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Associate Teachers’ Learning Networks: A Figurational Analysis of Initial Teacher EducationPurpose of this paper: The aim of this paper is to use the lens of figurational sociology to analyse the learning networks of physical education (PE) associate teachers (ATs) in England. More specifically, it aims to develop a more adequate understanding of who is involved in the learning networks and how they influence ATs during their one-year postgraduate initial teacher education (ITE) programme. Design/methodology/approach: A total of 35 ATs within a university ITE partnership took part in the study during the final phase of their postgraduate programme. Questionnaires and semi-structured interviews were used to examine the nature and impact of the interdependent relationships that they had developed with other individuals and groups. A process of content analysis was used to identify and analyse patterns in the data. Findings: Mentors have the most influence over ATs. They support the inclusion of the ATs within the PE department, but elements of the mentors’ role are contradictory and can unintentionally hinder the ATs’ teaching. Mentors, teachers and tutors also share a common social habitus that ensures a degree of conformity within the PE community. New experiences tend to reinforce ATs’ existing beliefs about the nature and practice of teaching PE. Research limitations/implications (optional): Practical implications (optional): These findings have implications for providers of ITE in deciding who is involved in mentor training and how it is approached. If ATs are to be introduced to more innovative teaching approaches that promote change, then tutors need to collaborate with mentors and teachers to develop awareness of their often-unplanned influence. Social implications (optional): What is original/value of paper: Applying the distinctive, and more generally sociological, concepts that make up the figurational perspective helped to develop a more adequate understanding of the ATs’ learning networks. It provided an insight into the changing relationships that ATs have with their mentors and other individuals who work within the school and university context.
Exploring Learning Conversations between Mentors and Associate Teachers in Initial Teacher EducationPurpose - The aim of this paper is to analyse the learning conversations that take place in the context of secondary initial teacher education (ITE) in England. More specifically, it aims to examine the learning conversations that occurred between physical education (PE) subject mentors and their associate teachers (ATs) during a one-year postgraduate programme. Design/methodology/approach – Self-completion questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, with eleven ATs within a university ITE partnership, were used to explore ATs’ perceptions of the learning conversations that occurred between them and their mentors. A process of content analysis was used to identify and analyse themes in the data. Findings – Meaningful learning conversations are not exclusively based on mentors’ feedback on ATs’ teaching. The ongoing everyday dialogue that occurs between mentors and ATs has a direct impact on the ATs’ teaching and a more indirect effect of nurturing collaborative relationships and providing access to a learning community. Successful mentoring is not realised through an isolated weekly lesson observation of the ATs’ teaching. It is an immersive process where the AT and the mentor face the ongoing challenge of exploring aspects of pedagogy and developing a relationship that is conducive to shared learning. Practical implications - These findings have implications for providers of ITE and more specifically how they approach mentor training. Examining learning conversations, and in particular the more informal everyday dialogue that occurs between the mentor and the AT, may have significant impact on the learning of those who are training to teach. Originality/value - Informal learning conversations are central to the mentoring process. These findings highlight the value of learning conversations and in particular the impact of informal everyday dialogue that may otherwise be overlooked.
Mentoring Associate Teachers in Initial Teacher Education: The Value of Dialogic FeedbackPurpose - 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.