Faculty Technology Mentoring Programs: Major Trends in the Literature

 

 

Hsueh-Hua Chuang

Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching

Iowa State University

United States

hhchuang@iastate.edu

 

Ann Thompson

Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching

Iowa State University

United States

eat@iastate.edu

 

Denise Schmidt

Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching

Iowa State University

United States

dschmidt@iastate.edu

 

 

 

Abstract: This paper provides an extensive review of the literature that documents technology mentoring models used in higher education and K-12 schools. Various mentoring models from teacher education programs and K-12 schools are described. After summarizing the mentoring models, a description of commonalties found among these mentoring programs are shared. Despite the variety of technology mentoring models, effective programs include common elements. These elements include providing visions for technology use, individualizing technology support, breaking down hierarchical structure, establishing open dialogue and collaborative relationships, and providing mutual benefits for mentors and mentees.

 

 

Introduction

 

The effectiveness of technology in school settings relies on how successfully teachers integrate technology with their educational purposes and curricula (MacArthur & Malouf, 1991).  In the 21st century, emphasis on technology has increased and the demand for technologically literate teachers has been on the rise as well (Ely et al,1996).  To adequately prepare teachers, teacher preparation institutions need to equip faculty so they can effectively model technology use and integration strategies in their courses (Munday et al, 1991).

Many teacher education institutions have identified the need for faculty development in the area of technology use and integration.  While many colleges of education require one stand-alone technology course, few teacher education programs have faculty who are modeling instructional methods that integrate computer technology in the classrooms (Handler & Marshal, 1992; OTA 1995).  According to Staman(1990) and Wetzel (1993), faculty identified lack of knowledge about software, schedule conflicts, limited vision of technology integration, and lack of administrative support as obstacles to effectively integrate technology into their curricula.  A survey conducted by Carlson & Gooden (1999) to understand how the professors of preservice teachers modeled the use of technology found that only word processing was used consistently on a regular basis.

Growing out of this urgent need to model effective technology integration in teacher education, several institutions have adopted one-on-one technology mentoring programs to better meet the specific needs of each faculty member. Prior research has shown that one-shot workshops without on-going individual technology support often fail to meet the specific needs of most educators; instead, one-on-one technology mentoring models show promising results on faculty professional development in terms of developing technology integrated curriculum (Thompson et al, 1996; Beisser, 2000).

This paper examines the literature on technology mentoring models used in higher education and K-12 schools to look for commonalties among successful mentoring programs. In addition, the paper summarizes similarities found among the models and identifies themes that are emerging from research on these models. This review will provide opportunities to learn from others the key elements in successful mentoring programs.

 

 

Models of Mentoring Programs

 

Based on the challenge of offering appropriate high-quality professional development experiences for faculty, several higher education institutions have developed mentoring models that pair faculty members or teachers with someone who has technology background.  Various mentoring models have been adopted based on institutions’ emphases on how to enhance technology integration throughout a teacher education program or K-12 curriculum.  Some models offer multiple intensive training of guided lessons on particular software packages followed by one-on-one mentoring support.  Other models include a graduate or undergraduate course in which the field work assignment involves pairing students with faculty members interested in using technology in their courses.  This type of mentoring model has also been extended to the K-12 environment where the focus has been on overcoming barriers to technology use in the classroom.  Almost all of these models have included a younger adult as mentor as opposed to the traditional “hierarchical transfer of knowledge and information from an older, more experienced person to a younger less experienced person” (Zachary, 2001, p. 1). 

Different types of mentoring models are described in the sections that follow to provide an overview of mentoring partnerships. The mentoring relationship provides professional development support along with the opportunities to model technology integration throughout the curriculum.

