Welcome to the EWC's Blog – Sôn. Sôn is a Welsh word meaning mention.
We are hosting a range of opinions on education and professional issues which we hope you'll find interesting. The views of the authors are their own.
Mentoring by experienced practitioners to support new teachers has been around for a long time and has received a lot of attention in recent years. For example through Donaldson’s recommendations for mentoring in early teacher progression (Donaldson, 2011) and in the WG New Deal publication on Coaching and Mentoring (WG, 2015). There is also however a significant amount of evidence that suggests they are many difficulty in achieving effective mentoring. One problem has been identified as fabrication – the tendency for new teachers to conceal problems they are having due to fears of repercussions . . . . . another is ‘judgementoring’ – which indicates the difficulties for mentors of separating out their supportive role from their assessment role which frequently results in assessment dominating mentor conversations.
Further problems with school based mentoring include a tendency to induct new teachers in ‘the way things are done around here’ rather than helping them to critically evaluate their teaching and take risks to develop genuinely effective practice. In the face of these kinds of challenges external mentoring – carried out by professionals who are not employed by the school, has the potential to create a safe environment where new teachers can openly discuss their concerns. This included critiquing practices they are exposed to and expected to adopt in their settings.
External mentoring was a key strategy of the Masters in Educational Practice (MEP) aimed at tackling such problems and inconsistencies in school based mentoring by offering rich development opportunities aimed at improving outcomes for learners. The MEP’s national network of up to 150 mentors was established between 2012-2017 to support the learning and development of NQTs, throughout Wales for the first three years of their career. These mentors had a dual role to support NQTs in meeting the Professional Teaching Standards (PTS) and helping them develop critical thinking and research informed practice that could be accredited at masters level.
Give these ambitions the challenges for mentors’ in being able to provide this kind of support over a three year period were considerable. A sustained programme of mentor learning and development was provided throughout the three year period of mentoring. A recent study has identified the key features that underpinned the training of external mentors to achieve these ambitious goals. Findings confirm that mentor training should be mandatory and requires sustained commitment and engagement that involves continued professional learning for an already expert cohort. As such the recruitment of mentors should be a rigorous process. External mentors included experienced classroom teachers, headteachers, local authority advisors, teacher educators and university professors. Eight principles emerge from the study for meeting the learning and development needs of mentors in order to maximise their capacity to support new teachers to achieve their full potential. The principles are based on enabling mentors to ‘mentor each other’ to meet ambitious goals for teacher development that can contribute to school improvement:
These principles are proposed in order to challenge the conditions and constraints that so frequently inhibit opportunities for new teachers to develop as excellent practitioners. They are needed to develop mentors so that they can have questioning perspectives that disrupt the taken for granted assumptions about teaching practice that prevent true innovation.
The research was being published in August 2017 in the International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education and is titled ‘External mentoring for new teachers: mentor learning for a change agenda’.
Daly, C. and Milton, E., (2017) "External mentoring for new teachers: mentor learning for a change agenda", International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. 6 Issue: 3, pp.178-195, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMCE-03-2017-0021