Purpose - The aim of this paper is to analyse feedback in the context of secondary initial teacher education (ITE) in England. More specifically, it aims to examine the feedback experiences of physical education (PE) subject mentors and their associate teachers (ATs) during a one-year postgraduate programme. Design/methodology/approach – Semi-structured interviews, with nine PE mentors and eleven ATs within a university ITE partnership, were used to explore lesson feedback and the context in which it was provided. Interview data from the twenty participants was analysed through constant comparison to categorise content and identify patterns of responses. Findings - Mentors were well versed in the formal feedback mechanism of a written lesson observation. This approach is well established and accepted within ITE, but the dialogic feedback that follows lessons was thought to be where ATs made most progress. These learning conversations were seen to provide less formal but more authentic feedback for those learning to teach, and were most successful when founded on positive and collaborative relationships between the mentor and the ATs. Practical implications - These findings have implications for providers of teacher education and more specifically how they approach mentor training. The focus on lesson observations has value, but examining more informal dialogic approaches to feedback may have more impact on the learning of ATs. Originality/value - These findings support the value of lesson feedback but challenge the primacy of formal written lesson observations. The learning conversations that follow lessons are shown to provide authentic feedback for ATs.
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