 

 

Graduate Students as Mentors

 

Iowa State University College of Education adopts the approach of recruiting graduate students as mentors through a graduate course “ Technology and Teacher Education.”  For the field component of this course, each graduate student is paired with a faculty member and they spend approximately one hour per week working on technology-related learning tasks.  This model also caters to a more individualized approach to professional development because each faculty member involved focuses on their specific needs (Zachariades & Roberts, 1995).  Individual attention is given to each faculty member to facilitate the process of technology integration. The pairing, in most cases, becomes true partnership and collaboration (Thompson et al, 1996; Stewart, 1998).  The instructor of this technology course organizes the program and sets aside time for weekly seminar in which student mentors exchange experiences, solutions, and pedagogical thoughts. This model features sustainability because the course is offered regularly as part of a graduate program.

The Graduate School of Education at George Mason University, through Instructional Technology program, offered a similar course.  Before beginning their mentoring experience, graduate students enrolled in “ Faculty Development in Instructional Technology.”  Efforts were made to pair students’ technology abilities with faculty member’s desired skills.  Graduate students worked with the faculty members as the faculty became comfortable with technology and began to develop materials to be used in courses. Based on that more than one semester of assistance is needed and faculty members have expressed interest in participating in this project, plans are being made to continue connecting one-on-one mentoring with an existing course (Sprague et al, 1998).

New Mexico State University College of Education initiated a pilot faculty mentoring program in 1996. Five volunteer faculty members and five graduate students were matched by area of interest and technology expertise. Students met with their faculty mentees and received graduate credits as part of an internship course. Graduate students also met with the project director every other week for investigation of software and solutions to faculty’s questions. (Gonzales et al, 1997; Gonzales & Thompson 1998).

Instead of offering course credits, the University of New Mexico College of Education hired graduate students as Tech Guides for one-on-one support in helping faculty gain computer knowledge. In addition, these Tech Guides were available to present technology integration lessons in methods courses. Each Tech Guide was assigned five faculty members and worked intensively with them on an individual basis one or two hours per week. Results indicated that faculty members began to acquire technology application skills and to integrate technology with the support from the Tech Guides (Bramble, 2000).

Another mentoring program involved special education graduate students who served as technology mentors for part of their graduate assistantship in a large mid-western university.  Nineteen faculty members and nine graduate students were selected in this eight-week pilot program.  Graduate students received two sessions of intensive training on using PowerPoint prior to their mentoring activities.  The first session sought to introduce graduate students to the software applications.  The second session was designed to familiarize graduate students with further PowerPoint practice guided by the faculty learning packet.  Faculty members also participated in a group training session featuring demonstrations of PowerPoint capabilities and were provided a learning packet. Using the scripted lessons in the learning packet as guidelines in the one-one-one mentoring activities that followed, student mentors and faculty members were allowed to work in their own office using their own computer.

This model features a combination of multiple session training and one-on-one mentoring activities to support faculty use of technology in teaching and professional development (Smith & O’Bannon, 1999). 

 

 

Undergraduate Students as Mentors

 

Not all colleges and universities have graduate program in technology so the use of undergraduate students as technology mentors is a viable option for some institutions (Beisser, 1997).

The University of North Texas has utilized their PT3 Capacity Building Grant to provide technology integration mentoring during the spring of 2000.  The new course “ Technology Integration Mentoring” was designed so undergraduate students could work one-on-one with inservice teachers in an authentic classroom environment. In this model, undergraduate students met together three times during the semester and communicated via a class listserv.  A class web site was set up for resource links to technology and curriculum.  The rest of the class time was spent in a classroom paired with an inservice teacher out of their own selection or by arrangement. The final face-to-face class meeting focused on presentations of undergraduate students’ collaborative work with the inservice teachers.  A major characteristic of this model is the two-way mentoring where the undergraduate students were considered the technology experts, but they also learned classroom management and curriculum from inservice teachers (Tyler-Wood et al, 2000).

Carson-Newman College Teacher Education Department started a mentoring program using elementary and secondary education undergraduate students to mentor the faculty.  This model consisted of four stages: 1) large group planning sessions, 2) small technical sessions, 3) one-on-one mentoring sessions, and 4) a final large group session for project sharing.  Students’ commitment was in the form of a one-hour course. Course requirements included 35 hours in planning and implementing large and small group sessions as well as preparing for and meeting in one-on-one sessions with the faculty. Faculty agreed to allocate time to meet with mentors, to share projects with other faculty, and to participate in an evaluative interview. Elements of this mentoring programs included one-on-one relationships, mentoring techniques training, communication with the program director, and formal commitments of both student mentors and faculty mentees (Milligan & Robinson, 2000).

