Mentoring for Early childhood teachers research Report 2012

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APPENDIX C: E-mentoring

Author(s), year, title of article/ chapter/ book

Mentoring context (EC or other)

Theoretical framework

Overview of research evidence

Intended outcomes; were they achieved?

Practices/ components as suggested by the paper that can inform the development of effective mentoring programs

Included in synthesis?

Kealy & Mullen, 2003, Guest editors’ introduction: At the nexus of mentoring and technology

Multiple – main context explored is in the use of technology in mentoring.

Introduces the papers included in the special issue of the journal ‘Mentoring and Tutoring’. The papers discuss Hawkridge’s metaphor of ‘the human in the machine’. The Editors note that despite the authors’ use of ‘tutor’ or ‘coaching’ interchangeably with ‘mentor’ and ‘mentoring’, they all ‘generally portray an active relationship and helping process for promoting reflection, skills development, personal and professional development, and satisfaction with learning’ (pp. 5-6).

Whether mentoring is conducted face-to-face or online, both models must be learner-focused and support a flexible approach to individual development (p. 8). Thus, technology must support individualised learning.

Some of the technological innovations reported in the issue include Hawkridge’s electronic café and Boyer’s small learning communities (p. 8). ‘The distant mentors of tomorrow will not only need to pioneer original ways of defining and expressing the roles of “mentor” and “protégé”, they will also need to devise imaginative ways to encourage peer collaboration” (p. 8).

However, the immediacy of feedback possible via internet, email and e-chat raises unrealistic expectations for rapid feedback. As well, electronic availability of the mentor outside of the academic environment encourages a demand for counselling on matters outside of academic/PD concerns. Thus, technology means that ‘mentoring roles have become intensified and redefined’ (p. 9).

Online mentors should seek to foster the same democratic environment as in face-to-face mentoring - that is, take the initial lead, then hand over to their protégés while providing support (p. 10).

Finally, for e-mentoring to succeed, technical support is crucial (p. 11).


Hawkridge, 2003, The human in the machine

British Open University’s distance education system

Here, the ‘human in the machine’ refers to the mentor (borrowing from Koestler’s ‘The ghost in the machine’).

The author uses the terms ‘mentor’ (in its American usage) and ‘tutor’ (in its British usage) interchangeably in terms of distance education offered by the British Open University.

Email was more successfully used by students and tutors than the ‘online workbook’ (a conferencing system’ where students posted their answers to the study guides) or café (an online forum where students could drop in informally). Email allowed students to get more direct advice and for tutors to respond more quickly (p. 19).

The mentor/tutor as e-moderator where peer-learning is the focus - i.e., students discussing, collaborating and exchange information with other students (p. 19).

The Salmon e-mentoring model – a 5-stage e-mentoring model (described in detail in pages 20-21).

The best of what technology can offer for e-mentoring: ‘near instant contact is valuable in “caring and managing”’ of students/mentees (p. 22).

Yes, but to a limited extent as most of the material is in ‘mentoring’ or ‘tutoring’ students through a course of distance/online education – not the kind of ‘mentoring’ that this lit review is intending to cover.

Boyer, 2003, Leaders mentoring leaders: unveiling role identity in an international online environment

Online graduate leadership program – specifically, the International School Connection Program at the University of Florida, which offered both Masters and PhD options

The article tries to answer the question: “What does the role of a leader look like in an online environment given the structural elements of mentorship and academic coursework?” (p. 28)

Data is based on an online leadership program consisting of 5 learning communities, each with a ‘process leader’ who acted as ‘mentors’ to 6-8 members.

The program consisted of:

  • a week-long, face-to-face conference before the start of the course

  • web-based instruction (the main focus of the program)

  • a once-a-year face-to-face planning and learning encounter

  • individual learning contracts (as a means for personalising instruction and to increase the self-directed nature of the program)

  • questions introduced every 2 weeks to direct discussion and frame the learning.

