“Inventing what we desire”: Reconceptualizing ‘mentoring’ relationships with student-teachers as dialogic praxis

Deborah Ann Bieler, University of Pennsylvania


Traditional teacher preparation programs often unintentionally enact what Freire (1970/2000) terms the “banking concept” of education, in which teacher educators are understood to have knowledge, skills, and expertise—all of which they can “deposit” in student-teachers, who are understood not yet to possess such attributes sufficiently. The banking concept, as Freire explains, produces a dichotomy of the teacher and the taught, the knower and the learner, the subject and the object—in which the teacher provides and the students receive. Preparation programs that understand student-teachers to be primarily recipients, and position them as such, deny their agency. This positionality is problematic because it contributes to a culture of teacher silencing and therefore the undermining of democratic possibilities within the educational community. This dissertation study documents and examines what happens when a university-based mentor rejects traditional ‘mentoring’ practice and works actively to create a collegial space with student-teachers in an attempt to create an alternative to the banking concept of education in teacher preparation programs. This project, grounded in critical pedagogy and critical feminist theories, particularly as they inform dialogue theory, and conducted as a form of practitioner inquiry using qualitative methods, explores the ways in which four student-teachers of secondary English and the researcher, their university-based mentor, engaged in dialogic relationships. The numerous, almost daily, direct interactions between the researcher and the four individual student-teachers, who were enrolled in a year-long graduate certification program at an urban university in the northeastern U.S. during the 2002–2003 school year served as the project's primary sites of inquiry. The study found that dialogic mentoring relationships both shape and are shaped by the participants' holistic identities, affirm participants' sense of agency and their experience of authenticity in the educational spaces they inhabit, and give rise to further possibilities for disrupting the status quo of ‘schooling.’ Suggesting a reconceptualization of both ‘mentoring’ practice and preparation programs as spaces in which teachers engage in coming-to-voice together, this study contributes to conversations about both dialogue theory and the practice of teacher education by offering complex images of what it means to engage deeply in human(e)izing dialogue.

Subject Area

Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Bieler, Deborah Ann, "“Inventing what we desire”: Reconceptualizing ‘mentoring’ relationships with student-teachers as dialogic praxis" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3137981.