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Impact of mentoring on teacher efficacy.


A growing body of research sites the need to mentor beginning teachers. A three-year university and school-based partnership is underway to mentor cooperating teachers of K-8 student teachers. The project's impact on teacher efficacy during year one is articulated. Implications of establishing mentor programs and their potential impact on teacher efficacy are presented.


Since the early 1980's various commissions (Carnegie, 1986; Holmes, 1986; National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1997), education organizations (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 1990; Association of Teacher Educators, 2000) and researchers have urged mentoring of beginning teachers. Given the value of mentoring novice teachers as part of induction programs (Jenlink, Kinnucan-Welsch, & Odell 1996) and because mentors and new teachers working together to improve teaching and learning can serve as a model of professional development (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995), a growing body of research continues to echo the need to mentor beginning teachers. A three year collaborative project, between and among the College of Education at a southwestern university, local professional development boards, and local K-8 school districts was begun to provide mentoring to cooperating teachers who mentor K-8 student teachers. The results of year one of this project, based on preliminary numbers and anecdotal data, demonstrate not only an increase in cooperating teachers' knowledge and effective implementation of various mentoring strategies, but also indicate the mentoring project's impact on teacher efficacy.

Teacher Efficacy

In its broadest sense, teacher efficacy refers to teachers' beliefs about their ability to influence student outcomes (Berman, McLaughlin, Bass, Pauly, & Zellman, 1977). For decades, researchers have identified teacher efficacy as a crucial factor for improving teacher education and promoting educational reform (Ashton, 1984; Berman, et al., 1977; Goddard, Hoy, & Woolfolk Hoy, 2000; Rimm-Kaufman & Sawyer, 2004; Ross, 1998; Scharmann & Hampton, 1995; Wheatley, 2002). Teacher efficacy has been found to predict student achievement (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Goddard, et al., 2000; Herman, Meece, & McCombs, 2000; Muijs & Reynolds, 2001; Pajares & Schunk, 2001; Ross, 1992; Wenglinsky, 2000), student motivation (Herman, et al., 2000; Midgley, Feldlaufer, & Eccles, 1989; Pajares, 1997), and students' own sense of efficacy (Anderson, Greene, & Loewen, 1988; Haydel, Oescher, & Kirby, 1999). Further, teacher efficacy has been linked to teachers' enthusiasm for teaching (Allinder, 1994; Guskey, 1984; Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, & Hoy, 1998), teachers' high confidence levels and positive attitudes (Guskey, 1984), their willingness to experiment with new methods (Berman et al., 1977; Ghaith & Yaghi, 1997; Guskey, 1988; Stein & Wang, 1988), the amount of effort and persistence a teacher demonstrates (Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Tschannen-Moran et al., 1998), their commitment to teaching (Coladarci, 1992; Evans & Tribble, 1986; Tschannen-Moran et al., 1998), teacher retention (Brouwers & Tomic, 2000; Darling-Hammond, Chung, & Frelow, 2002; Glickman & Tamashiro, 1982; Johnson & Birkeland, 2003) and an orderly and positive school atmosphere and greater classroom-based decision making (Borko & Putnam, 1996; Moore & Esselman, 1992; Richardson & Placier, 2001; Tschannen-Moran et al., 1998).

Mentoring of Teachers

Field experiences are considered to be the most powerful component of teacher education programs and cooperating teachers appear to have the greatest influence on a student teacher's professional development (Guyton, 1989; McIntyre, Byrd, & Foxx, 1996). In spite of this fact, most cooperating teachers do not have access to training related to mentoring successful student teachers. Learning to become a mentor is a conscious process of induction into a different teaching context and does not emerge naturally from being a good teacher of children (Orland, 2001). Further, researchers have underscored the importance of feedback in the mentoring process (Hudson, 2004; Hudson, Skamp, & Brooks, 2005) and several have reported that teachers with specific training were better at giving feedback to teacher candidates (Killian & McIntyre, 1986) and noted improvement in their communication with student teachers (Hauwiller, Abel, Ausel, & Sparapani, 1988-1989).

Several researchers suggest that mentoring has positive impacts on novice teachers (Danielson, 1999; Feiman-Nemser, 1996; Holloway, 2001; Joerger & Bremer, 2001; Putnam & Borko, 2000). Mentor and novice teacher relationships have mutual benefits because learning occurs collaboratively through experimentation within a professional community (Awaya, McEwan, Heyler, Linsky, Lum, & Wakukawa, 2003). Training can also lead to positive changes in cooperating teachers' cognitive growth, active listening, use of different teaching models, and self-direction (Thies-Sprinthall, 1984). Costa & Garmston (1994), creators of "cognitive coaching," have found that if teachers do not possess adequate mental capacities and reflective tools, no amount of experience alone will create it. Instead it is through mediated processing and reflecting upon experience; that is, mentoring and cognitive coaching, that these capacities are developed.

