Issue/Challenge: Promoting Quality Supervisory Relationships
Challenges that arise within the complex dynamics of relationships within professional experience (pre-service teachers, supervising teachers, tertiary mentors) can lead to tensions across personal and professional dimensions - maintaining professional relationships is important and mentor teachers need to allow pre-service teachers to develop their own teacher identity.
Professional experience is characterised by interactions between those involved – the preservice teacher (PST), the supervising teacher(s) who is commonly the major assessor and the university mentor(s) (Tertiary Mentors). The quality of the professional experience is commonly influenced by the quality of communication between these parties.
Teachers working as supervisors have the pressure of an additional adult education role, as well as working with explicit Professional Teaching Standards and assessment responsibility within rigourous reporting protocols. In some cases teachers have not been provided with supporting professional development in these areas and are left to navigate their role with little school or university support.
Supervisory relationship quality can be impacted by such factors as the challenge for teachers taking on this additional educative role, time pressure, higher priority needing to be given to their other work commitments (teaching their own students), as well as the possible impact of unexpected personal issues that may arise.
Personal and professional ‘mis-matches’ between PSTs and educators can arise due to issues associated with differences in age, race, cultural background, gender, experience as well as beliefs and values. Consequently, inter-personal tensions and communication breakdowns can progressively emerge across placements.
Tensions can also arise between supervising teachers and the university Tertiary Mentors, possibly around inadequate communication, differing judgments of a PST’s learning needs or teaching capacity, as well as uncertainty regarding areas of responsibility and levels of expertise.
- Roundtable practices enrich the assessment process in that they involve a group of educators supporting the learning of the PST as well as supporting each other as assessors. The group can provide a range of perspectives, experiences and voices as well as guiding targeted assessment steps.
- Responsibilities within the assessment process both formative and summative can be shared thus offering support to ‘time poor’ educators.
- Experienced supervisors can mentor those teachers less experienced in the work of guiding and assessing preservice professional experience.
- For summative assessment, when a range of perspectives from the roundtable group contribute to the final judgment, there is the potential for that judgment to take account of a wider range of evidence and judge its merit in a collaborative way. This can mitigate against issues arising from personal or professional ‘mis-matches’ and the pressure of sole responsibility for assessment judgment.
- Commonly roundtable processes lead to more explicit communication (verbal and document-based) regarding processes and expectations due to the need to develop shared group understandings. This can mitigate against commonly experienced deficiencies in communication between educators and PSTs and school and university-based educators.
- Roundtable assessment structures and processes can be a formal requirement of a specific professional experience program or be set up on an individual basis, for example for an ‘at risk’ PST, or when the supervisory relationship is stressed or under tension.