In the online courses, the ‘program leader’ or ‘mentor’ has the role of ‘online facilitator’ whilst the traditional roles of “editorial and publishing, knowledge owner, and content contributor/author” belong to the instructor (p. 27). However, in the actual implementation of the program, these two roles – mentor/program leader and instructor – conflicted in the curriculum they offered to the participants, resulting in a ‘power struggle’ and the offer of different sets of curricula (pp. 34-35). This in turn led participants to question the expectations of the program, resulting in an overall lack of program engagement.

The paper concludes that in cyberspace, leaders (whether program leaders, or instructors, or participants who had a leadership role in their own organisations) find it difficult to ‘identify their function, objectives and relevance’ (p. 36). That is, in the online/virtual world, leadership roles “must be explicitly communicated to reduce frustration and maximize clarity” (p. 37).

[Note: Page 38 of the paper has detailed suggestions to make online programs more successful.]

As above, ‘mentoring’ here is used in the sense of ‘tutoring’ (helping students with an online course)

Phillon, 2003, Can technology offer a means of mentoring pre-service teachers about diversity?

Schools – this is about a Purdue University initiative to give primarily white pre-service teachers a chance to interact with culturally diverse student populations, and be mentored by master teachers experienced with teaching diverse students, through two-way video conferencing, i.e., ‘technologically-mediated observations of distant classrooms’ (p. 44) or ‘virtual field experience (p. 45).

Works on the conceptualisation of ‘mentoring’ as ‘co-mentoring’ – a ‘synergistic process … in which participants mentor each other and all participants grow and change’ (p. 44). In short, co-mentoring (or building a co-mentoring community) through video-conferencing.

Participants of the program included: teacher-educators, teachers, pre-service students and elementary (primary) students.

The program consisted of:

  • Instruction and practice on the technology to be used by Purdue University students

  • Instruction and practice on the technology to be used by the primary school students

  • A trip to the school by the pre-service teachers to meet with the principal, teachers, and students in the class; this trip is integral to developing a sense of community and facilitating the virtual interactions

  • Pre-service teachers write journals and other projects based on the virtual classroom observations

  • Pre-service teachers teach lessons during the virtual field experience

Co-mentoring occurs in the sense that pre-service teachers are able to observe (virtually) experienced teachers during class. As well, pre-service teachers are ‘mentored’ on diverse student populations through ‘virtual field experience’ that they would otherwise not have due to the physical distance of such schools from Purdue University.

Somewhat – it shows what is possible with technology linking pre-service teachers in universities with remote schools

Packard, 2003, ‘Web-based mentoring: challenging traditional models to increase women’s access’

Women college (university) students taking up science courses – the need to increase their access to women mentors in the sciences, wherever they may be geographically located

Does not really present any research evidence – rather, presents the lessons learnt from the project (see Packard & Hudgings, 2002).

Looks at the ‘role model mentoring hybrid’ and ‘networking model of mentoring’ (as opposed to the dyadic/one-on-one mentoring model) and the use of technology to facilitate these mentoring models.

Argues for networking as a form of mentoring: ‘The shift is in how we define mentoring. By placing emphasis on deriving mentoring functions, with less focus on the relationship or means by which mentoring occurs, calling these alternatives “mentoring” is not difficult to do’ (p. 60). Benefits to the student involved in ‘alternative’ modes of mentoring include: psycho-social support, role-modelling and career functions (exploring career and lifestyles of professionals).

Also argues that role-modelling (derived through ‘observational learning’) is a distinct function of mentoring, separate from psycho-social support and career functions (p. 61).

Caveat: dyadic mentoring is still necessary/useful, as college/uni students need to have mentors who know them well enough to advocate for them and write detailed letters of recommendation.

Yes, includes a good summary of the literature on the networking model of mentoring, i.e., multiple mentors instead of the one-on-one mentor model (see page 58).

