Mentoring experiences in a master's degree program
Zeiser, Samantha Lynn
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This action research study examines the key mentoring experiences of elementary school teachers prepared at a Research One university. The role of a meaningful mentor during the formative first years of teaching is significant for teacher retention (Holloway 2001; Fuller 2003; Grissmer & Kirby 1997; Wilson, Darling-Hammond & Berry, 2001; Strong & St. John, 2001) and emotional support for new teachers (Greiman, Torres, Burris, & Kitchel, 2007; Hargreaves, 1994; Fischler and Zachary, 2009; Tickle, 1991). However, limited research exists about specific conditions and experiences mentors create for novice teachers that help them feel successful during the pivotal first years of their teaching careers. Examining the mentoring process from an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) perspective supported a focus on those experiences that contributed to environments for building trust, affirming partnerships, and addressing challenges as part of a professional, life sustaining growth experience. AI’s emphasis on positive dialogue allowed for mentoring conversations to build on what was helpful, rather than what was unproductive and problematic. Instead of a “tear down” mentality that focuses on obstacles, the AI 4-D cycle (Discovery, Dream, Design, Destiny) can uncover what makes organizations and people thrive. Storytelling interviews were conducted and participants chose their Best Story from the interview transcript. The analysis of the Best Stories was conducted using a Thematic Analysis, which identified powerful themes (van Manen, 1990) emerging from the participants’ lived experiences and recounted in their Best Stories. Four main themes emerged from the participants’ stories of their best experiences with mentoring: (a) the transfer of classroom control; (b) sharing experiences; (c) opportunities for modeling, observation and reflection; (d) a willingness on the part of the mentor. The research demonstrates that successful mentoring practices naturally occurring in organically formed relationships can be developed using the AI process to inform future practice. The study concludes with suggestions for future study and recommendations for future successful mentoring practice.