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Critical conversations: the role of evaluative language in mentor meetings in initial teacher training

Roberts, R. (2019) Critical conversations: the role of evaluative language in mentor meetings in initial teacher training. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

This thesis explores the relationship between the modes of discourse of Initial Teacher Training and the role that evaluative language plays within and between them. Focusing on the dialogue between mentors and trainees, this research is contextualised by examination of the wider educational discourse in ITT. It is argued that in an era of performativity, ideology and power are conveyed via evaluative language and therefore a greater understanding of the effect that evaluative language can have on trainees would be of benefit to all those involved in training teachers. A small-scale, qualitative inquiry was undertaken, working within an interpretivist paradigm. Three datasets were collected and analysed: two corpora of ITT documents; fifteen mentor meetings recorded over a one-year PGCE, and thirty interviews with mentors and trainees. Participants were five pairs of mentors and their trainees. Data were analysed using Corpus Analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis, appraisal analysis, descriptive and affective coding. The main findings suggested a dissonance between values expressed by mentors and trainees and government policy. There was clear resistance towards ‘official’ evaluative terminology, such as that associated with Ofsted, which was evident in the critical relationship participants had with the grading systems used in ITT. Mentors’ positions of power were reproduced via evaluative language, including their use of praise. Trainees tended to be self-critical and negative evaluation had a powerful effect on their self-efficacy. Mentors engaged in the practice of ‘reappraisal’, which re-framed trainees’ negative emotions. This negativity could be reinforced by the pervasive metaphor of the learning journey, particularly when it was linked to reflective practice and unattainable summative grades that implied trainees would never be good enough. Implications for practice include the recommendation that ITT providers consider their use of grading descriptors, so that they grade performance rather than the individual, and to refrain from grading altogether. Training for mentors and trainees in the provision and reception of feedback could pre-empt issues some of its potentially negative consequences on trainees, as well as training mentors to use ‘reappraisal’ to facilitate reflection. Caution should be exercised around the linking of progress to emotions; this would be facilitated by moving away from an understanding of teaching as a skill towards one of practical wisdom, which would truly acknowledge the importance of the mentor’s role.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:McCrum, E.
Thesis/Report Department:Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education
ID Code:84859

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