Extending the mentor role in initial teacher education: Embracing social justice

Vicky Duckworth, Bronwen Maxwell

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The role of mentors in the training of teachers in the Lifelong Learning Sector (LLS) in the UK is contested (Tedder and Lawy, 2009). A major omission in policy and research is the potential role that mentors could undertake in preparing teachers to meet the needs of diverse learners in the LLS and promote social justice. With a major focus on literature from the UK and the USA, supplemented by material from other countries, we systematically searched a range of educational databases and undertook a thematic analysis to explore conceptualisations of mentoring that may be applied in LLS teacher education and how these frame ways in which mentors may contribute to preparing teachers to promote inclusion and social justice. We particularly focused on the potential role LLS mentors could play in supporting trainees to develop inclusive pedagogies which addresses diversity as a critical component to embedding social justice approaches into their practices and developing effective interaction with students. Despite social class inequalities prevailing (Reay and Ball 2005; Duckworth and Cochrane 2012) and an ever-increasing out pouring of terminology to encompass the changing faces of students in the classroom—multicultural, ethnically diverse, culturally responsive, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic, linguistic, disability— Eurocentric and classed attitudes persist. Bourdieu locates the education system as the most important player in the unequal distribution of cultural and linguistic capital. We drew on Bourdieu’s concepts of capitals, field and habitus as a framework to provide sensitising tools for understanding how mentors are positioned / or not to provide trainee teachers with what we term specialised and inclusive ‘pedagogical capitals’. We also explore the varied flow of ‘pedagogical capitals’ against the backdrop of the field of the LLS with its own rules, regulations and site of power struggles where capitals can be exchanged. Habitus is viewed as guiding mentors to opt for certain choices of what is possible for mentors and mentees to do in the field. Bourdieu’s model enables us to explore the diverse practices of mentors in the changing field of education (Bourdieu 1994; Bourdieu and Waquant 1994) and society and the impact this has on the mentors' (and trainee teachers') possibilities to be agents of change for social justice. We conclude by outlining the essential role mentors can play as advocates for widening participation and social justice and make recommendations for how teacher education programmes, employers, mentors and mentees could support mentors in this role.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2013
EventBritish Educational Research Association (BERA) Conference - University of Sussex, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Sept 20136 Sept 2013


ConferenceBritish Educational Research Association (BERA) Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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