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

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5.3 Tutoring in practice

In addition to Murray’s ideas, more practical and tangible elements of the tutor role (as opposed to the mentor role) can be identified as:

  • broadening student teachers’ views beyond context specific experiences and thus developing a wider profession identity
  • making explicit links between research, theory and practice to enable student teachers to consider alternative perspectives, best practice examples and underpinning assumptions about their practice.

In Section 3 Supporting the student, we discussed the development of student teacher identities. Within a mentoring context, this identity is likely to involve induction into the particular ethos of the school. While this is important, this is only a small part of their professional identity. The likelihood of a student teacher being employed in that school or staying there throughout their career is very small and therefore it is important that tutors support student teachers in developing a wider professional identity. This may be through exposure to different types of school contexts, different views of subject pedagogy, professional associations or just through discussion of alternative sources of opinion such as research or peer support groups. Much of this can be summarised by the identification of a professional community (Maldrez et al., 2007 p 239).

There is much literature to suggest that student teachers, in the early stages of their development, struggle to understand the relevance of theoretical or research perspectives (Maldrez et al., 2007, Warford, 2011). However, there is also evidence that student teachers, whether consciously or unconsciously, draw on theory and research, and that the use of research literature becomes more prominent as their careers develop (Richter et al., 2011). A tutor’s role is to mediate and model the links between research and theory to enable student teachers to draw on it more consciously and explicitly, thereby understanding and appreciating the potential for doing so.