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The content of electronic mentoring: A study of special educators participating in an online mentoring program

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Roberta Gentry
Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to describe the content and frequency of interactions that occurred in an electronic mentoring program involving beginning special educators and their mentors. In addition, the characteristics of mentors' and mentees' and perceived outcomes of mentees' were provided. This study sought to address questions about the types of support that new special educators seek and receive. A mixed method research design was utilized to explore the archived transcripts of mentors' and mentees' discourse as well as mentees' and mentors' post-surveys. Data were analyzed through the use of quantitative and qualitative methods and interpreted through the use of Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium standards, How People Learn framework, and documented needs and concerns of beginning special educators based on a review of literature. Surveys responses included descriptive information and perceptions of beginning teachers concerning their levels of preparedness at the completion of the pilot program. This study provides an understanding of electronic mentoring within one program in order to inform efforts for mentoring and induction of beginning special educators.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

LIST OF TABLES

................................ ................................ ................................ ..........

viii

LIST OF FIGURES

................................ ................................ ................................ .........

ix

ABSTRACT

................................ ................................ ................................ ..................

x i

1. INTRODUCTION

................................ ................................ ................................ ........

1

Conceptual Framework: How People Learn

................................ ................................ ..

6

Adaptive Expertise

................................ ................................ ................................ .

9

Statement of the Problem

................................ ................................ ..........................

10

Statement of the Purpose

................................ ................................ ..........................

12

Developmenta l Needs of Beginning Teachers

................................ .............................

15

Rationale

for the Study of the Problem

................................ ................................ ......

17

Liter ature and Research Background

................................ ................................ ..........

19

Electronic Mentoring

................................ ................................ .............................

22

Electronic Mentoring for Studen t Success Program ................................ ...........

2 3

Research Questions

................................ ................................ ................................ ....

25

Methodology

................................ ................................ ................................ .............

26

Summary

................................ ................................ ................................ ....................

27

Definition of Key Terms

................................ ................................ ..............................

27

2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE

................................ ................................ .........................

30

Introduction

................................ ................................ ................................ ...............

30

Needs of Beginning Special Educators

................................ ................................ ........

32

Literature Review

................................ ................................ ................................ .......

35

Face - to - Face Mentoring

................................ ................................ ........................

35

The Role of the Mentor

................................ ................................ .........................

49

Conceptual Framework: How People Learn

................................ ................................

55

Teachers Standards

................................ ................................ ...............................

60

Summary and Limitations of Literature

................................ ................................ ......

63

Electronic Mentoring (E - Mentoring)

................................ ................................ ...........

66

v

Page

Advantages of E - Mentoring

................................ ................................ ...................

67

Disadvantages of E - Mentoring

................................ ................................ ...............

70

Interactivity

................................ ................................ ................................ ...........

72

E - Mentoring With Teachers

................................ ................................ ...................

73

Studies of eMSS Program

................................ ................................ ......................

75

Summary and Limitatio ns of Existing E - Mentoring Research

................................ ......

78

The Current Study

................................ ................................ ................................ ......

80

3. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

................................ ................................ ....................

82

Introduction

................................ ................................ ................................ ...............

82

Context of the Study

................................ ................................ ................................ ..

82

Expected Data and Actual Data

................................ ................................ ..................

85

Research Design

................................ ................................ ................................ .........

86

Participants

................................ ................................ ................................ ................

90

Instrumentation

................................ ................................ ................................ .........

92

Survey

................................ ................................ ................................ ...................

92

Interaction Measures

................................ ................................ ............................

92

Procedures

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

93

Quantitative Research Procedures ................................ ................................ .........

93

Quantitative Data Analysis ................................ ................................ .....................

96

In - Depth Qualitative Analysis ................................ ................................ .................

97

Reflectivity

................................ ................................ ................................ ...............

104

Summary

................................ ................................ ................................ ..................

107

Limitations of Study

................................ ................................ ................................ .

108

4. FINDINGS

................................ ................................ ................................ .............

113

Survey Results

................................ ................................ ................................ ..........

11 4

Participants’ Educati on Background and Experienc e

................................ ............

115

Mentors

................................ ................................ ................................ ..........

115

Mentee Responses ................................ ................................ ..........................

115

Previous C omputer Usage and Experience

................................ ...........................

120

Perceived Outcomes

................................ ................................ ............................

123

Parti cipants Across the eMSS Site

................................ ................................ ........

128

Frequency of Interactions

................................ ................................ ....................

128

Our Place

................................ ................................ ................................ ........

