Designing Mentor Preparation Programs Within State SMTE


Erin J. Zaffini, Keene State College

Conway M. Colleen, University of Michigan


Music teacher education researchers have written regularly about the importance of mentoring for new music educators. Some have studied mentoring of student teachers (Cain, 2007; Draves, 2013) while others have focused on first year and early career educators (Blair, 2008; Conway, 2003; Conway, 2015; Conway & Zerman, 2004). Researchers have learned that although veteran teachers are often chosen to be mentors in the field, their veteran status does not ensure that they will prove to be effective mentors (Achinstein & Anthanses, 2006; Zaffini, 2015). One of the key initiatives of the Supporting Beginning Music Teacher Area of Strategic Planning and Action (ASPA) within SMTE is to assist with design and implementation of state level SMTE mentoring programs for first year and early career music educators. The ASPA believes that the first step in this initiative is to provide resources for the preparation of mentors.


There is a body of scholarship that focuses on the preparation and support of mentor teachers (Berg & Conway, in press; Conway & Holcomb, 2008; Conway, Smith, & Hodgman, 2010; Zaffini, 2015; Zemek, 2008). Using this scholarship as a framework, this “Programs, Practices and Issues” session will provide SMTE members with resources for mentor development. The session will begin with group discussion of how state mentor chairs can create professional development models for their mentor programs and will continue by providing resources for these chairs to use.


Early interactions play an important role in the development of the mentor-mentee relationship (Conway, Hodgman & Smith, 2010). Suggestions for early interactions between mentors and mentees that will be offered include the need for mentors to make first contact, setting up an initial meeting outside of the workplace, establishing expectations, goal setting for mentees and setting a long-range professional development plan (Conway et al., 2010).


Researchers and practitioners in the music education and broader education literature have placed their focus on mentor observation strategies and techniques (Conway et al., 2010; Strong & Barron, 2004). While the role of a mentor is to provide support for novice teachers, rather than evaluate them (Conway & Holcomb, 2008), there are number of observation strategies that can be used by mentors to help them provide support to their mentees. Specific observation strategies and techniques that will be addressed include quantitative techniques (such as mapping, diagramming, timing and counting) and qualitative techniques (such as note taking, participating or video recording classes).


The session will conclude with role play activities regarding important characteristics of mentors in relation to the developmental needs of new teachers. General education suggests high content knowledge, reflective skills (Feiman-Nemser, 1998), empathy (Freeman, 2008), flexibility, and interpersonal skills (Johnson, 2007) as key characteristics of successful mentors. Music education criteria that are suggested include: those who have taught the requisite number of years by their states to serve as a mentor (Zaffini, 2015) as well as those who are good musicians, well connected in state music organizations, exemplary teachers, and good listeners (Conway et al., 2010).




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