John Topliss

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Education)

First Supervisor

Professor Richard Berlach


The study identified and explored the mentoring experiences in the transition fromgraduate to Early Career Teacher (ECT) in selected Catholic primary and secondary schools in Western Australia. The research addressed a significant deficit, as presently the lack of a system-wide framework for the mentoring of ECTs, the cessation of the current ECT program and the limited training of mentors, has resulted in less than ideal mentoring experiences for ECTs. The study examined the perceptions of ECTs in the transition from graduate to Beginning Teacher and involved three distinct yet inter-related phases that explored the mentoring experience. The first phase sought the expectations of mentoring of a small group of final year, Primary Education students from a Catholic University in Western Australia. The second phase, the Beginning Teachers’ phase, was conducted with a group over their first three terms of teaching and examined their experiences of mentoring. In the final phase, the perceptions of Catholic primary principals were sought regarding the place and logistics of mentoring. These phases were then synthesised to provide a clearer picture of mentoring in the Catholic Education system.

The data collection methods involved both a survey questionnaire and focus group input. Descriptive statistical analysis was undertaken for each phase of the study for interpreting survey data from Post-Internship (Pre-Service) teachers, Beginning Teachers and principals. Such an approach helped to determine the numerical occurrence of concept/theme descriptors in relation to answering each of the research questions. For the purpose of addressing the research questions, focus group qualitative data were garnered via the use of both open-ended and closed questioning techniques, which were then audio-recorded and transcribed for analysis. Data was interpreted using a Mixed Methods convergence design. A chief finding was that the guarantee of a mentor does not necessarily alleviate every problem faced by an ECT. However, the attributes of a mentor may significantly assist or hinder the aspirations of an ECT. It was also found that the regular feedback provided to Post-Internship (Pre-Service) teachers became more informal as an ECTs’ careers progressed. The importance of feedback to the vocation of both Post-Internship (Pre-Service) teachers and ECTs indicated that further investigation was specifically required in the Religious Education Learning Area. Significantly, nearly half of ECTs received minimal feedback from mentors and or/principals regarding the prospect of ongoing permanency. Although some of the ECTs received feedback in the Proficient Stage of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) Standards as a Key Performance Indicator for their ongoing employment, 54% of Beginning Teachers reported no such feedback. The lack of certainty about their future role in the work-place impacted the relationship some ECTs had with their mentor and/or principal. Encouragingly, the majority of principals recognised the importance of mentoring by offering support for the instigation of a system-wide mentoring framework.

On the basis of these findings, principles upon which a new mentoring framework might be developed are proposed. These principles might benefit principals, mentors and ECTs, through the introduction of strategies such as school and system-based mentoring coordinators.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Education Commons