130

Topic of the Month

................................ ................................ .........................

135

Cyber Café

................................ ................................ ................................ ......

137

Dilemmas

................................ ................................ ................................ ........

137

Ea rly Childhood/Elementary K - 5

................................ ................................ .....

138

Middle/High School

................................ ................................ ........................

139

vi

Page

The Content of Discourse

................................ ................................ ....................

141

Posti ngs Related to HPL Framework

................................ ................................ ....

141

Learner Centered

................................ ................................ ............................

143

Knowledge Centered ................................ ................................ .......................

145

Assessment Centere d

................................ ................................ .....................

146

Community Cent ered

................................ ................................ ......................

147

Posts Related to InTASC Standards

................................ ................................ ......

148

Learner Development

................................ ................................ .....................

149

Learner Differences ................................ ................................ .........................

151

Learning Environments

................................ ................................ ...................

151

Content Knowledge

................................ ................................ ........................

153

Application of Content

................................ ................................ ....................

154

Assessment

................................ ................................ ................................ .....

155

Plan for Instruction

................................ ................................ .........................

155

Instruc tional Strategies

................................ ................................ ...................

156

Professional Le arning and Ethical Practices

................................ .....................

158

Leadership and Collaboration

................................ ................................ .........

159

Posts Related to Beginning

Teachers Needs and Concerns

................................ ..

160

Inclusion, Collaboration,

and Interaction With Adults

................................ .....

160

Pedagogical Concerns

................................ ................................ .....................

162

Managing Roles

................................ ................................ ..............................

163

E motiona l and Psychological Concerns

................................ ...........................

163

Other Themes That Occurred

................................ ................................ ..............

164

Summary of Results

................................ ................................ ................................ .

165

5. SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION

................................ ................................ ................

167

Rese arch Problem and Methodology

................................ ................................ .......

167

Significance of the Study

................................ ................................ ..........................

169

Interpretation of Results

................................ ................................ ..........................

17 2

Participa nts

................................ ................................ ................................ .........

172

Perceived Out comes

................................ ................................ ............................

173

Ment ees’ End of Year Reflections ................................ ................................ ....

175

Ment ors’ End of Year Reflections

................................ ................................ ....

176

Frequency of Interactions

................................ ................................ ....................

179

Content Related to Beginning

Teachers Needs and Concerns

..............................

182

Conte nt Based on How People Learn

................................ ................................ ...

185

Learning Cen tered Environments

................................ ................................ ....

186

Knowledge

................................ ................................ ................................ ......

186

Assessment

................................ ................................ ................................ .....

187

Community - Based Environments

................................ ................................ ....

187

vii

Page

InTASC Standards

................................ ................................ ................................ .....

189

Study Limitations

................................ ................................ ................................ .....

190

Implications for Practice

................................ ................................ ...........................

194

Future Studies

................................ ................................ ................................ ..........

196

Summary

................................ ................................ ................................ ..................

198

LIST OF REFERENCES

................................ ................................ ................................

200

APPENDIXES:

A. Coding fo r How People Learn Framework

................................ ............................

264

B. Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium Model Core

Teaching Standards

................................ ................................ ..............................

268

C. eMSS Special Educatio n Mentee Presurvey 2009 - 2010

................................ ........

270

D Coding Protocol for Beginning Special Educators’ Needs and Co ncerns

.................

276

E. eMSS Home Page

................................ ................................ ................................ .

279

F. Common Threads Po sted in Our Place by Mentors

................................ ...............

284

G. Postings

Made by Mentors and Mentees

................................ .............................

289

H. Pr obes for Topics of the Month ................................ ................................ ............

294

I.

Discussion Dilemma Threads

................................ ................................ ...............

306

VITA

................................ ................................ ................................ .......................

315

viii

LIST OF TABLES

Table

Page

1. Summary of Data Sources and Analyses

................................ .............................

88

2. Frequency Distribution of eMSS M entors’ Preparation (N = 24)

.......................

116

3. Frequency Distribution of eMSS M entees’ Preparation (N = 45)

......................

118

4. Grade Level and Area of Exc eptionality Taught (Mentees)

...............................

119

5. Frequency Distribution of Previous O nline Experience for Mentors

.................

120

6. Reported Participation in Asynchronous and Synchronous Discussion

B oards by Mentors and Mentees

................................ ................................ ....

122

7. Mentees’ Perceptions of Qualification to Teach Students by Exception ality

....

12 4

8. Mentees’ Re ported Levels of Preparation

................................ ........................

