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Learning to teach: mentoring and tutoring student teachers
Learning to teach: mentoring and tutoring student teachers

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5.1 Pedagogy for tutoring

Activity 4: Tutors important functions

Timing: Time: 20 minutes

Listen to ‘What’s in a name: Mentoring and Tutoring’, where Dave and Sarah discuss how they see their role as tutors. (Please note that The Open University’s PGCE course mentioned in this audio has now been discontinued but is typical of many university-run PGCE courses.)

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As you listen, note down the particular functions of tutoring that they think are important. Are there any you would add?


Both Dave and Sarah emphasise the holistic nature of the tutor role. They are not there to offer solutions to all the questions or difficulties that the student has, rather to pose questions that will help the student to reflect on the issues.

There is much less in the way of research literature about the nature of tutor pedagogy compared to that of mentoring. What is clear is that tutoring requires different types of pedagogical knowledge and skills. Murray (2008) explains this difference using the idea of first order (practitioners in school) and second order (teachers of teachers) fields. She suggests that it is critical to:

understand teacher educators as second order practitioners (Murray, 2002)... Clearly, having experiential knowledge of teaching in the school sector is important for many teacher educators... but second order practice demands new and different types of professional knowledge and understanding, including extended pedagogical skills, from those required of school teachers as first order practitioners.

(Murray, 2008)

So what might this professional knowledge and understanding and extended pedagogical skills look like? Murray (2008) identifies some key areas:

  • producing and reproducing discourses and practices with and for their students
  • producing and reproducing of academic discourses about education
  • having an overt knowledge of how one teaches and why (i.e a self-consciousness of pedagogy)
  • functioning simultaneously as both researcher and practitioner which may including engagement in the field of enquiry through sustained reading and reflection by:
    • systematic enquiries into personal practice, informed by research
    • involvement in individual practitioner research and action research
    • communal participation in small-scale studies
    • writing books and teaching materials for practitioners in the school sector, or involvement in large national research projects.
(adapted Murray, 2008)

Across all of Murray’s points it is possible to identify the common thread of knowledge creation, dissemination and questioning. For her, a tutor is someone who is at all times aware of the assumptions, beliefs and values that underpins knowledge, and deliberately opens up this knowledge to discussion, debate and examination with their student teachers. Thus, she argues, it is not necessary for a tutor to necessarily be a published researcher, as it is the act of scholarship and research that provides the opportunity to develop professional knowledge and understanding and develop what she calls extended pedagogical skills.