In Canada, the University of Regina Faculty of Education initiated a reciprocal mentoring model in which technologically skilled education students organized workshops offered to faculty members and provided one-one-one assistance following the workshops. As reciprocal mentors, faculty and students worked together to learn from each other in making educational connections utilizing the technology skills of the students and pedagogy expertise of the faculty (Browne et al, 2000).

 

 

Models Extended to K-12 Environment

 

According to Dwyer (1998), frequent planned collaborative activities as conducted in the form of on-the-job mentoring have the potential to facilitate structural change in school environment and transform school cultures.

Recognizing the need for support for successful technology use in K-12 school environments, the University of Maryland collaborated with the Prince Georges County Public Schools by establishing a computer mentoring program. This program was designed to prepare experienced computer-using teachers to serve as mentors for other teachers in their schools. In this case, a course “ Leadership in Computer Applications” was offered to inservice teacher mentors. Each mentor worked with one to five mentees from his or her school. In addition to regular meetings, mentors were available informally because they were teaching in the same school.  This program’s purpose was to increase the knowledge of the technology-integrated curriculum and to establish sustainable collegial relationships in K-12 environments (MacAurther et al, 1995).

Franklin et al (2001) present another model of mentoring efforts between higher education and K-12 schools.  This university/K-6 partnership develops strategies to overcome barriers of technology use in schools.  The pairing of instructional technology graduate students as mentors and elementary school teachers as mentees leads to the development of technology expertise and ideas for technology integration in the existing curriculum.  This mentoring model provides a cost-effective way to provide professional development for teachers that have difficulty obtaining technology support for technology use. 

 

 

Secondary School Students as Mentors

 

The well-known Generation www.Y mentoring model originated in the Olympia School District, Washington, in 1996 features the extensive involvement of students as collaborative partners with their teachers.  As the project title implies, Generation www.Y focuses on today's new generation of youth who contribute their technology expertise as they become leaders in bringing technology to the classroom and the community.  This program has developed and implemented an instructional technology support model that included the extensive and authentic involvement of secondary students (grades 8-12).  The 18-week course teaches students technology, collaboration, and project development skills prior to their mentoring a teacher during regular school days.  These students maintain school networks and support their teachers as they integrate technology into their curriculum-based projects and lesson plans.  It is one of the most extensive student mentoring programs in the nation (Generation www. Y, 2001).

The University of Texas at Austin conducted project CIRCLE in collaboration with the Austin Independent School District and the Eanes Independent School District.  This project used technology network tools to establish an online learning alliance within high schools and to explore innovative constructivist uses of technology in the classroom.  A virtual learning community based on the constructivist model of learning was established between project schools and the university for collaborative and intellectual work.  Training sessions on how to use the specific collaborative learning tools were offered to teachers as well as to selected student mentors.  Student mentors served as on site technology mentors for teachers and fellow students.  The findings indicate that student mentors can be an effective technology resource and support system for teachers who are implementing new technology tools and applications (Resta, 1998).

Different mentoring models have been adopted based on institutions’ needs to enhance technology integration throughout a teacher education program or K-12 environments. Some models include one technology course where students are paired with faculty members interested in using technology in their courses. Some are pilot programs to match graduate or undergraduate students with faculty members or inservice teachers in a reciprocal mentoring relationship. Some offer a combination of multiple sessions and one-on-one mentoring activities. There are other mentoring programs embedded in large-scale projects aimed to help change teacher practice and help to incorporate technology into the existing curriculum. Despite the variety, successful mentoring models have common themes that are discussed in the following section.

