Digital Mentoring: Customized Content Support for Early Career New Music Teachers

Jessica C. Vaughan-Marra, University of Michigan
Margaret Berg, University of Colorado

General education researchers have investigated content specific new teacher support (Shores & Stokes, 2006) and digital environments that connect teachers (Cheng, 2008; New Teacher Center, 2013). Music education researchers have established that new music teachers need music teacher mentors to assist with their specific challenges and concerns (Vaughan-Marra, 2017; Bell-Robertson, 2014; Conway, 2015) since “new teachers need to talk with other professionals who are familiar with their classroom situations as they interpret their new roles as teachers” (Krueger, 2001, p. 93). Despite the empirical research, the isolated nature of music teaching can leave new music teachers without viable mentors within their district or region (Conway & Zerman, 2004).

Recent review of literature on current trends in new music mentoring, BellRobertson (2015) discussed the need for alternative forms of new music teacher support. While general education literature on online support for novice teachers is growing, there is limited music education research on this topic. Bell-Robertson (2015) concluded that “there appears to be some potential concerning virtual avenues for the support and induction of novice music teachers” (p. 45). Therefore, research on programs that utilize digital mentoring for music educators is warranted. Digital mentoring is defined as the use of synchronous and asynchronous digital technologies to remotely connect mentors and mentees. These often include: (a) video conferences, (b) written digital communication, as well as (c) video and audio footage. If content specific support is ideal for new teachers, it might be beneficial to investigate avenues for connecting educators that do not live in close proximity. National organizations like NAfME and SMTE have a responsibility to support early career teachers through considered use of digital mentoring environments to connect mentees with mentors who can meet their specific needs regardless of their geographic location (Correia, 2015). Furthermore, discussions within the Supporting Beginning Teachers ASPA meetings of 2016-2017 acknowledged a need for collecting information on effective models of mentoring that could serve as ‘best practice’ models to be used when designing mentor training. The first step in this initiative is to provide resources for the preparation of mentors; this may include examples of how mentors communicate with and support mentees remotely.

This session, in alignment with the SMTE Symposium theme “Imagining Possible Futures,” is based on three programs in which music teacher education occurs in a digital context. The ASTA Mentor Program (Mentoring Program, 2016) as well as two pilot programs in Michigan and California will be the sources for digital mentoring examples provided in the session. During the presentation we will: (a) provide an overview of each program, including demonstration of digital tools (b) present program evaluation data on the mentee’s and mentor’s experiences within digital mentoring environments; (b) discuss the importance of video-based shared reflection compared to stimulated recall during conversations surrounding teacher practice; (c) present the challenges and benefits of various digital mentoring environments being used formally and informally in these three programs; and (d) offer recommendations for effective mentor training for digital mentoring.


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