“Comments usually very constructive and lots of targets set but I felt I didn’t quite know how I was progressing as comments were not very focused.”
“Support appreciated but no opportunity to team teach or take small groups.”
“Would like to have observed more GCSE and ‘A’ level teaching.”
“I was fortunate to be co-teaching with a fellow history student, and this helped with workload, but by the last week of first placement, I was more than ready to practice the skills I was acquiring. In hindsight, I would have liked one class that was totally my own for the whole 5 weeks, to know if my classroom management methods worked.”
“Observation was rather unstructured and got slightly boring.”
“Some ‘A’ level would have been nice; I realise such teaching time is precious but just support teaching or observation would have been helpful.”
“It would have been helpful to get schemes of work for classes to be taught asap.”
“A bit more feedback on things which were OK; most of us are very self-critical and need to be told when something has gone well.”
“To be able to discuss lesson observation notes fully- for them to be an agenda for discussion rather than a verdict.”
“More structured and varied observations.”
“More info. on classes to be taught.”
“Perhaps in the 2 day placements after Christmas, we could have taught or team taught a few lessons- loss of contact and continuity with pupils between Christmas and 2nd placement.”
“Mentor was good but could have been a bit more encouraging and ‘mellow.’”
“Good for mentors to be as specific as possible on competence.”
“Would like to have been observed by a greater variety of people.”
“More guidance needed on assessment.”
“More on how to write reports.”
“Specific time should be set aside to talk to one’s mentor, on a regular basis if at all possible.”
“Not too many targets at a time.”
“It was helpful to see things done outside history- could have been used more.”
“Mentors must make induction into KS3 and KS4 assessment a priority. I was allowed to help devise a KS4 exam paper, its mark scheme and then mark them. This is an excellent exercise and should be encouraged.”
“As much help and advice on lesson planning and preparation as possible in the first few weeks.”
“Should be allowed to see and discuss the final report.”
Part 4- This is a summary of the suggestions for improvement which featured most commonly (ie more than once).
• Importance of appreciating stress and apprehension of first few weeks of first placement- maximum of support and encouragement needed.
• More variety and focus to observation- more specific guidance on what to look for.
• More time and practice on assessment.
• The opportunity to read through the final summary report. (This year, the form has a space for the student to sign, to acknowledge that they have seen their report).
• More exposure to year 11 and post 16 groups, even if it’s just support/ observation/team teaching.
• More structure/ideas for the post Christmas school based days. Suggestions varied from teaching or team teaching a few lessons, support work for SEN pupils, IT work with small groups, or display work. Some time needed to get on with SY2 and 3, but other things needed as well, so as not to lose contact with pupils or feel a bit in the way.
• Suggestions and guidance across the full range of competences, but perhaps focusing on different ones at different stages.
• Wherever manageable, to get timetable of groups and topics to be taught as far in advance as possible.
• To be observed by/work with a variety of teachers. Working with teachers outside the history department was often much appreciated.
• To be encouraged in the use of IT, even if the department was not “state of the art”, in terms of software etc.
• Involvement in trips and visits, including helping to organise them, was felt to be very worthwhile.
• Appreciation that paired students sometimes want to work separately and don’t always want to work together. There are times when feedback needs to be given separately.
• One to one time talking to mentor/s was felt to be one of the most valued sources of help. Didn’t matter if it had to be moved about sometimes, as long as it was regular and not rushed.
• Students very much appreciated a climate where they felt able to discuss and negotiate their experience to at least some extent (when to move to whole class teaching, which groups they might like to take, teaching outside their subject etc), whilst accepting that they had to fit in with the needs of the school and the department, and the professional judgement of the mentor.
• Some chance to maintain contact with “real live pupils” in post-Christmas period so as not to lose contact/familiarity/confidence with the world of the classroom.
The most commonly cited, and “most important to students” features of mentoring, were being made to feel welcome in the department, and having the chance to talk to mentors, both formally and informally, on a regular basis. The active involvement of other members of the department, and of sometimes working with colleagues in other departments was also widely mentioned as a positive aspect of school experience.
The following is a list of experiences which were mentioned as “good ideas”, which students felt should be considered as possibilities should time and resources permit:
• Some contact with, or visit to a Special School or Pupil Referral Unit
• Some form of mock interview/any help, advice on letters of application
• Involvement in Parents’ Evenings
• “Shadow” report writing- to compare with what the “real” teacher had written
• Involvement in drafting mark schemes and exam papers, shadow marking of scripts
• Involvement in GNVQ assessments
• The chance to do some collaborative teaching where a lesson was prepared and delivered together with the mentor.
• Involvement in and part responsibility for departmental visits
• A chance to watch ICT activities which were part of departmental schemes of work where this was feasible.
• Opportunity to work with small groups of pupils on IT tasks, SEN work (This was suggested as an idea for the difficult post-Christmas days in School A)