Contexts of mentoring and opportunities for learning to teach: A comparative study of mentoring practice

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Drawing on data from twenty-three US, UK, and Chinese mentor teachers, this study explores the relationship between contexts of mentoring and mentoring practice. It discusses learning opportunities created by mentoring in different contexts for novices to learn to teach. Through comparative analysis, it finds that mentoring practices show greater differences across programs and countries than within. This is the case even when mentors are practicing or moving toward practicing a kind of teaching as expected by education reformers. These differences are reflected in mentors' beliefs about what novices need to learn, their interaction patterns and foci with novices. Three instructional contexts in each setting shape such differences: structure of school curriculum and assessment, organization of teaching and mentoring, and student population. These findings suggest that the reform-minded teaching practice that mentors developed does not necessarily guarantee the effective mentoring that supports teacher learning and teaching reform. Teacher educators should pay attention to the influences of instructional contexts on mentoring and the kinds of learning opportunities that mentoring creates for novice teachers in different contexts. When designing mentoring programs and arranging mentoring relationships, teacher educators need to consider how to restructure school contexts and help mentors learn how to mentor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-73
Number of pages23
JournalTeaching and Teacher Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2001


  • Cross-cultural study
  • Instructional contexts
  • Mentor teachers


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