The purpose of this paper is to examine the critical features and outcomes of an Australian collaborative university- and school-based immersion project for mentoring final year pre-service primary teachers in the area of special education as they embed theory and practice in inclusive classrooms for a full year, to respond to diverse student needs.
Using a three-year qualitative study design, data were gathered through pre surveys and post surveys, two one-to-one semi-structured interviews, and reflexive journal entries. Analysis using triangulation of data sources and inter-rater reliability was employed to reach consensus on the key themes.
Findings suggest that mentors proved critical to reducing pre-service teacher anxieties and to enhancing their personal and professional knowledge, confidence and skills as they differentiated instruction and assessment techniques to cater for students with a diverse range of abilities.
This research suggests that maintaining the balance of theory and practice through genuine extended school engagement experiences provided opportunities for collaborative connections on multiple levels across the school. This mentoring pathway enhanced and reinforced pre-service teachers’ professional capacity, confidence and employability potential. Limitations such as small sample size and lack of secondary school representation must be noted.
This work identified the importance of the unique features of a mentoring programme within a university-school partnership, including the benefits of a full-year immersion experience, financial reward, responsibility, empowerment and enhanced employability status of final year pre-service teachers as they transition to classroom teachers. This paper provides useful insights for researchers, practitioners and teacher education policy developers.
The author would like to thank and acknowledge the dedicated team at ACU that consisted of members of the leadership team and the faculty members Dr Robyn Bentley-Williams, Associate Professor Janette Long and Dr Cath Laws. The author would also like to acknowledge and thank the team at CEO Sydney, which included teachers, principals and members of the leadership team, particularly Michele Cutrupi who was the Diocesan project coordinator from 2012 to 2014, and the undergraduate participants who worked beyond expectations to achieve outstanding gains. This project was successful due to the dedicated participants and professionals who worked to unite the strengths of theoretical knowledge and practice to arm early career teachers with the benefits of both the research and practice agendas in inclusive education contexts.
Grima-Farrell, C. (2015), "Mentoring pathways to enhancing the personal and professional development of pre-service teachers", International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 255-268. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMCE-07-2015-0020
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