126

9. Mentees’ R eported Levels of Experience

................................ .........................

127

10. Mentees’ Reported Gains From Pa rticipation in the eMSS Site

........................

129

11. Frequency of Posts in the eMSS Site

................................ ................................ .

13 1

12. Range b y Number of Mentees Assigned

................................ ...........................

133

13. Frequency of Mentor and Mentee Posts in Our Place

................................ ......

134

14. Total Mentor and Mentee Po stings by Topic of the Month

..............................

136

15. Frequency of Part icipant Postings in Dilemmas

................................ ................

138

16. Frequency of Participant Postings in Earl y Childhood Discussion Areas

............

140

ix

Table

Page

17. Frequency of Participant Postings in Middle/ High School Discussion Areas

......

140

18. Frequency of Postings by HPL Framework

................................ ........................

142

19. Posts by InTASC Standards

................................ ................................ ...............

149

x

LIST OF FIGURES

Figure

Page

1. Learning in Community

................................ ................................ .....................

57

2. The HPL Dimension of Learning Environments

................................ ..................

59

3. Topical Areas Within eMSS Website ................................ ................................ ..

84

4. Mentors’ and Mentees’ Postings in Our Place

Versus All Other Sections of

the eMSS Site

................................ ................................ ................................ .

135

ABSTRACT

THE CONTENT OF ELECTRONIC MENTORING: A STUDY OF SPECIAL EDUCATORS PARTICIPATING IN AN ONLINE MENTORING PROGRAM

By Roberta Gentry, Ph.D.

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of D octor of Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Virginia Commonwealth University, 2011

Major Director: Evelyn Reed, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Chair, Department of Special Education and Disability Policy

School of Education

The purpose of this study

was to describe the content and frequency of interactions that occurred in an electronic mentoring program involving beginning special educators and their mentors. In addition ,

the characteristics of mentors’ and mentees’ and perceived outcomes

of mentees’ were provided. This study sought to address questions about the types of support that new special educators seek and receive. A mixed method research design was utilized to explore the

archived transcripts of mentors’ and mentees’ discourse

as well as mentees’

and mentors’ post - survey s . Data were analyzed through the use of quantitative

and qualitative methods and interpreted through the use of Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium standards, How People Learn

framework, and d ocumented needs and concerns of beginning special educators based on a review of literature. Surveys responses included

descriptive information and perceptions of beginning teachers concerning their levels of preparedness at the completion of the pilot p rogram. This study provides an understanding of electronic mentoring within one program in order to inform efforts for mentoring and induction of beginning special educators.

Keywords:

mentoring, induction, electronic mentoring, special education teac hers

1

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

The goal of public school systems is to provide high quality education to students ;

and

parents send their children to school fully expecting that well - trained, dedicated teacher s

will provide a quality education al experience. I n m any sectors of our society these expectations are not being met

(Rosenberg & Sindelar,

2001).

Anticipated retirements, increasing student enrollments ,

and teacher attrition have converged to create a national demand for thousands of

new s pecial educators

(Kell y, 2004). The quantity, quality, and stability of special educators are

essential t o ensure

appropriate educational services

for students with disabilities ,

but this has been a critical concern for decades (Guar ino, Santibanez, & Dal ey, 2004) .

Although there are numerous factors that contribute to this problem, a primary concern is

teacher attrition.

The Teacher Attrition and Mobility results from the 2008 - 2009 Teacher Follow - u p Study

revealed that total special educator attrition was 20.3%, with 10.5% leaving the profession altogether, while 9.8% moved to another school

or to general education (Kei gher, 2010).

To reduce attrition of all teachers, m entoring and induction programs have been implemented

and increased support is correlated with intent to stay in teaching (Gersten, Keating, Yavanoff, & Harniss, 2001) and retention (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004 ). Keigher (2010), based on the Teacher Follow - up study results from 2008 - 2009, that 74% of beginning teachers reported participating

in an induction program and 80% reported having a mentor; both figures reflect substantial incr eases from the previous year (K e i gher, 2010). Despite increased

2

induction and mentoring programs for new

t eachers, attrition con tinues at higher rates for special education teachers, which

result s in increased numbers of first - year special education teachers (Carroll & F oster, 2010; Goldrick, 2011). A contributing factor may be that m entorin g and induction programs

vary widely (In gersoll & Kralik, 2004 )

“ from no support to access to well - developed mentoring and induction programs” (Bay & Parker - Katz, 2009, p. 22). To address this critical need, factors that reduce attrition and contribute to special educator retention need to be e xamined.

