Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Professional learning communities for mentors of novice teachers

Professional learning communities are useful for professionalization but also for the development of induction programmes. In this project, we combine these two worlds into a professional learning communities in which mentors or novice teachers learn about mentoring and at the same time develop an induction programme for their own school.
How can professional learning communities be facilitated? What is it in for whom?

Duration
2014 - 2017
Contact
Funding
Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap

Social and scientific relevance

Insight in the PLC-coaches’ behavior, perception and beliefs of a PLC, can help to understand the mechanisms between PLC-participants and PLC-coaches that function within a PLC for instance considering distributed leadership. In addition, the perceptions and behavior of PLC-coaches can help to identify the successful elements and hindrances considering the learning outcomes of a PLC.

Professional learning community (PLC) seems a promising concept for the training professional development of mentor teachers (Westheimer, 2008). In this study we empirically explore a specific context for the professional development of mentor teachers namely the context of professional learning communities (PLCs; cf., Little, 2006).

Next to focusing on the mentor teachers that participate in the PLC, we focus on the coaches that coach/mentor the mentor teachers in de PLC. Many studies (e.g., Borko, Jacobs, Koellner, 2010; Voogt et al., 2011) underline the importance of a PLC-coach or facilitator who is responsible for organizing the PLC and for coaching the participants and or the activities undertaken within the PLC.

Other studies stress the importance to align the expectations of the mentor and the mentee (e.g., Lee, Anzai, & Langlontz; 2006) or emphasize the importance of the interpretation of mentor roles (e.g., Hall, Draper, Smith, & Bullough ; 2008; Hennissen et al, 2008) . Empirical research concerning these PLC-coaches and the relation with the PLC-participants, is scarce. Therefore, in this research we focus on the relation between mentor teachers and PLC- coaches.

Topic and research questions

Professional learning community (PLC) seems a promising concept for the training professional development of mentor teachers (Westheimer, 2008). In this study we empirically explore a specific context for the professional development of mentor teachers namely the context of professional learning communities (PLCs; cf., Little, 2006). Next to focusing on the mentor teachers that participate in the PLC, we focus on the coaches that coach/mentor the mentor teachers in de PLC.

The theme of the PLC was ‘mentoring novice teachers in secondary schools’ and during monthly meetings for a period of one school year the participants collaboratively developed or improved a mentoring programme for the novice teachers of their school.

The research question is as follows:  How can the relation between 1) the beliefs & behavior concerning PLC of PLC-coaches who coach (or ‘mentor’) mentor teachers, and 2) the perceived learning outcomes of the mentor teachers (the PLC-participants), be characterized?

Material and methods

The perceptions and beliefs of PLC coaches and mentor teachers (PLC participants) are studied using semi-structured video’s and open-ended questionnaires.

The behaviour of PLC coaches and mentor teachers is studied using video-observations of the monthly PLC-meetings.

Results

First results concerning the relation between PLC-coaches' (the mentors of the mentor teachers) view on PLC and the  mentor teachers' (PLC-participants) learning outcomes can be categorized in terms of several factors including personal, professional, general, specific, content, skills, and attitude. This study gives new insight in the complex process of mentoring mentor teachers by including both the mentor teacher (PLC) as well as the ‘mentor of the mentor teacher’ (PLC-coach) in the context of PLCs. Insight in the PLC-coaches’ beliefs of a PLC, can help to understand the mechanisms between mentor teachers (PLC-participants) and PLC-coaches that function within a PLC. By doing so, new information is gained to support the continuous professional development of mentor teachers.

Foto: Moses Robinson / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images / Universal Images Group

This project is a collaboration between ICLON, TU Delft and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

This project is part of a national research project concerning the induction of novice teachers. 

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