Fast response, smooth dialogue and a clearer development – new app for mentoring of student teachers strengthens education

To be able to use practical knowledge in teaching, and interact with pupils, is important for teacher students, as well as conditions for feedback and development. In an international research project, researchers from Halmstad University have developed a new application for interactive observation, which will increase the quality of supervision.
”Both students and their mentors, at different partner schools, have been very pleased”, say researchers Ann-Christine Wennergren and Fredrik Thornberg.

Mentoring is a crucial element during practicum periods. An important point with the new app, which is called MOSO, is that the documentation of the teaching activities becomes clearer and also easy to handle. The documentation is shared between three people: the mentor, a fellow student and the student who has done the teaching, and it shows a flow of photos, video clips and comments about the teaching. The flow focuses on specific areas, is brief and easy to understand.

”We have tried MOSO during one semester with primary and secondary school teacher students in partner schools, and it has contributed to a clear value in mentoring sessions”, says Ann-Christine Wennergren, Associate Professor in Science of Education.

Image showing an app on a desktop, tablet and mobile phone.

Thoughts and reflections from teaching do not need to wait until the next opportunity for mentoring; instead they can be shared and used immediately. When the student and the mentor meet, part of the development might already have taken place. The participants can enter a deeper conversation straight away – to process comments that can improve the teaching. The research project shows that in a short period of time, both observations and mentoring sessions are improved by the use of the app.

The student as an actor

”We have noted that a lot has changed with the help of MOSO. Before, there was a phase between when the student had been observed and the opportunity for mentoring. Back then, the student came to the meeting with the mentor without knowing what issues would be discussed. Now, on the other hand, the student can work with the flow and can be prepared – he or she does not need the recall the teaching activities to remember”, says Ann-Christine Wennergren.

”The mentoring becomes sharper and the student becomes a participant in a conversation where the content is not exclusively directed by the mentor. We see a crucial difference”, says Fredrik Thornberg, lecturer in Science of Education.

The quality of the observations and mentoring increases when different types of documentation are gathered in one place. After observation, the app shows a Facebook-like feed that flows between mentor, student and peer student.

”Previously several computer programmes needed to be coordinated during observation and that was too messy. MOSO is a lot more user friendly”, says Fredrik Thornberg.

This is how MOSO (Mentoring and Observation Software) works

1. A student publishes his or her plan for the lesson.

2. A peer student and the mentor give feedback on the plan.

3. The student modifies the plan before the lesson.

4. The peer student and the mentor use video, photo and comments in their observations of teaching.

5. The student prepares the mentoring meeting by analysing and reflecting on the observation feed – in dialogue with the peer student and mentor.

6. The student, peer student and mentor participate in the mentoring conversation.

It is important that MOSO protects the integrity both for pupils and students. No video clips, for example, will end up on social media – instead the communication takes place in a locked system, where the guardian has given permission that the child can feature in photos and videos.

More feedback and better dialogue

Kim Wilhelmsson, a student in secondary school teacher education (year 4–6), used MOSO last spring during a couple of weeks of practicum in his partner school.

”I felt more acknowledged and more involved in my own assessment. It was easier for me to see what the mentor saw and thought of my teaching – I got more feedback and it became clearer to me what the mentor wants me to reflect on. The dialogue with my mentor became better since we shared the same platform.”

Mentoring within practicum periods is a great challenge, which was shown for example in the latest evaluation from UKÄ (Swedish Higher Education Authority). The quality needs to be improved – a challenge that many universities have in common. Norwegian universities are well known for research within mentoring, the researchers remark:

”At Halmstad University we have previously also done research on mentoring, but not in this way. This is high profile research on digital tools which can fundamentally change mentoring”, says Fredrik Thornberg.

Useful in more areas

Apart from research on how the app is used, the research project is also focused on contributing to the development of MOSO. The app is patented by the University of Agder, and scientific articles about the project are to be published.

”The plan is that the app will be available for everyone during next year. MOSO can then be used in many areas outside teacher education – for example training for nurses, police or professional learning for teachers. But initially we are trying the app out with teacher students”, says Ann-Christine Wennergren.

Text: Kristina Rörström

Read more

Read more about MOSO External link, opens in new window.

University of Agder External link, opens in new window.

The Arctic University of Norway External link, opens in new window.

A couple of significant examples

A very clear example from the student Kim Wilhelmsson is when he gave a lesson that involved a group discussion. As long as the groups kept it together and were discussing, he decided to let the formation be pretty free in the classroom. However, after the lesson he saw a picture, by the mentor, of a pupil lying on top of the table, whilst talking to the group. And the picture had a comment: Where is the line drawn?

– Of course I had seen the pupil during the lesson, but subconsciously thought that the pupil often has problems sitting still on the chair and concentrating. So I didn’t see the position as a problem as long as the group conversation was flowing. But then I saw the situation a little bit from the outside, and could think about it once more. Should I continue to allow this? Is my classroom too free? I pictured my teaching from a different perspective.

The researcher Ann-Christine Wennergren gives an example of when a student wanted to be clearer in her teaching.

– The mentor took photos of the work the pupils did during the lesson, and the student could see afterwards that she had not been as clear in her instructions as she had intended to. She got a new understanding for details in her leadership and what she needed to change.

More about the research project and partner schools

MOSO (Mentoring and Observation Software) was created at the University of Agder and has been further developed in a research project in collaboration with Halmstad University, The University of Agder and The Arctic University of Norway. When the researchers from Halmstad University first came in contact with the project in spring 2016, they invited the project group from Norway to Halmstad. The researchers agreed to implement and evaluate the app in all three universities. The underlying idea was to develop a digital tool that could gather all forms of documentation before the mentoring meeting.

For a couple of years, teacher students at Halmstad University have worked with videotaping and analysing each other’s teaching during activities at partner schools. With the new app it also became possible to improve observations, feedback and mentoring sessions.

A partner school (övningsskola in Swedish) has many mentors in order to educate and cooperate with several students in the same practicum periods. The schools also have close collaboration with the University. Apart from ordinary practicum periods, the students are continually visiting the partner schools during their ordinary university courses.

The members of the MOSO team at Halmstad University are Fredrik Thornberg, Ann-Christine Wennergren, Caroline Nagy och Eva Hansson.