A case study of an existing mentoring programme for beginner teachers in a public school in the Western Cape
Daniels, Ruben Abraham Stephen
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This study aimed to explore the nature and consequences of an existing mentoring programme aimed at assisting beginner teachers make the transition from university graduates to school practitioners. It addressed the broader problem of teacher retention, working from the premise that beginner teachers leave the teaching profession within the first five years of formal teaching. The main research question the thesis addressed is: What is the nature and consequences of an existing mentoring programme aimed at assisting beginner teachers make the transition from university graduates to school practitioners? The theory used to frame this study both theoretically and methodologically is Vygotsky’s constructs of the Zone of Proximal Development, his notions of mediation and scaffolding, and Lave and Wenger’s notion of communities of practice and their notion of legitimate peripheral participation. Noting that the conceptual tools of Lave and Wenger, are grounded in a broader theoretical framework, of Bandura’s concept of “situated learning”, which shares historical links with Vygotsky’s socio-cultural views of how people learn. Methodologically, this qualitative interpretive single case study made use of semi-structured individual interviews, focus group interviews and document sources to explore this fairly under-researched area. The unit of analysis is a mentoring programme at a secondary school in the Western Cape, which comprised of three embedded cases, namely, the school principal, two mentors and two mentees. The main findings suggest that a disjuncture exists between initial teacher education and the real school context, creating a need for a formalised mentoring programme. It also outlines the multiple Communities of Practice’s (CoPs) in action within a mentoring programme revealing ways in which communities and boundaries could impact learning within a mentoring programme. Furthermore, the findings show the conversational dimensions of mentoring interactions; how talk and learning brings about a shift in the dyadic relationship between a mentor (old-timer/ the knowledgeable other) and beginner teacher (mentee/newcomer). In addition, this study illuminates the importance of mentor-mentee pairing in terms of willingness to participate and compatibility between the mentor and beginner teacher. The thesis therefore contributes towards a growing body of knowledge on beginner teachers by focusing on how a formal mentoring programme can facilitate the smooth transitioning of beginner teachers into the teaching profession thus addressing the global problem of teacher retention.