Impact of Group Mentoring on the Professional Development of Early Childhood Teachers in a Shanghai Kindergarten

Impact of Group Mentoring on the Professional Development of Early Childhood Teachers in a Shanghai Kindergarten

Lingyun Lu (Shanghai Normal University, China)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9775-9.ch007

Abstract

This study sought to discover whether group mentoring could serve the purpose for which it is intended in an early childhood educational context. As an alternative to the traditional mentoring model, group mentoring attempts to provide as much, if not more, instructional and emotional support as traditional mentoring relationships, which we assume to be conducive to teachers' professional development in Chinese early childhood educational contexts. In addition, group mentoring facilitates communication, collaboration and mutual growth in ways that traditional mentoring lacks. It also examined whether both mentors and mentees could be involved in the mentoring process as learners and as reflective educators on their journey of professional development, including developing their reflective and research capabilities. This qualitative case study focused on the impact of group mentoring on the professional development of four teachers in a Shanghai kindergarten. Within the theoretical framework of COP (Community of Practice), it was an investigation of how the group mentoring process, an alternative to traditional models of professional development, had an impact on the teachers in a changing early childhood education context in China. This study featured in-depth individual interviews with the four teachers (two mentors and two mentees), who are in the same mentoring group, and observations of their group mentoring activities. Data was coded and analyzed qualitatively. Major themes emerged from the study: the teachers' perceptions of the model, the benefits and challenges it brings, and its influence on their relationships and identity. The study aimed to gain insight into how group mentoring, a potentially optimal model, has exerted an influence on the teachers' professional development. This study concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings and areas for future research.
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Background

Professional development is defined as those intentional, ongoing and systematic processes and activities designed to improve the professional knowledge, skills and attitudes of practitioners in a certain professional field (Guskey, 2000). In modern society, the knowledge base is expanding at an incredibly high speed with technological and social developments. It necessitates practitioners’ keeping abreast of the emerging knowledge and updating their concepts and skills (Guskey, 2000). Professional development has been an indispensable aspect in human resource management and development (Dwivedi & Alam, 2011).

Early childhood is the crucial stage of one’s life regarding physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional and social development. A multitude of scientific research shows that the human brain develops the vast majority of its neurons between birth and the first three years (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). The intake of new information is critical to the formation of active neural pathways. Some studies have shown that people with excellent early childhood education are more successful academically and professionally than those without it (Carr et al., 2003).

In China, the compulsory education provided by the government applies to children from grades one to nine (primary school and junior high school). Prior to primary school, children from ages three to six usually attend kindergarten, full-day early childhood programs. In spite of its not being included in compulsory education, recognition of the significance of early childhood education is increasing in Chinese society, especially among parents who believe that the future depends on the academic development and achievement in the early years of their only child.

The only child bears a heavy burden, to bear parental expectations and dreams (Hu & Szente, 2009). Not surprisingly, in major cities, such as Shanghai, the enrollment rate in the kindergartens was as high as 98% in 2010 (Shanghai Educational Almanac, 2012).

Benefits of early childhood education occur only when teachers are professionally qualified (Luna & Cullen, 1995). Qualified teachers play an important role in providing high-quality early childhood education. Teachers’ continuous commitment to increase their knowledge, skills and a great deal of dedication to their careers will promise a higher quality of early childhood education. Ultimately, children may benefit from the education provided by highly qualified teachers (Bredekamp, 2014). Professional development attempts to help early childhood teachers at all levels grow professionally and continuously in response to the complexity of early childhood educational contexts.

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