2.2 Learning through apprenticeship
There are those who view teaching as a craft (e.g. Brown and McIntyre, 1993) and see learning to teach as an apprenticeship, in which experience improves performance and learning is a slow process. In this theory, the mentor is viewed as a master craftsperson guiding the beginner teacher into taking on more and more complex roles (Brown and McIntyre, 1993). The mentor advises, directs and offers practical tips in order to enable the beginner teacher to make good decisions in the essential immediacy of the classroom. The beginner teacher learns by observing and imitating how the mentor relates to students, positions themselves, uses the board, and so on.
Such a theoretical description fits well with the way that many mentors see themselves as not just supporting, but actively teaching beginner teachers, through advising, informing and suggesting practical approaches. Mentors also act as assessors, giving feedback on lessons and making summative assessments of the beginner teachers’ progress. These dual roles can be a source of tension: some mentors find the roles of supporter and judge to be at odds with one another.
This theory receives criticism. Mentors in general do not want their beginner teachers to become a ‘mini-me’ but rather to take on their own professional identity. Mentors also see that the complex, relationship-dependant profession of teaching is not about giving useful tips or passing on ‘one size fits all’ solutions, but is rather an intellectually demanding pursuit requiring commitment, passion and creativity.