The focus of this paper centres on the perspectives of nine newly qualified primary teachers (NQTs) in the Republic of Ireland, on their mentoring experiences during their initial year of workplace practice, post-graduation. All nine participants were mentored by an assigned mentor, four of whom were aligned to the National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT). Gleaning NQTs¿ perspectives on the matter of mentoring support is opportune, as the Teaching Council¿s new model of induction entitled Droichead, is envisaged to become the sole induction route for all NQTs. Seeking the perceptions of parties other than NQTs, (e.g. mentor teachers, principals), did not form part of the research undertaking. Privileging the voice of the NQT represents an attempt to counteract the arguably marginal status of beginners.
Employing a multiple-case study research design, the selection of research participants followed a replication, not a sampling logic. Thus, when selecting nine research participants, (six females and three males, ranging in age from twenty-two to thirty-one), overriding considerations related to feasibility, manageability and the vagaries of the NQT-employment market.
A three-cycle, individual interview design facilitated continuing contact with each NQT throughout their induction year. Selected, representative interview data are utilised to illustrate NQTs¿ perspectives on their mentoring experiences. In accounting for the representative nature of participants¿ experiences, selected interview data is presented as representative of the experience of a majority of NQTs, whether mentored by NIPT-trained mentors or not.
Overarchingly, interview data establishes NQT complicity in the transaction of narrowly conceived mentoring support. Within the veteran-oriented professional cultures prevalent in Irish primary schools, a narrow rather than a robustly expansive view of mentoring support prevails, resulting in less than fulsome commitment on the parts of assigned mentors. Underwhelmed by the process, NQTs became complicit in how mentoring support is narrowly conceived of and transacted. Thus, limited by structural and cultural arrangements, mentors expected to provide and NQTs expected to receive, help with immediate uncertainties and guidance about local arrangements and practices. Neither saw mentoring as a substantial and meaningful influence on an NQT¿s learning to teach.
Offering evidence that the fashioning of policy prescriptions into consolidated, enacted induction practices is a process fraught with uncertainty, particularly if the limits of the mentoring component of induction and the impact of workplace culture on the process are ignored, this paper addresses the conference theme of ¿working the spaces between education policy and practice¿.