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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Improving Mentoring of Early Childhood Education Students in Oral Language and Vocabulary Skills

  • Author(s): Navarro, Karin Elisa
  • Advisor(s): Fuller, Bruce
  • Mintrop, Heinrich
  • et al.

Pre-service teachers depend on hands-on training to acquire the necessary practical skills to effectively work in the classroom. This is especially true for pre-service teachers in Early Childhood Education (ECE), who often rely on mentoring programs to learn to successfully work with children and influence their developmental outcomes. This study used a theory of action and an intervention design to improve mentoring skills of senior teachers (mentors) to prepare pre-service teachers (mentees) to address children’s oral language and vocabulary skill deficiencies. The methodology combined Design Development and Action Research using multiple data collection points (e.g. third party observations, mentor’s self-assessments, , mentee’s assessments, and interviews) to ensure unbiased conclusions. The study implemented an intervention in a Child Development Center Lab School staffed with five senior teachers. The intervention consisted of a series of training sessions, lectures, analyses of videotaped pre-staged practices, reflective workshops, in-classroom practice sessions, and the development of a mentoring guideline. It focused on three major areas of mentoring: Relationship Building (RB), Instructional Support (IS), and Oral Language and Vocabulary Skills in Children (OL). Improvements in RB were mainly driven by gains in mentors’ ability to provide timely support. Mentors who showed improvement in RB also showed improvement in IS. Both videotaping and reflections proved to be very useful in helping mentors to solidify theoretical concepts through practical activities. However, mentor improvements in advanced ECE technical areas after building such mentoring foundation, as is the case of OL, seem to need a good number of opportunities to practice them before starting to produce positive results. This study shows that good mentoring training requires pre-selecting participants by their top learning traits, that there is a domino effect in the way skills are built or developed, and that sufficient practice of the desired skills is indispensable. The effectiveness of the intervention also depends on mentors becoming aware of their role’s potential, the quality of the classroom instruction they receive, the maturity of the mentor-mentee relationship, and on the mentee’s side, on their level of ECE experience and their mastery of the language of instruction.

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