 

 

Themes from Research on Mentoring Program

 

Despite the variety of technology mentoring models, effective programs include common elements.  These elements clearly emerged from a careful review of the mentoring models and the process established for each. These elements include providing visions for the use of technology in teaching and learning, individualizing technology support (personal fit), breaking down hierarchical structure, establishing open dialogue and collaborative relationships, providing mutual benefits for mentors and mentees, and establishing learning communities.  The presence of these elements seems critical to establishing and maintaining successful mentoring programs.

 

 

Providing Visions for Technology Use

 

Educational change has proved difficult to achieve. Educators’ beliefs either assist change in practice or inhibit innovation (Schuttloffel, 2000).  According to Papert (1980), technology provides the visionary reform in all levels of educational institutions.  However, such educational reform cannot occur only by using one-size-fits-all models of professional development, especially when it comes to technology integration.  In one-on-one mentoring programs described in the literature, visions in successful technology integration are provided through collaborative efforts among participants.  Most faculty or inservice teacher mentees in these programs indicate that they have developed a deeper level of understanding and a higher level of confidence in the use of technology. One teacher mentee stated,

I think I have more confidence about managing it all now. I had ideas about using the technology but this has given me an opportunity to see the graduate student at work with the students, so I know it can be done . . . even with   my class (Franklin, 2001, p.28).

This in turn strengthens “their personal and teaching related use of computers, attitudes toward educational computing, and interest in learning more about educational technology.” (Generation www. Y 2000, Executive Summary, p.14)  One faculty metee in the School of Education at New Mexico State University mentioned :

I began as what can be referred to as a ‘technophobe,’ but I was lucky to receive encouragement and support from technology professionals. I started using computer technology as a word processor . . . I began to move more rapidly across the bridge from personal use to uses of technology for teaching reading (Gonzales & Thompson, 1998, p.167).

 

 

Individualizing Technology Support

 

Teaching must start where the learner is (Hunt, 1961, p.268). Each person has a unique learning curve with respect to technology.  One-on-one mentoring offers individualized technology support that is usually provided on site.  Each content area requires its own creative way to integrate technology into curricula, so it is often difficult to provide specific content integration ideas during large group workshop sessions.  Moreover, the one-on-one mentoring programs give the mentees time to work at their own pace.  The opportunity for graduate student mentors at Iowa State University to address specific needs of faculty mentees in their own areas of interest and pedagogical beliefs was identified as a strength in the one-on-one mentoring program (Thompson et al, 1996).  The student mentor devises his/her instruction to fit the style, the skill level, and personal interest of the faculty mentee.  As one mentee indicated:

Importantly, our one-to-one mentorship provided a risk-free atmosphere to ask rudimentary questions about files, folders, menu bars, and how an application works . . . Eventually, he [student mentor] introduced more complex productivity tools to present and organize information, in particular, those which would relate to my social studies methods course . . . (Beisser et al, 1997, p. 4).

Faculty members like the fact that they have one-on-one support and their technology needs can be addressed individually and directly. 

 

 

Breaking Down Hierarchical Structure

 

These mentoring models are typified by a lack of hierarchy in which leadership is from within rather than from above.  Instead of a top down, one-way approach, a shared sense of common goal, opportunity, motivation and reward between the mentor and the mentee is the prevailing mentoring paradigm among these cases. Because of the lack of hierarchy, student mentors feel comfortable approaching faculty members with comments and work closely with faculty to solve problems, share knowledge and gain expertise.  In most cases, mentors and mentees are able to “form not only professional but a personal friendship, too (Beisser et al, 1997, p.325).

These technology mentoring models, unlike traditional models in which mentors usually have “absolute authority”( Philips-Jones, 1982), focus more on collaborative efforts. Technology as a facilitator of hierarchical change moves institutions or schools toward a learning community to “involve students as co-creators and co-owners of the curriculum, who bring needed skills and resources to the table” (Generation www.Y, 2000, p. 13). 

