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Action research mentoring for supporting professional development of teachers as learners in Croatian educational context. Branko Bognar. My professional way. I started my professional career in the fall of 1987 as teacher in small school 50 km from Zagreb . A need for learning.
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The role of a teacher as a reflective practitioner or an action researcher in Croatia is still insufficiently appreciated and promoted.
In our country, the teachers are most frequently perceived as mediators or technicians whose task is to prepare and implement the tuition based on devised out-of-school expert instructions. Their role is more artisan-like, being less professional and creative.
Action research enables the teachers, along with other education-process participants (students, parents, expert confreres), to initiate the changes aiming at the improvement of educational practice as well as personal emancipation. Emancipation implies liberation of invisible limitations caused by prejudices, compulsion, and ideology.
I wanted to fully realized the following values in my practice:
In the second part of the project we started with teachers’ action research projects. The role of the action researcher was impossible for most members of the community, but in spite that some of them realized first hand action research where they freely made plans and improved their practice.
The feedback is very important for teachers who participate in mentoring, but not any and whenever. It is important that the mentor answers in a short time. In the action research things occur very fast so if teachers wait too long to the answer maybe it has not the importance for them because new problems appear or they are cooled down for the previous problem or for the research in all. Answers should be an incentive. It means that teachers should be encouraged, understood and advised. The action research is emotionally very exciting process and it is important that answers would not be official and distant because teachers could realise that the mentor is not interested in their researches. Critiques should be balanced and explained.Advice which a mentor offers should not be too extensive and expressed too expertly, because it could inhibit initiative of novice action researchers.
Mentoring is always a risky job because in some moments as critics and advisers what we say could make our interlocutor angry, upset or hurt. It is especially possible if the teacher because of other tasks put the action research in the second plan or if he/she does not know something how to do. Then it is better to delay the mentoring process and find out what the teacher is worried about, and than agree with him/her what to do.
It was very significant and encouraging for me that he followed me in my idea, he helped me to better understand what I thought and what I wrote without attempt to impose some of his solutions or ideas. He ‘listened’ to me actively. Something else delighted me and gave the importance to my records. Branko analysed each of my sentences and commented them. He conducted towards my records as it was literary or philosophical creation. All of that stimulated me to write regularly my diary and wait the answer, which was not often just an answer to my letter, than it was the answer to my inner, unexpressed questions.
(e-mail, sent: Jasna Zubčić, sent: Tue 07th May 2002, 23:07)