Within the field of special education, teacher attrition is the major contributing factor to the inadequate supply of special education teachers with estimates of 30% leaving within their first 3

y ears and 50% leaving within 5

ye ars ( Brill & McC artney, 2008; Darlin g - Hammond, 1997; Ingersoll, 2001 ; Ingersoll & Smith, 2003). Butler (2008) report ed

that special education teachers were

two and a half times more likely to leave their positions than teachers in other disciplines. Retaining a stable special education teaching force is critical to the quality of student learning, espec ially in light of persistent

achievement gap s

between

st udents with

disabilities and their peers (Pugach, Blanton, Correa, McLeskey ,

& Langley, 2009).

Boe, Cook, and Su nderland (2008) concluded that

teacher

retention is unlikely to increase without dramatic improvements in the organization and management of public schools ; until this occur s , an increased supply of qualified teachers is needed to reduce teacher shortages.

In addition, the quality of our nation’s schools depends on the quality of the nation’s teachers. Darling - Hammond (1995) declare d

that the knowledge, skills, abilities, and commitments of teachers today will shape and inform what is possible for the fut ure generation of students. Riv i kin, Hanushek, and Kain (2005) state d

that the most important

3

school - based factor determining how much a child learns is based on the quality of the teacher ,

and Saunders and Rivers (1996) provide d

convincing evidence that students taught by effective teachers perform significantly better than those assigned to ineffective teachers.

“Assisting beginning teachers in their development towards becoming competent professionals is critically important” to strengthen the education al system (Reynolds, 1990 ,

p. ii ). Darling - Hammond states , “I f there is anything that we could do and should do to improve the quality of teaching and ensure the stability of the workforce, it is to provide better, more substantive support for our newest teachers ” ( Darling - Hammond, Berry, Haselkorn, & Fideler,

1999, p.

185 ). Providing responsive support systems during the

beginning years will not only reduce teacher attrition, but also support

the quality of services that students

receive (Athanases et al.,

2008; Billingsley, Carlson, & Klein, 2004).

New teacher support is a critical component of a comprehensive solution to achieving excellence in teaching quality, but there is variability in the focus of support programs for beginning teachers. Curre ntly, they range from buddy systems which provide social support to comprehensive, systematic induction programs with trained mentors providing structured support focused on improving new teachers’ instructional skills (New Teacher Center *NTC+, 2007). Ma ny induction programs are based on improvised models of support focused on psychological well - being and providing district and school level information to beginning teachers. However increased emphasis on student achievement requires induction programs th at focus on improving teaching practice and raising student achievement.

Strong and colleagues conducted two studies to examine student achievement gains in classrooms where teachers had participated in a comprehensive induction and mentoring

4

program

foc used on standards - based formative asses sments during novice’s first 2

years of teaching . In the first study, Strong (2006) found that students of beginning teachers who received comprehensive, multiyear induction support achieved reading gains at rates no t significantly different than those of more experienced teachers in the same district. In the second study, Villar and Strong (2007) demonstrated induction’s potential for improving student learning , and

“performed a cost - benefit analysis to determine wh ether comprehensive mentoring for beginning teachers makes financial sense” (p. 1) . Using reading achieve ment data collected over a 4 - year period, benefits were estimated by measuring teacher effectiveness in terms of the gains their student s

ma d e in annu al achievement tests scores as a class. Aggregated class achievement of new teachers in the mentoring program was

compared to students ’ achievement

of more experienced teachers.

Classes taught by the new teachers in the comprehensive mentoring program re alized reading ga i ns that were equivalent to the gains of classes taught by more experience d

teachers despite being assigned to classrooms that had lower initial achievement and higher representation of English Language learners ( Villar & Strong, 2007, p. 10).

The first year of teaching influences teachers’ development and their decision s about

continuing to

teach (Borko, 1996; McDonald, 1980; Nemser, 1983). The transition from the familiar and comfortable role as a student and learner to a teacher worki ng in a classroom can result in a re - evaluation of expectations, changes in belief systems, and disillusionment about teaching (Blasé, 1985; Lortie, 1975; Vee man, 1984). Beginning teachers need support if they are to become competent professionals (Reynol ds, 1990); however ,

working conditions are frequently not conducive to their professional development or success. Promoting the

5

continuity of the learning process and the developmental stages in becoming a professional teacher ,

induction programs are the critical link between theory learned at the university and application of theory in the school setting. Transition into teaching has been described as sudden , particularly without systematic induction programs . While b eginning teachers are still learning

to teach, they are also expected to fulfill the roles for which they were hired

(Wildman, Niles, Magliaro, & McLaughlin, 1989). The beginning teacher, with limited practical knowledge and experience (Feiman - Nemser, Schwille, Carver, Yusko, 1999) ,

must de monstrate skills and abilities that

are still

develop ing

(Schon, 1987). Wildman et al .

