Project lead: University of Queensland
Project funding: $44,678 Round 3 2014
This project builds on a pilot and entails Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander preservice teachers participating in a mentoring program on a weekly basis with an experienced teacher mentor. It aims to address University of Queensland’s low participation rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in teacher education programs by building and sustaining their participation in tertiary education programs, their effectiveness as teachers, their professional identity and their readiness to teach. The project ran during 2014, within existing partnerships between the School of Education, University of Queensland and Queensland state schools.
The program was well planned in six stages including: a meeting of the reference group comprising the Head of the School of Education, university Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education staff, principals of the two mentor schools (one primary and one secondary) and program managers; selection of mentees in consultation with the University’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education staff and professional development of both mentors and mentees; mentoring in schools from April to October 2014 on a weekly basis with ongoing evaluation; second reference group meeting; feedback and celebration by and for the mentees and mentors and encouragement of mentees to continue with a view to becoming mentors in the future; and final meeting of the reference group, reporting and future planning.
Five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teacher education students participated in the program as mentees.
Data were collected from:
- evaluation of the professional development
- pre-interviews with mentees and mentor teachers
- weekly mentee and mentor teacher reflective audio diaries completed during the eight-week mentoring program
- mentor teachers’ post-reflection questionnaires.
Feedback from the mentees indicates that the approach taken within the program ensured their cultural safety and increased their confidence about undertaking their professional experience, which they acknowledged was a high risk potential walking point for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teacher education students. The mentoring program included being given valuable practical experience and assistance, such as being taught marking systems and undertaking some teaching, which the mentees valued greatly. Further, the mentor schools valued what the mentees’ Aboriginality could bring to their teaching role. They made strong links with their school communities and gave celebrations such as NAIDOC week greater significance.
Mentees’ comments indicate that their experiences as mentees were so positive that they are determined to complete their studies and embrace their teaching careers.
MATSITI evaluation conclusions
The significance of this mentoring program is that it occurs while the mentees are teacher education students. While mentoring is in the process of being mainstreamed for all early career teachers, for some this would be too late.
The program managers are committed to securing ongoing internal funding to enable the program to continue and spread to other universities.
Providing an opportunity to participate in a culturally sensitive mentoring program at the critical stage of preservice could lead to more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers.
Project contact: Associate Professor Liz Mackinlay, School of Education, University of Queensland