The professional knowledge base and practices of school-based mentors : a study of two schools in Pietermaritzburg.
This study examines the knowledge-base of mentors in two South African schools. Working within an interpretivist paradigm this study gained an in-depth understanding of the knowledge, strategies and the sources of mentoring knowledge the mentor teachers draw on to inform their mentoring practices. Data was collected using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews from school-based mentors. The study seeks to construct an understanding of the mentors professional knowledge base in relation to Shulman’s (1985) model of teacher knowledge and Jones’s (2006) model of mentoring knowledge. The study provides a rich, holistic perspective of the mentoring knowledge mentor teachers say informs and underpins their mentorship practices. Firstly, the findings of this study suggest that the majority of mentors draw on their professional practice and personal experience as teachers when enacting their mentoring roles. A central message conveyed is that mentors must have a deep knowledge of subject matter, curriculum issues and teaching strategies to mentor effectively. Secondly, the findings suggest that mentor teachers draw from their personal values and interpersonal skills to inform their practices. Since the mentors works with adult learners careful nurturing of another’s personal and professional growth in a collaborative and reciprocal partnership based on trust, respect, equality, encouragement is key to the cultivation of healthy mentoring relationships. These findings also suggest that it is important that the mentors’ practices are effective, consistent and underpinned by a knowledge base that can serve as a point of reference when training mentor teachers. In order to ensure this, it is necessary to provide mentors access to adequate formalized training programmes that will equip them with a sound knowledge base for mentoring. Mentor teachers also need to be provided with conditions and resources within their schools that allow them to work collaboratively with each other to construct and extend their knowledge base as mentors.