Mentor teachers’ perspectives of conflicts and conflict resolution strategies in mentor-mentee relationships
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A functional mentoring relationship is essential for the progression of a mentee (e.g., early-career teacher) during a practicum experience. Conflicts can occur in mentoring programs that require problem solving yet little information is presented around mentor-mentee relationships in schools and how conflicts are resolved. Many mentors are untrained in mentoring (Hudson, 2010; Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group, 2014), and effective teachers may not necessarily make effective mentors (Evertson & Smithey, 2000), which can be a reason for some mentoring relationships breaking down. For example, Hobson et al. (2009) claim that “mentoring may even have the potential to do harm” and such occasions may be the result of failing to meet “conditions for effective mentoring” (p. 214). A positive mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way experience where both have roles for forming and sustaining the partnership. Despite the inexperience of mentees, negative professional school experiences may occur as a result of their own behaviours and practices (Eby & McManus, 2002). What are mentors’ perspectives of conflicts within mentor-mentee relationships and how might these be resolved? Ethical approvals were gained from the university, schools, and participants.
This qualitative study uses a constructivist approach within grounded theory for understanding participants’ experiences of phenomena (i.e., conflict and conflict resolution within mentor-mentee relationships). The study collected data from 31 high school mentor teachers about their experiences with conflict and conflict resolution when mentoring preservice teachers. Three themes emerged around the causes of conflict in the mentor-mentee relationship, namely: (1) personal issues (i.e., incompatibility, personality differences, language); (2) pedagogical issues (i.e., lack of pedagogical and content knowledge, differences in teaching styles); and (3) professional issues (e.g., unsuitable attire, inappropriate social networking, unsuitability for profession). A range of conflict resolution strategies are discussed, such as maintaining a positive professional relationship, regular feedback as a way to address issues, sharing responsibility and empowerment, and using empathy for conflict resolution. Ways to resolve conflicts need to be embedded in university documentation to assist mentors when faced with similar circumstances. Knowledge of conflicts and resolution strategies can assist mentors, mentees and peripheral personnel (e.g., school executives and university staff) to facilitate more productive mentoring programs. However, more qualitative research is needed around conflicts and conflict resolution to gather a bank of strategies that may assist mentors and mentees during the mentoring process.