Teacher-to-Teacher Mentoring as Professional Development: Using Authentic Science as a Medium

Open Access
Petula, Jason
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
July 07, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Scott Mc Donald, Committee Chair
  • Carla Zembal Saul, Committee Member
  • John Daniel Marshall, Committee Member
  • Tanya Furman, Committee Member
  • mentoring
  • professional development
  • science education
Contemporary science education reform movements stress the importance of the professional development of teachers as an avenue for facilitating teacher change. Educational research on the professional development of teachers often focuses on the effect of hierarchical approaches on teachers enacting an authoritative perspective. Little understanding exists about the professional development of teachers that is non-hierarchical. This thesis explores teacher-to-teacher mentoring as professional development in the context of science research experiences. The participants in this study were teachers involved in the National Science Foundations’ (NSF) Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic (TEA) program. This study examines meaningful interactions between three mentor teachers (i.e., TEA teachers) that participated in authentic scientific polar research and twelve protégé teachers (non-TEA teachers) that resulted in teacher change. The research questions that guided this study were: 1. How do meaningful interactions among teachers occur? 2. How do teachers describe professional collaborations associated with authentic science research experiences? 3. What elements of interactions among teachers are meaningful? 4. Why are these elements of interactions meaningful to teachers? Grounded theory was the analytical approach used in this study within the context of naturalistic inquiry. Theoretical sampling required simultaneously interviewing participants, coding, and data analysis. Data analysis revealed three categories that described the participants mentoring experiences: (a) actions, (b) interactions, and (c) engagement results. Each incident of mentoring is an engagement that comprises participant action and interaction. The findings indicate that engagements that involve synthesis actions and dialogic interactions are meaningful to participants and result in teacher change. These types of engagements occur when participants have ownership in an engagement. The findings also suggest a cyclical relationship between teacher change and engagements. Teachers that experience change to their practice may participate in further professional development engagements. This study has implications for teacher professional development, program policy, and education research.