Primary Mentors' Conceptions Of Subject Knowledge In English

Wilson, Vivien Roby (2004). Primary Mentors' Conceptions Of Subject Knowledge In English. EdD thesis The Open University.



This research investigates concepts of subject knowledge in English held by teachers acting as student mentors in primary schools, in an Initial Teacher Education and Training (ITET) partnership. A case study approach draws on evidence from documentary sources, interviews with mentors and tape-recorded conversations between mentors and student teachers, following the observation of English lessons.

During the past 25 years teachers' professional identities have been restructured through a series of Government interventions into the curriculum and teachers' working conditions, culminating in the introduction of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies. It has been argued that these reforms have established a 'culture of compliance' within the teaching profession.

Government intervention has taken place in ITET, which has been regulated through OfSTED inspection. Since 1992 schools and Higher Education Institutions have been required to establish training partnerships. A National Curriculum for ITT was introduced in 1997.

It is suggested that opportunities for student teachers to learn through reflective practice are constrained by policy directives affecting ITET and primary schools.

The management of student teachers' learning, and the assessment of their progress is the responsibility of a designated student mentor. Previous research indicates that primary mentors do not place a high priority on supporting the development of student teachers' subject knowledge.

Evidence from the case study suggests primary mentors implicitly distinguish between different forms of subject knowledge for teaching. They hold a developmental model of learning to teach which seeks to move student teachers towards an awareness of the needs of learners. Mentors' conceptions of subject knowledge in English are circumscribed by the curriculum and pedagogical approaches recommended in the National Literacy Strategy. The subject specialism and personal interests of mentors are also a significant factor in these conceptions. Mentors who have entered the profession more recently appear to be more accepting of the content and approaches of the NLS.

Much of the literature on mentoring assumes an underpinning model of the reflective teacher. The mentoring practices examined in the case study were situated within the context of the school and delivery of the NLS requirements. It is suggested that it may be unrealistic to expect broader reflective discussion on curriculum issues within the current policy context and structures of school experience. A re-examination of the ways in which student teachers' experiences in schools are conceptualised and organised, in terms of professional learning, may thus be necessary.

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