New review explores the Finnish model of peer group mentoring

Tynjälä, P., Pennanen, M., Markkanen, I., & Heikkinen, H. L. T. (2021). Finnish model of peer-group mentoring: Review of research. Annals of the New York Academy of 

Sciences, 1483(1), 208–223.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Although mentoring typically consists of dyads, increased interest in collaborative learning has encouraged the creation of more group-based models for mentoring. 
  • This literature review explores several questions regarding the Finnish model of peer-group mentoring (PGM).
    • What were the key traits of enacting & circulating the Finnish PGM?
    • What are some of the experiences mentors and mentees have had with PMG? 
    • How does PGM affect administrative educational structures?
  • Mentors and mentees reported that PGM is an effective method for promoting individual professional learning and well‐being. 
  • Results indicate that there are factors that indirectly affect work community development.
  • One of the limitations of PGM has to do with the disagreements regarding PGM’s structure and allocation of mentors’ and mentees’ PGM working time. 
  • PGM and professional development for teachers play important roles in the educational ecosystem.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

This article reviews research on the Finnish model of peer‐group mentoring (PGM). The theoretical foundation of the model is based on the constructivist theory of learning, the concept of autonomy in teaching profession, peer learning, and narrative identity work. The model has been disseminated nationwide in the educational sector to promote professional development of teachers and educational staff, mainly in primary and secondary education, but also in early childhood education and higher education. The thematic review is based on 46 peer‐reviewed publications about PGM in Finland in 2009–2019. Research has focused on the following main themes: (1) general aspects and characteristics of the implementation of the model; and (2) mentors’ and mentees’ experiences. The qualitative approach has been dominant in research. The studies show that both mentors and mentees find PGM a useful tool for individual professional learning and well‐being. Indirect influences have been reported about the development of work communities. The main challenges in applying the model are the lack of national agreement concerning the organization of PGM and allocation of mentors’ and mentees’ working time to PGM. It is concluded that PGM, as well as teachers’ professional development as a whole, should be seen as an integral part of the educational ecosystem.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This review has shown that research on the Finnish model of PGM has covered a range of topics, from individuals’ experiences to organizational and administrative perspectives. The issues emerging from studies can be grouped into the following themes, modified and elaborated from Aspfors et al.:78

  1. PGM in the continuum of teacher development
    • ‐ challenges of transition from teacher education to teaching profession
    • ‐ PGM as a tool to support newly qualified teachers
    • ‐ PGM as a tool to support teachers throughout their career
  2. PGM in practice
    • ‐ factors contributing to successful PGM
    • ‐ different mentoring and PGM models
    • ‐ experiences of mentees and mentees
    • ‐ group formation and group dynamics
    • ‐ roles and dispositions of the mentor and mentees
  3. Feasibility of PGM in terms of professional well‐being
    • ‐ potential to develop well‐being at work
    • ‐ influences on the working community
  4. PGM and the administrative structures of education
    • ‐ roles of the national administration, the municipality, and school principals

Table 1 summarizes the main results of the PGM studies. The table is elaborated from our previous review on PGM in the early phase of the development of the model.76 In the original version, the table presented two main themes of research: prerequisites of functional mentoring and outcomes of PGM. As more recent studies have also revealed challenges in organizing PGM, we added this theme to the revised table. Furthermore, while the original table summarized the findings of early studies on the individual and organizational level, national level is added into the new version. Thus, the findings presented in Table 1 pertain to the following main themes: (1) prerequisites of functional mentoring activities; (2) outcomes, benefits, and implications of PGM; and (3) challenges of the model. As regards the tiers of analysis, the findings can be classified into the three categories: findings related to the individual and groups; findings pertaining to community and organization; and findings concerning national issues.

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