Negotiating a place(ment): Conflicting mentor and student teacher stories of professional practice

Year: 2012

Author: Patrick, Rachel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper draws on a research project that examined relationships between student teachers and school-based supervising teachers (mentors). Teaching professional practice is an essential and often contested space in the learning-to-teach process and can have a huge impact on how student teachers form their professional knowledge and identity as beginning teachers. While many mentor/student teacher relationships are positive and beneficial, often tensions arise as both parties try work through contradictory understandings of the relationship, or differing expectations of university and school.

In the research discussed in this presentation, mentor teachers and student teachers were interviewed in separate groups about their relationships and experience of professional practice. A narrative inquiry methodology was used in order to gain insights into participants' perspectives. Analysis was informed by Richardson and St Pierre's (2005) notion of 'writing as a method inquiry' to allow for a recursive understanding of the data and interpretation.

The focus of the presentation will be a discussion of conflicting student teacher and mentor narratives of professional practice. While student teacher stories foregrounded collaboration and collegiality, mentor stories drew on a "teacher-as-expert" model for the relationship. These conflicting narratives suggest a number of tensions in professional practice relationships concerning questions of power, place and positioning.

Two possible ways forward will be presented as a way of disrupting the tensions arising in these contradicting stories-one focused on what might be done differently in university teacher education classes, and the other on how the professional practice relationship is negotiated.