Kasprisin et al, 2003, Building a better bridge: testing e-training to improve e-mentoring programmes in higher education

Reports on MentorNet, an e-mentoring program that matches women undergraduate students in engineering and science majors with industry professionals

The paper focuses on the use of e-training programs to improve the success rate of e-mentoring programs.

Participants for the study were from the 2001-02 cohort of the MentorNet program (400 students, undergraduates only, enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths majors).

Argues that training enhances the benefits of face-to-face mentoring and hypothesises that e-training will do the same for e-mentoring.

E-training (training provided in an online environment) for e-mentoring focused on expectation management. Key elements of e-training were:

  • To identify the potential benefits and outcomes from participation

  • To align program goals and participant expectations

  • To establish expectations and parameters of mentor-protégé relationships

Measures of involvement:

  • Number of emails exchanged between mentor and protégé

  • Level of comfort and satisfaction on aspects of the e-mentoring experience

  • How the MentorNet experience affected them – in terms of self-confidence to succeed in chosen field, on whether they would enjoy working and pursue working in chosen field

Concludes that mandatory training (as opposed to optional training) increases the involvement, satisfaction and benefits associated with participation in e-mentoring programs.

Yes, for measures of levels of involvement, satisfaction and benefits in participating in an e-mentoring program.

Sinclair, 2003, Mentoring online about mentoring: possibilities and practice

This is about an online course on the concept of mentoring and being a mentor to early career teachers (‘early career teachers’ include student teachers and teachers during their first 3 years of practice).

Participants were 7 practicing teachers (part-time students) who were learning about mentoring, and their professor (who is the author of the paper).

Data (used to analyse the existence of a mentoring relationship) included web-based discussions, emails and course evaluations.

Difficult to assess from the paper how online mentoring can be implemented because it mixed (conflated) the results of online learning (students learning about mentoring) and online mentoring (students being mentors to early career teachers).

Yes, but rather tangentially – see comment on left.

Witte & Wolf, 2003, Infusing mentoring and technology within graduate courses

Mentoring in the context of supporting adult learners in a large university enrolled in technology-supported courses; focus is on the instructor as mentor

Adult learning models; the article defines mentoring as ‘a process used to guide and facilitate a learner’s educational growth’ (p. 96) and specifically separates it from the instructor role.

No, not a very helpful article as it mostly describes what went on in 3 courses offered through WebCT.

Price & Chen, 2003, ‘Exploring a collaborative telementoring programme in a preservice teacher education programme’

Tele-mentoring in the context of teacher education – ‘a vision of telementoring that went unrealised’

Intended outcomes:

  • flexible contact time

  • flexible location

  • available resources to differing needs

Not achieved – see column to the right

A virtual triad of mentorship involving the novice/ preservice teacher, the veteran teacher in the classroom, and the teacher educator in the university – allows for a continuum of professional growth. The traditional problem with forming this triad is the scheduling of collaborative time – which the authors hope can be solved through telementoring. However, problems to do with technology and support prevented the idea from being realised.

Elements identified for an effective telementoring program:

  • willingness of participants

  • access to and ability to utilise equipment and resource

  • positive attitude of conversation as a community of learners

Yes, useful to know what can go wrong.

See also (in Appendix 1 – EC):

Cassady, Mucherach & Hoffman, 2003, Meeting the need: delivering quality child-care education on the web

French, 2004, An examination of email-based novice teacher mentoring: proposing an practitioner-oriented model of online reflection

WINGS (Welcoming Interns and Novices with Guidance and Support) Online, a program designed to offer graduates of the University of Texas Austin ‘protégé driven just-in-time support’

Socio-cultural perspective – where knowledge is viewed as socially constructed through joint activity in a particular cultural, historical and institutional setting (Wersch, 1991).

Also Vygotsky (1978), Bruner (1990) and Wells (1999)

The online program was offered to the university’s teacher preparation program graduates. Novices who chose to participate were offered the opportunity to select an experienced teacher mentor with whom they could communicate via a facilitated private email list.

The teams included in the study communicated with each other for at least one semester.

