The brief of the research component of the Professional Mentoring Program for Early Childhood Teachers was to explore the current mentoring initiatives on offer to early childhood teachers as a way of determining the capacity of the sector. This was needed to inform the thinking around future mentoring arrangements for early childhood teachers joining the profession, or those teachers who were professionally isolated.
This report presents an exploration of mentoring, mentoring models and evaluates the capacity of the early childhood sector to support mentoring of early childhood teachers. Included in the report is the investigation of the mentoring model used by VIT for provisionally registered teachers and other models currently employed by cluster managers and local governments.
Findings from a previous project which involved a review of the literature surrounding effective professional learning models for supporting early career early childhood teachers (Mayer & Nolan, 2008) informed the early stages of this work. Mayer and Nolan’s (2008) work highlighted supportive models of professional learning implemented both nationally and internationally and the important role mentoring played within successful models. This work provided the stimulus for a more focused and updated literature review and also provided the background to a more localised study of mentoring models currently being implemented across Victoria. The research mapped programs that were currently on offer to kindergarten teachers across the state providing information about program design, delivery and content. The DEECD, whilst not holding information relating to the availability of alternative mentoring programs, did have anecdotal information that these mentoring initiatives did exist in varying forms across regions.
REVIEWING THE LITERATURE
By Dr Iris Dumenden
Overview and the BES Method
LITERATURE REVIEW USING A BEST EVIDENCE SYNTHESIS METHOD Research Question:
How best to create an effective, sustainable mentoring program for Early Childhood teachers in Victoria? OVERVIEW This Literature Review starts with an explanation of the Best Evidence Synthesis (BES) method. This is followed by a review of the term ‘mentoring’ – its meaning in general and in the educational context in particular. This is then followed by a review of conceptualisations of ‘the good mentor’. Finally, a summary of research evidence is provided for each of the following:
Mentoring in the Early Childhood contexts;
Mentoring in Schools;
E-mentoring (also referred to as telementoring or online mentoring).
Details of the studies included in the summaries can be found in the Appendices.
INTRODUCTION Research synthesis for the social sciences The evidence-based research synthesis method originated from the biomedical sciences, in which there are easily quantifiable outcomes. But there are those who argue for its use in the social sciences, where outcomes are not so easily quantifiable, noting that a systematic review in the social sciences is
…simply a way of accessing research knowledge; in this sense it is a piece of research in its own right. Systematic reviews synthesise the results of primary research, use explicit and transparent methods, and are accountable, replicable and updateable” (Oakley, 2002, p. 280).
Oakley’s review of three initiatives in the UK on the conduct of systematic research, or what she calls ‘evidence-based everything’ (p. 284) led her to conclude that evidence-based research synthesis in the social sciences represents a ‘paradigm shift in thinking about the relationship between academic research and real world policy and practice’ (p. 284). In particular, she noted that research synthesis work in education suggests the possibility of developing ‘collaborative, democratic and systematic structures for reviewing research evidence, which will help to open up the traditionally rather esoteric world of educational research to public scrutiny’ (p. 284).
The Best Evidence Synthesis (BES) method The research synthesis method used in this literature review is the Best Evidence Synthesis (BES) method. According to Boaz, Ashby and Young (2002: 4-6), a BES method consists of the following seven features:
Use of protocols to guide the process: the protocol specifies the plan by which the reviewer will identify, appraise and collect evidence.
Focus is on answering a specific question or questions.
Aim to identify as much of the relevant research as possible.
Appraise the quality of the research included in the review using inclusion/exclusion criteria set out in the protocol/plan.
Synthesise the research findings of the studies included using meta-analysis (for quantitative studies) or narrative analysis (for qualitative analysis). A narrative analysis looks at the similarities and differences between studies and their outcomes.
Aim to be as objective as possible to remove bias.
Update the review in order to remain relevant.
A modified BES approach A modified BES method (Mitchell & Cubey, 2003) has been used to review the literature on mentoring. This modified BES method consists of the following elements:
A plan by which to identify, appraise and collect evidence: Published research findings regarding the mentoring of new teachers have been collected and appraised – both in the context of Early Childhood education and (because of the paucity of literature on mentoring in the Early Childhood context) in education in general.
A specific question which will be answered: The literature has been reviewed to specifically answer the question: “How best to create an effective, sustainable mentoring program for Early Childhood teachers in Victoria?”
Identification of as much of the relevant research as is possible: A comprehensive search of the available literature from 2000-2012 was conducted, particularly for research papers published in peer-reviewed journals devoted to Early Childhood, Teacher Education, and Mentoring topics/issues.
Appraisal of the quality of research using inclusion/exclusion criteria: The following criteria were used in appraising published research papers:
Principles/components that can inform the development of effective mentoring programs
A decision on whether to include the article in the synthesis.
These criteria are the basis of the columns in each of the Appendices, each of which lists the studies reviewed. Through this systematic listing of studies reviewed, the review has been made explicit and transparent, and accountable, replicable and updateable (Oakley, 2002).
Synthesis of research findings: The majority of the empirical research on mentoring in the educational context are small scale and qualitative in nature; therefore, narrative analysis has been used to synthesise research findings.