 

 

Establishing Open Dialogue and Collaborative Relationships

 

Mentoring is a very dynamic and interactive experience. It is also a great way to promote collaboration among mentors and mentees to integrate technology in courses.  Most case studies in mentoring programs emphasize open dialogue for both mentor and mentee to express their feelings, knowledge, and expectations.  In most models, mentors and mentees started with a formal needs assessment like the “Individual Mentoring Plan” (MacAuther et al, 1995, p. 50) or informally wrote up a set of goals (Thompson et al 1996; Gonzales et al, 1997; Sprague et al, 1998).  A mutual respect and trust developed during the mentoring process as the mentor and mentee worked collaboratively to integrate technology into curricula.  This kind of partnership often resulted in collaborative projects. In the case of the University of North Texas model, preservice teachers (the mentors) showcased their work with classroom teachers (the mentees) in their final face to face class meeting (Tyler-Wood et al, 2000).

 

 

Providing Mutual Benefits

 

Most mentoring models are set up as a reciprocal relationship in which the faculty mentee learns about integrating technology into their courses and the student mentor learns more pedagogical expertise in certain fields.  Because the mentoring process is dynamic, the roles of student mentors gradually change and evolve. Therefore, the benefits for education students as mentors include the opportunity to establish connections with faculty members, to learn about pedagogy expertise from them, and to better understand how faculty members can successfully integrate technology to their courses. The faculty mentees are able to visualize and conceptualize how technology could be used in the classroom through the brainstorming process with help from mentor’s technology experiences (Thompson et al, 1996; Sprague et al, 1998; Stewart, 1998; Gonzales et al; Beisser, 2000; Browne et al, 2000).  In K-12 environments, student mentors were offered “an authentic, multidisciplinary, project-based experience of doing valuable work . . .teachers receive individualized support for integrating technology in their particular classroom” (Generation www.Y, 2000, p. 13).  In addition, providing students with an authentic learning environment provides them with opportunities to practice skills of leadership and communication.

In project CIRCLE, teachers indicated that one of the important benefits for student mentors was the improved behavior and boost of self-esteem for those previously labeled as “ disengaged from the learning process” (Resta, 1998, p. 6). An international student described in her case how being involved in the mentoring program brought her a sense of belonging to the graduate community. Mentoring program provided a chance to build connections with the faculty members and to be engaged in authentic course development work (Chuang, 2001).

 

 

Establishing Learning Communities

 

Learning communities established by mentoring relationships encourage collaboration, communication, and team work and provide on-going support in both technology and pedagogy for both mentors and mentees.  Learning communities emerging from a nurturing and supportive environment allow members to exchange ideas, share experiences, and learn together to accommodate individual learning styles (Stephen & Evans, 2000).  In these mentoring models, learning communities exist within the mentors’ group, between mentors and mentees, and in the alliance of participating institutions of the mentoring programs.

The structure of the mentoring communities is not linear or hierarchical. Instead, these communities are asymmetric and connected by interaction and collaboration.  In models where mentoring occurs as the field component of a course, learning communities are built on means of communication, such as listserve, e-mailing, and face-to-face regular meetings (MacArthur et al, 1995; Thompson et al,1996; Sprague et al, 1998).  Mentors get in touch with other peer mentors and share experience and find solutions for technical and pedagogical problems within these learning communities.  At New Mexico State University, one of the participating faculty members felt that “being a part of a faculty mentoring team usually developed a sense of belonging to the broader community of those committed to using educational technology” (Gonzales & Thompson, 1998).  Historically, K-12 teachers tend to be isolated from their peers so developing a learning community among teachers through mentoring programs is particularly important. This is also the emerging theme found in the extended mentoring models to K-12 environments (MacAurther et al, 1995).

 

 

Conclusions

 

Most one-on-one mentoring programs have been successfully providing faculty in higher education and teachers in K-12 environments with expertise and support they need to use and integrate technology. Characteristics such as providing visions, individualizing technology support, breaking down hierarchical structure, establishing open dialogue and collaborative relationships, and providing mutual benefits for mentors and mentees are important parts of most successful models. In addition, successful programs tend to emphasize the creation of learning communities among and between mentors and mentees. The characteristics of successful mentoring programs described in this paper should provide a useful framework for educators who are or will be implementing mentoring programs.

 

 

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