Author/researcher was the facilitator for the 6 teams included in the study (emic perspective).

Data consisted of email exchanges between 6 mentors and their protégés, and applications before being matched.

To answer the research questions:

Big question: What is the nature of the mentoring process in an online context?

Secondary questions:

  1. How is mentoring enacted in the talk taking place between mentors and protégés in an online context?

  2. To what degree, in what ways, and to what effect is reflective talk incorporated in the talk taking place between mentors and protégés in an online context?

The study aimed to:

  • examine the process of meaning-making as manifested in the online talk of mentor-mentee pairs;

  • explore mentoring as a joint activity in which participants constructed shared meaning

Findings indicated that teachers, who discussed many of the same issues as identified in face-to-face mentoring (such as classroom management techniques, behaviour of students as a group, teaching materials, current and future teaching assignments), focused much of their talk on storytelling. Although the storytelling was text-based, the structure was not formal (as in traditional written discourse) but in conversational narratives.

Narratives were fluid and reflected the purposes they served, which included: relating; illustrating; venting; reflecting

Reflective exchanges were almost exclusively initiated by the protégés and grounded in the problems they were facing.

Typical sequence of exchanges involved:

  • teachers’ telling of a story

  • examination of one or more of the aspects posed

  • mentors’ extension of the reflection, shifting back and forth between different aspects of issues

Online mentoring characterised by

  • asynchronous communication (which solved the problem of face-to-face mentoring in finding a mutually suitable time)

  • informal speech discourses in a text-based medium (email)

  • allowed mentors the time to formulate and reflect, yet time between responses was minimised

  • electronic conversational narratives were characterised by their flexible, fluid and purposive nature – these worked because the mentor and mentee shared a body of knowledge (as teachers, and previous email conversations)

  • reflective narratives were distinguished from the other forms because of the couplet narrative + reflective statement at the end; this was meant as ‘reflective bid’ to the mentor, who would then respond with a reflective response – this is a collaborative process

However, not much critical reflection occurred (here, critical reflection is defined as in seeing as problematic the goals and practices of one’s profession) – researcher concludes that online mentoring is not suitable for this type of reflection.

Also, online mentoring is good for pragmatic support during the ‘survival years’ of the novice teacher, but not for deep reflection. It could work for improving practice.

Online mentoring supports the statement-to-statement (or moment-to-moment) reflective process on issues that teachers think are important.

If distance is the motive for using online mentoring, video could be added to allow mentors to observe the novice teacher and provide feedback (this is not possible on totally text-based mentoring).

Further suggestions:

  • shared understanding (needed for coherent communication) must be preceded by introductions

  • the need for a facilitator to help and encourage participants to continue communicating with each other

Yes – this is the most useful paper on the topic

Single & Single, 2005, E-mentoring for social equity: review of research to inform program development

This is a lit review of research on e-mentoring for research conducted from the mid-1990s to 2005 and included journal articles, reports, and book chapters on implemented e-mentoring programs.

E-mentoring could level the playing field by providing mentoring to those who would otherwise be left out of informal mentoring networks

Focused only on structured (formal) e-mentoring programs.

Research has shown that, like face-to-face mentoring, e-mentoring succeeded only when there were programmatic supports to facilitate establishment and maintenance.

Results of the lit review:

(1) e-mentoring is not a panacea, nor an inexpensive version of face-to-face mentoring – it should only be done when face-to-face mentoring isn’t available, feasible or appropriate

(2) an alternative mode of mentoring that facilitates the expansion of mentoring opportunities

(3) benefits from e-mentoring were the same as mentoring: informational, psychosocial, and instrumental

Two additional benefits of e-mentoring:

(1) impartiality

(2) inter-organisational connections facilitated by electronic communications

E-mentoring program features such as training, coaching and group mentoring enhanced participant involvement.

E-mentoring requires ready access to technology.

E-mentoring does not need to rely on traditional mentoring models; e-mentoring models include communal or group e-mentoring.


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