RTRL.36: Music Teacher Mentoring: Then and Now (Conway, 2015)


Conway, C. (2015). Beginning music teacher mentor practices: Reflections on the past and suggestions for the future. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 24(2), 88-102.

What did the researcher want to know?

How has new music teacher mentoring changed (or not) in the preceding 10+ years?

What did the researcher do?

Conway conducted a follow-up with 13 teachers who had participated in her previous study when they were in their first year of full-time music teaching (during 1999-2000). Each participant read Conway’s original research report as well as interview transcripts and their email logs, journals, and questionnaire responses from the original study. They then reported their reactions to these documents via email and participated in an individual interview with Conway, in which they discussed their current views regarding mentoring of beginning music teachers.

What did the researcher find?

In examining the new data from this study, Conway identified several themes. Now that the participants have experience teaching and mentoring, they expressed that mentoring is a valuable professional development experience for the mentor as well as the mentee. Another theme was that participants had mixed feelings about who should serve as mentors, particularly retired teachers; while some felt that retired teachers have much to offer as mentors, others expressed a feeling that new teachers may perceive retired teachers as out-of-touch. A third theme was that new teachers must be proactive in seeking out answers and take responsibility for their own learning and growth.

There were several areas of consistency between the original study (published in 2003) and new data collected in 2010. These included a lack of consistency in new teacher mentoring programs, a delay in mentees pursuing curricular questions until after an initial “survival” phase, and the need for music-specific support. Time for the mentor to observe in the mentee’s classroom also continues to be vital.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Districts/administrators still may need to be convinced of the value of mentoring for new teachers, and if a mentor teacher is not provided, new teachers must seek out their own mentors. New music teachers might also consider forming relationships with different types of mentors, including music-specific and building-/district-specific (but not music) mentors. In order to maximize their ability to provide context-specific assistance, mentors should find a way to observe in the mentee’s classroom. If in-person visits are not possible due to time or distance restrictions, video-conferencing software (e.g., Skype) or sharing of digital video footage provides new opportunities for mentors to directly observe their mentees and offer targeted support.

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