Linking Teacher Efficacy and Mentoring

It can not be argued that when a new teacher becomes more effective in the classroom, the potential for student learning increases. Research indicates that mentoring new teachers can increase students' motivation and critical thinking skills (Summers, 1987) and reduce attrition (Ruhland & Bremer, 2002; Odell, 1992). Not only is participation in a mentoring program essential for new teachers to succeed and learn, but it is also essential for helping veteran teachers maintain focus and purpose for their own careers and it positively affects teacher efficacy for both (Brennan, Thames, & Roberts, 1999). Not only can mentoring as a professional development tool have a direct effect on teacher efficacy (Yost, 2002), but one of the factors influencing novice teachers' efficacy was the support and feedback received from having a mentor (Knobloch & Whittington, 2003).

Project Description and Goals

Founded on an existing partnership between a southwestern university's Office of Field Experiences, the local county's School Superintendent's Office, and two locally and university-based professional preparation boards, Teach2Mentor provides technology-based mentor training for cooperating teachers in the areas of clinical supervision and cognitive coaching. Achieved through a blend of face-to-face trainings, web seminars, and one-to-one contact with an online facilitator, the two goals of this project are to: (1) increase mentor teachers' knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors related to the effective mentoring of student teachers, and (2) establish partnerships with local districts to implement blended web-based and face-to-face mentor training for mentor teachers.


Participants in year one of this project were two cohorts (n=48) of cooperating teachers who served as mentors to K-8 preservice teachers during their semester-long student teaching experience. All of the cooperating teachers had at least four years of teaching experience with the highest number of years of experience being thirty. All but one of the teachers were female and, collectively, they taught in seven local school districts. The students served in six of these school districts are racially and socio-economically diverse, with two of these school districts having a high percentage of English language learners. All of the teachers had mentored at least one student teacher in the past, most had mentored four student teachers, and one had mentored as many as twelve student teachers. The student teachers who were being mentored by these cooperating teachers were in the final semester of their elementary education program. Three of the student teachers were male, the rest female, and approximately one-fourth were Latino. The student teaching experience lasted a minimum of fifteen weeks during which they assumed full classroom responsibilities for four weeks.

Description of the Trainings

In January of 2003 and in August of 2003, cooperating teachers who participated in the Teach2Mentor project began with a two day, face-to-face training instructed by two former local classroom teachers now working as professional development consultants. During the two-day training, the participants learned of the project's goals, engaged in a technology training session to familiarize themselves with how to access the project's webcasts and participate in online discussions, and participated in video analysis, role playing, small group discussions, and individual response and reflection. The instructors presented an overview of the content in the webcasts related to mentoring, clinical supervision, and cognitive coaching and gave participants two texts (Boreen, Johnson, Niday, & Potts, 2000; Rudney & Guillaume, 2003) to guide them when viewing the bi-weekly webcasts. The cooperating teachers then accessed six webcasts biweekly and regularly engaged in web board discussions in which they shared their experiences related to implementing new mentoring strategies and working with student teachers. This electronic forum provided an opportunity for them to interact and communicate directly with each other and as a learning community. At the completion of the twelve week project, a culminating meeting was held during which cooperating teachers shared their overall mentoring experiences and completed a final survey in which they reflected upon their experiences as participants in this project.

Data Collection and Analysis

Data was collected at the beginning, middle, and end of the project as well as throughout the project. At the start of the two-day training, the cooperating teachers completed a six-item survey where they used a Likert scale to rate their knowledge and skills related to effective classroom management, effective planning and instruction, and conducting mini clinical supervision conferences, pre-conferences, post conferences, and scripting. This same survey was administered during the cooperating teachers' final meeting to assess potential changes in these areas.

At the end of each of the six webcasts, the cooperating teachers were asked to respond to three or four questions pertaining to the material presented. For example, in webcast 4, which presented cognitive coaching strategies, the cooperating teachers were asked to describe how they used pre-and post-conferencing to assist their student teacher and how these strategies enhanced the teaching of the lesson. The participants then received individualized feedback, advice, and support from an online facilitator who ensured their understanding of the material and who also answered any follow-up questions or concerns. For example, after one cooperating teacher describing how she utilized pre-conferencing with her student teacher, the online facilitator responded: It sounds as if the pre-conference technique is really beneficial if you use it often. It provides opportunities to personalize the lesson plan when we put it in the context of students' learning needs. I loved hearing about ways you tied into other areas of curriculum. This is important and often student teachers have difficulty seeing how everything fits together and needs to be carefully coordinated and orchestrated. Wow, you have utilized many different observation and feedback tools in your observations. Of the ones you have tried, which experience was the most eye-opening or revealing to your student teacher? Midway through the project, at the end of webcast 3, the participants completed an open ended survey designed to elicit their responses gauging their understanding and effective implementation of the newly learned mentoring and cognitive coaching strategies. In particular, the cooperating teachers were asked how classroom management indicators, effective instruction indicators, planning for instruction, pre-conferencing, post-conferencing, and other coaching tools affected their own instructional planning and decision-making and how they perceived these strategies and tools assisted their student teachers. They were also asked to describe how their ability to mentor a student teacher had been affected by their participation in the mentoring project. Further, they were allowed to provide any additional comments.

