Supervisor or mentor? Questioning the quality of pre-service teacher practicum experiences

Year: 2006

Author: Keogh, Jayne, Dole, Shelley, Hudson, Elizabeth

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Practicum is a major component of teacher education programs. This experience is regarded as playing a vital role in preparing pre-service teachers for the real world of the classroom. Traditional views of the practicum are of an apprentice-model, where the nanve apprentice is immersed into the work situation, observing, absorbing, and ultimately imitating the master. There is an assumption of an attained level of expertise on the part of the master, and that the apprentice has little to contribute to the situation. The term 'practicum supervisor' can be seen as appropriate here. However, the view of supervisor as 'expert' and pre-service teacher as 'novice' may not be conducive to a fully productive and mutually beneficial relationship. With adoption of the word mentor rather than supervisor, a more collaborative, supportive and equitable relationship is assumed and anticipated. Yet, old ways of 'supervising' persist. Through the presentation of case studies of pre-service teachers' experiences, the case for professional development, training, or at least for some form of certification for practicum mentors, is presented.