Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (School of Education)
Schools and Centres
Professor Caroline Mansfield
Associate Professor Anne Coffey
Mentoring matters for Early Career Teachers (ECTs). As a practice in contemporary Australian schools, mentoring is used to support graduate teachers to assist them in their transition from university to the classroom. Teaching is one of the few professions where graduates move into positions of full accountability. Full accountability means that ECTs are not only responsible for curriculum delivery but also for the legal, social and emotional care of the students in their classrooms. ECTs also have the added responsibility of dealing with parent challenges. Added to the difficulties experienced by ECTs are their transition and socialisation into their respective schools, which includes crafting a professional identity, integrating into their schools' culture, establishing and maintaining networks, meeting curriculum demands, navigating short-term contracts and of course, teaching. With the increasing expectations and demands placed on ECTs in their initial years of teaching, mentoring is recognised as an important element of teacher induction to support teachers with their personal and professional growth.
Research has acknowledged that mentoring is an important strategy used to support ECTs yet on average only 22 per cent of graduates in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries report on having a mentor (Department of Education, Skills and Employment, 2021). Similarly, the 2018 TALIS survey notes that in Australia, 37 per cent of graduates indicate that they have a mentor (OECD, 2019). Furthermore, there appears to be a variety of approaches of varying breadth and depth used in mentoring. In addition to inconsistent mentoring program design and implementation, mentor preparation and quality teacher support, is the reality that the benefits of mentoring seem to be inconsistent with some ECTs experiencing positive outcomes whereas the range of other mentoring experiences vary from mediocre experiences to challenges that have contributed to ECTs leaving the profession.
This research aimed to explore the mentoring experiences of ECTs from the perspectives of ECTs and mentors in Australia. Three research questions were addressed: What are the mentoring experiences of ECTs in Australia?; What are the perspectives of mentors about mentoring ECTs in Australia?; and, To what extent do the perspectives of ECTs and mentors about the mentoring experiences of ECTs influence the personal and professional growth of ECTs?
A constructivist methodology was used to explore the unique experiences of 200 participants consisting of ECTs and mentors across Australia. Participants were invited to complete an online questionnaire and/or participate in an interview. Questionnaire data were gathered from 66 ECTs and 66 mentors. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 36 ECTs and 32 mentors. An instrumental case study was used in the research methodology to examine the mentoring experiences of ECTs.
Analysis of the data revealed four focus areas contributing to a growing body of evidence about mentoring and its impact on ECTs. First, the data showed that mentoring experiences were diverse and highlighted the importance of structured programs, intentional mentor selection, mentor training and expertise and school-level support for mentors. Second, mentoring provided interactions and feedback to support the development of confidence and resilience aligned with personal growth. Third, quality feedback about teaching led to professional growth by developing the teaching and learning capacity of ECTs and the professional support provided by mentors. Finally, this study highlighted the considerations of mentoring programs in the future, emphasising the quality relationship between ECTs and the mentors supported by appropriate human, physical and financial resources.
A mentoring framework and explicit criteria were developed, and eight recommendations were proposed. The newfound knowledge invites all stakeholders to engage in a national discussion on how best to support ECTs through mentoring programs in schools underpinned by a collective, coordinated and equitable process that facilitates quality mentoring experiences for the ECTs not only in Australia’s education system but also within the global community.
This study makes significant that the ECTs and mentors had an opportunity to voice their mentoring experiences and insights into how mentoring programs could be better designed and implemented to support ECTs in Australia. ECTs and mentors could contribute to relevant practices, policies and procedures if schools and education sectors consider exploring further workplace development and the role that ECTs may have in this space. Learning about the mentoring experiences of ECTs within the school context may just be the insight required to support ECTs in the Australian national agenda of quality teachers and quality education.
Bonfiglio-Pavisich, N. (2021). The Mentoring Experiences of Early Career Teachers in Australia (Doctor of Philosophy (School of Education)). University of Notre Dame Australia. https://researchonline.nd.edu.au/theses/338