Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good: the use of ‘good’ in ITE mentor meetings

13th November 2018 : 16:00 - 17:30

Category: Seminar

Speaker: Rachel Roberts, University of Reading

Location: Department of Education, Seminar Room B

Convener: Katharine Burn

Education is replete with evaluative language and ITE particularly so.  The language used by mentors and trainees during their mentoring conversations, a fundamental feature of trainees’ learning whilst on school placements, is important in how it is used and the effect that it has on trainees as part of a discourse community.

Working in a wider discourse that emphasises performativity (Ball, 2013), the evaluative language used by mentors can have a major impact on trainees’ confidence and self-efficacy in their progress as beginning teachers.  Fifteen mentor meeting conversations were recorded over a one-year PGCE course and the ten participant mentors and trainees were interviewed about the use and effect of evaluative phrases.  This presentation explores one aspect of evaluative language used, that of the adjective ‘good’.  Both an official end-of-training grade, as approved by Ofsted, and a frequently used word in English discourse, its presence in mentoring conversations is unsurprising.  This concurs with Dodds et al’s (2015) findings that people use more positive words than negative ones, although other research suggests that negative evaluation is more powerful than positive evaluation (Baumeister et al, 2001).  The use of ‘good’ is indicative of the mentor’s positive evaluation of the trainee’s performance (the assessment of which is a source of potential conflict in the mentor-trainee relationship), but also a way of praising them; demonstrating that the trainee has the mentor’s approval and is contributary to a positive professional relationship.  Using Martin & White’s (2005) appraisal framework, this presentation will explore in depth what ‘good’ means in the context of ITE, what is evaluated as ‘good’ and how participants perceive it.  It will conclude with suggestions regarding the use of language in mentoring conversations that should be useful for those working in ITE, particularly for those working closely with school-based mentors.