Professional growth through mentoring : a study of experienced mathematics teachers participating in a content-based online mentoring and induction program
McAleer, Salme DeAnna.
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It is well established that early career teacher practice can benefit from participating in effective mentoring and induction programs and experienced teacher practice can be enhanced by participation in successful professional development. But can experienced teachers improve their practice through their role as a mentor in a mentoring program? Although anecdotal evidence suggests that mentor teachers grow professionally through mentoring, there is limited research supporting this claim. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the professional growth of mentor mathematics teachers participating in an online content-based mentoring and induction program, e-Mentoring for Student Success (eMSS). In specific, this mixed-methods study sought to determine what aspects of eMSS contributed to mentor professional growth and over what domains this growth occurred. Because the mentoring program was online, teaching and learning were dialogue driven and text-based. Therefore, this study also sought evidence of the mentor teachers' professional growth in the online dialogue and commentary they provided for analysis. Finally, active engagement in professional development is hypothesized to be a precursor to professional growth and development. Using mentors' activity level as a measure of engagement, this study also sought to determine if activity level was related to mentors' perceived professional growth. The results of this study indicate that mentor mathematics teachers did grow professionally as a result of participating in eMSS. The experienced teachers reported growth in all assessed domains, particularity in their reflective practices, professional engagement and leadership, pedagogical knowledge, and in their access to instructional resources. Two predominant avenues of professional growth were cited as being important including reflection on practice and communicating with other mathematics educators. Program flexibility was also named as an important facilitator of professional growth. Finally, it seems that a mentor's activity level does positively relate to perceived professional growth and that much growth occurs "behind the scenes" and may not be evident in participants' posts. In conclusion, implications of the findings and how the findings may be used to purposefully design mentoring programs to assist in the professional development of mentor mathematics teachers are offered to program designers. Recommendations for further research are also suggested.