Mentoring experiences as professional development for leaders in environmental education : the cascade of influence

Fortino, Carol Ann (1996) Mentoring experiences as professional development for leaders in environmental education : the cascade of influence. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Environmental education is a field which has only come of age since the late nineteen sixties. While its content and practice have been widely debated and researched, its leadership has been minimally studied and, therefore, is only partially understood. The role of mentoring in the development of leaders has been alluded to, but has attracted scant research. Therefore, this study explores the importance of mentoring during the personal and professional development of leaders in environmental education. Four major research questions were investigated. Firstly, have leaders been men to red during their involvement with environmental education? Secondly, when and how has that mentoring taken place? Thirdly, what was the personal and professional effectiveness of the mentoring relationship? Fourthly, is there any continuation of the mentoring process which might be appropriate for professional development within the field of environmental education? Leaders were solicited from a broad field of environmental educators including teachers, administrators, academics, natural resource personnel, business and community persons. They had to be recognized as active leaders across several environmental education networks. The research elicited qualitative and quantitative survey data from fifty seven persons in Queensland, Australia and Colorado, USA. Seventeen semi-structured interviews were subsequently conducted with selected leaders who had nominated their mentors. This led to a further thirteen 'linked interviews' with some of the mentors' mentors and new mentorees. The interview data is presented as four cases reflecting pairs, triads, chains and webs of relationships- a major finding of the research process. The analysis of the data from the interviews and the surveys was conducted according to a grounded theory approach and was facilitated by NUD.IST, a computer program for non-numerical text analysis. The findings of the study revealed many variations on the classical mentoring patterns found in the literature. Gender and age were not seen as mportant factors, as there were examples of contemporaries in age, older men to younger women, older women to younger men, and women to women. Personal compatibility, professional respect and philosophical congruence were critical. Mentoring was initiated from early, mid and late career stages with the average length of the relationship being fourteen years. There was seldom an example of the mentoree using the mentor for hierarchical career climbing, although frequent career changes were made. However, leadership actions were found to increase after the intervention of a mentoring relationship. Three major categories of informal mentoring were revealed - perceived,acknowledged and deliberate. Further analysis led to the evolution of the core concept, a 'cascade of influence'. The major finding of this study was that this sample of leaders, mentors and new mentorees moved from the perception of having been mentored to the acknowledgment of these relationships and an affirmation of their efficacy for both personal and professional growth. Hence, the participants were more likely to continue future mentoring, not as a serendipitous happening, but through a deliberate choice. Heightened awareness and more frequent 'cascading' of mentoring have positive implications for the professional development of future leaders in environmental education in both formal and informal settings. Effective mentoring in environmental education does not seek to create 'clones' of the mentors, but rather to foster the development of autonomous mentorees who share a philosophical grounding. It is a deliberate invitation to 'join the clan'.

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ID Code: 36513
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Presented to the Centre for Applied Environmental and Social Education Research, Queensland University of Technology.
Keywords: Mentoring, Environmental education, Educational leadership, Environmentalists In-service training, Professional development, Environmental leaders
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Carol Ann Fortino
Deposited On: 22 Sep 2010 13:05
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2016 23:27

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