(1989) point ed

out

that,

“W e often ignore the fact that beginners have much to learn about teaching and little knowledge related to this new role” (p. 472). This trans ition is difficult for beginning teacher s

because much of what they need to know is

learned in their current positions, however, their

co workers and administrat ors

may expect that new teachers are already knowledge able .

N ew teachers may be

afraid to ask substantive questions about pedagogy, and often rely on their mentor s

for emotional support and district level information

(Feiman - Nemser, 2001 a ) .

Research on teacher development and induction purports

that beginning teachers need frequent opportunities t o share their pedagogical concerns and solve problems wi th experienced

teachers

( Hammerness et al., 2005) .

The primary purpose of this study was

to examine a pilot mentoring project which links novice and experienced special educators through an electroni c platform.

Although this approach may have obvious limitations (e.g., lack of onsite observation and feedback

which is a key component in systematic mentoring programs ), it is being tested as a method to increase support for new special educators who lack access to experienced teachers in their specific

6

discipline s .

Computer mediated communication (CMC), offers a unique advantage for studying the actual content of the dialogues between new special educators and their mentors,

because it provides a written record of their communications. Specifically, these electronic transcripts can be analyzed to examine the nature of the issues which dyads address, including new special educators’ concerns, professional competencies, and ke y factors identified in teacher development and special educator development research.

Conceptual Framework: How People Learn

Effective t eaching requires specialized knowledge of the learners , the learning

process , curriculum, and pedagogy. The goal of effective teacher development and mentoring is the

improve ment of teachers’ knowledge and skills to ultimately impact student achievement (Garet, Porter, Desimore, Biram, & Yoon, 2001; Weiss & Weiss, 1999). One of t he great est challenge s

for new

teachers is the need to be proficient from the moment they enter the classroom (Kealy, 2010) ;

however, they need

ongoing developmental support to build their knowledge, skills, and dispositions for teaching . From a social constructivist perspective, knowledge is generated by groups and is based on shared perceptions and understandings mediated by social tools ,

such as language, social protocols, and cultural practices (Vygotsky, 1978). With an emphasis on teacher development within a professional community, t he L earning to Teach in Community

framework

provides a “set of lenses on any teaching situation that teachers can use to reflect on and improve their practice” (Darling - Hammond, 2005, p. 10) .

Darling - Hammond (1995) declare d

that transforming teaching and lear ning is based on

an understanding of students –

not only what they know, but also how they think. In order to build these understandings , teachers must develop tools for assessing students ’

thinking,

7

understanding

students’ prior knowledge, and connecting with students ’

families and communities because these

connection s

are

central to

the learning process . S tudents construct knowledge based on their previous understandings and experiences (Brown, Collins & Duguid,

1989; Resnick, 1987) and learning is best facilitated through a strengths - based approach; thus

teachers must understand how students think as well as what they know (Gardner & Hatch, 1989; Kornhaber &

Gardner, 1993). This requires knowledge of subject matter and a repertoire of teaching strategies, but Darling - Hammond (1995) states that teachers need to learn these skills on the job. “Like students, teachers must construct their own understandings by

doing, by collaborating, by inquiring into problems, trying and testing ideas, evaluating and reflecting on the outcomes of their work” (Darling - Hammond, 1995, p. 24).

Schlechty (1985 ) recommended that beginn ing teachers have

opportunit ies to meet

to de velop the sense of being members of a

group that share an ordeal and to understand that others are experiencing the same stre ss. E lectronic mentoring

(e - mentoring)

might

provide this opportunity while

reduc ing isolation and fostering professional growth.

Carter and Richardson (1988) suggested that networking among beginning teachers would allow begi nning teachers to develop un derstandings of teaching.

E - mentoring provides an ideal format for bringing together groups of

teachers from multiple schools,

the reby reducing isolation that

leads to attrition.

Gar eis and Nussbaum - Beach (2007 ) found that e - mentoring allowed novices to (a) interact with mentors by asking questions on pertinent issues, (b) seek others who are experiencing similar problems, and (c) s imply vent.