At the end of the final webcast, the cooperating teachers completed a survey containing the same questions appearing in the survey administered at the end of webcast 3, but they were also asked to describe their most significant learning outcomes relative to the project and how this project impacted them personally and professionally. Also, at the culmination meeting, the cooperating teachers completed the aforementioned six-item survey completed on the first day of training. Additionally, at the end of their student teaching, the student teachers completed an open-ended survey in which they were asked to describe the mentoring strategies their cooperating teacher utilized during their student teaching that contributed to their development as a teacher, in particular, in the areas of classroom management, confidence as an effective instructor, and planning for instruction. They also completed a survey in which they rated and then further described their cooperating teacher's abilities in the following categories: communication skills, accessibility, approachability, classroom management, professionalism, ability to critique, co-plan, and provide positive reinforcement, constructive criticism, and alternatives for practices needing improvement. All of this data, including the web board discussions and individual emails sent to the online facilitator (n=405) was then analyzed. Coding was done by identifying and categorizing emergent themes.


In analyzing the data collected from the cooperating teachers and student teachers, components of teacher efficacy became apparent. For example, 98% of the cooperating teachers indicated an increase in their confidence levels to be a more effective mentor, 63% indicated feeling more confident about their own ability to effectively teach, and they also reported feeling more knowledgeable about classroom management issues (57%) and planning for instruction (65%). Data obtained from the student teachers indicated that, due to their mentoring experience, 81% of the student teachers reported feeling more confident as an effective teacher, 93% reported feeling more confident about classroom management issues, in particular, maintaining an orderly and positive classroom climate and engaging students, and 77% expressed feeling more adept to effectively plan for instruction. Anecdotal data included:

Scripting has helped me greatly ... it helped me to feel more comfortable and confident, especially with classroom management. (student teacher, first grade)

My mentor teacher was very good at giving me freedom to make my own choices for the class ... She did not have a problem at all with giving the class to me because she understands that in order for me to make the most of my experience and learn all I can, I must feel as if they were my students as well ... This really helped me make decisions, it set my expectations of them, and made me excited about teaching everyday. (student teacher, first grade)

My cooperating teacher's mentoring suggestions provided me with the support I needed and gave me the encouragement to try new things. (student teacher, third grade)

Pre-conferencing has been most useful because it allows me to hear the pros/cons about a lesson and the effectiveness of my teaching strategies. Then I feel more confident in my teaching, knowing it probably won't go wrong. (student teacher; fifth grade)

This project has given me the opportunity to reflect on the strategies I use in my classroom ... I actually think about what is going on in my classroom so I can make it even better for my students. (first grade teacher)

This project has given me renewed interest in my teaching ... It energized my own teaching. (fourth grade teacher)

I feel that I along with my student teacher am better prepared to face the challenges of our chosen profession. (sixth grade teacher)


The impact of mentoring on cooperating teachers' and student teachers' practice was the focus of this collaborative project. However, based on anecdotal data, it appears as though the project not only increased even the most experienced cooperating teachers' knowledge of and their ability to effectively implement cognitive coaching and mentoring strategies, but it also indicated a potential impact on teacher efficacy. Consequently, during years two and three of the grant, an effort is underway to utilize a valid instrument; e.g., the Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale (Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001) to measure teacher efficacy and identify the sources, derived from mentoring, that contribute to the cultivation of teacher efficacy. A district-embedded cohort of Teach2Mentor is currently underway for year two of the grant. In year three of the grant, project personnel anticipate additional school districts to integrate Teach2Mentor as a standard component into their professional development for cooperating teachers.


McIntyre, et al. (1996) offer, "It appears that what occurs during the field experiences is more important than the length of the experience" (p. 176). Further, Yost (2002) asserts, "Because teachers who believe in themselves and their abilities to teach also believe in their students' abilities to learn, such experiences have a significant effect on teacher expectations" (p. 198). Thus, providing mentoring and other reciprocal learning opportunities can impact teacher efficacy by transforming teachers into reflective learners who are competent, confident, and more cognizant of the demands and realities of classroom life. Therefore, more studies need to be undertaken that explore the impact of mentoring on beginning and veteran teachers' efficacy as a means to provide teachers with access to more and better preparation for the complex task of teaching which may have direct implications for teacher retention and student outcomes.


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Robin A. Ward, University of Arizona

Ward, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education
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Author:Ward, Robin A.
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Date:Dec 22, 2005
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