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Sharing mentoring experiences of elementary teachers : moving towards collaborative learning communities Pachler, Richard Kurt

Abstract

This qualitative, illustrative study inquired into the mentoring experiences of six teachers in the Lower Mainland of Greater Vancouver. The purpose of this study was to examine factors that enhanced or hindered the mentoring relationships. Data consisted of transcripts from semi-structured interviews. The constant comparative method (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994) was used to analyze data. Many teachers preferred hierarchical mentoring, where one person was more experienced than the other. Participants also preferred mentoring that was informal, friendly and reciprocal, and strongly favoured working with someone of similar background and educational platform, with diversity, conflict and negativity avoided. Participants also expressed a preference for mentoring that was non-evaluative, practical, safe and respectful. Teachers described characteristics that hindered mentoring relationships as being assigned to or experiencing a negative mentoring situation, workload and stress. Furthermore, the lack of time and financial support for mentoring and professional development was an issue. The participants' preference for more experienced teachers as mentors, which suggests a hierarchical relationship, contradicted findings that suggested participants also want mentoring relationships that are nonhierarchical and collaborative, based on treating each other as 'equals'. I suggest that collaborative mentoring can occur if more innovative, truly collaborative partnerships between universities and schools are encouraged, which may include teachers engaging in action research. I also suggest that collaborative mentoring coupled with action research may provide practical, timely, ongoing support for the professional development and the life-long inquiry into the practice of student, novice and experienced teachers. Finally, the study suggests the need for addressing and reducing teacher workload and stress, combined with a drastic change in the culture of educational organizations for collaborative mentoring to succeed.

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