Strong professional communities are built on teachers who regularly engage in discussions with colleagues about their work. By engaging in extended conversations that

8

scrutinize beliefs about teaching, learning, and instructional practice, t eachers can examine the assumptions b asic to quality practice (Newma n, 1992 ). Reflection upon practice leads to deepened understandings of the process of instruction and of the products created within the teaching and learning process. The opening up of one’s practice to scrutiny also encourages teachers to ask questions about their practice and to view it in

a more analytical fashion. In this way, teachers also come to know each other’s strengths and can therefore more easily find “expert advice” from c olleagues. Researchers speculate that responses may be more reflective in online discourse due to having time to think about and reflect on the response prior to sending it (Gar ei s

&

N us s baum - Beach, 2007 ; Single & Single, 2005).

Discourse is a tool to s ocially construct knowledge because it enables the expression of ideas; individual understanding de rived from collective knowledge;

and is dependent on the identity of the community t hat practices it (Grimberg, 2006 ). Discursive practices, which are a com bination of language , actions and culture (Gee, 1996 ), are associated with the process of knowledge construction and constitute a link between collective and indi vidual knowledge (Grimberg, 2006 ). Reflective communication has been shown to have positive effects on the g rowth of teacher practice (Raize n, Huntley, & Britton, 2003; Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2000) and the professional development literature frequently recommends the use of reflection to fill the gap between professional knowledge and the changin g situations of practice in which professions find themselves. Zeichner (1992) explains that reflection is considered one of the primary tools for facilitating the development of competence and ultimately expertise in novice teachers. However, Hussein (2 006) cautions that it is inappropriate to expect beginning teachers to be reflective simply because they have been asked to reflect on a topic; rather

9

beginning teachers need to be provided a support structure in which a variety of formats and opportunitie s for reflection are made available. CMC provides the opportunity to

understand communication patterns, forms, functions, conventions, and subtexts, which can in turn engender an understanding of how people derive meaning within such contexts (Naidu & Jar vela, 2006).

An e - mentoring environment may be the support structure needed to assist beginning teachers with the use of reflective practices.

Adaptive Expertise

To be effective teachers, Darling - Hammond,

Bransford , and LePage

(2005)

argue that teachers must be adaptive experts, modifying and adjusting instructional strategies and methods ,

and continually innovating to meet the needs of diverse student populations. Adaptive expertise entails developing decision making and problem - solving strategies while

simultaneously acquiring a

solid foundation in content knowledge that

they teach .

This combination of knowledge and abilities promotes effective innovation

when teachers encounter dilemmas and new situation s

in their teaching practice

( Bransford, Darling - Hammond, & LePage, 2005). Adaptive experts possess metacognitive strategies to recognize

the limitations of their current knowledge as well as

the ability to apply knowledge effectively to novel problems. This flexible application of knowledge underlies adaptive experts’ greater tendency to enrich and refine their knowledge structures on the basis of continuing experience or to learn from probl em solving (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993; Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Ha tano & I nagaki, 1986 ). While

routine experts typically assume that their current knowledge is correct, adaptive experts draw on their knowledge in light of situational factors to formulate possible explanations , so that

t heir knowledge is expanded through problem solving.

10

Bransford , Derry, Berliner, Hammerness, and

Beckett (2005)

state that “adaptive experts are able to approach a new situation with flexibility and learn throug hout their lifetimes” ( p . 48). These skills can be fostered by mentors who view mentoring as a teacher development process rather than a process focused on providing district and school procedural information and emotional support.

Bereiter and Scardama lia (1993) state that the processes of adaptive expertise can be used in all learning experiences through examining practice and progressive problem solving. Research has sh own that instructional decision making, lesson planning, and other aspects of teac hers’ everyday practice can be important loci for the development of expertise (B all & Cohen, 1999; Shulman, 1987 ).

Full document contains 329 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to describe the content and frequency of interactions that occurred in an electronic mentoring program involving beginning special educators and their mentors. In addition, the characteristics of mentors' and mentees' and perceived outcomes of mentees' were provided. This study sought to address questions about the types of support that new special educators seek and receive. A mixed method research design was utilized to explore the archived transcripts of mentors' and mentees' discourse as well as mentees' and mentors' post-surveys. Data were analyzed through the use of quantitative and qualitative methods and interpreted through the use of Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium standards, How People Learn framework, and documented needs and concerns of beginning special educators based on a review of literature. Surveys responses included descriptive information and perceptions of beginning teachers concerning their levels of preparedness at the completion of the pilot program. This study provides an understanding of electronic mentoring within one program in order to inform efforts for mentoring and induction of beginning special educators.