The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) defines mentoring as ‘being concerned with ‘growing an individual’, both professionally and personally’. It adds that an ‘expert-novice’ relationship is usually involved, with the expert supporting the novice as he or she progresses through different career stages. Coaching is related to this, but narrower in focus, and often relates to the ‘novice’ acquiring specific skills and competencies. Specialist coaches will have a clearly identified role in supporting particular skills and competencies, but sometimes the coaching does not involve a specialist, or event an expert. In ‘co-coaching’, for example (also known as ‘peer coaching’), professional learners support each other in a collaborative way.
These concepts, and the relationship between them, is depicted in Figure 4.2.1 which is taken from the CUREE 'National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching', a key component of the Welsh Government’s model for mentoring and coaching as outlined in its 'Qualified for life' improvement plan.
Download the CUREE National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching [.pdf] and read the first page which outlines the key principles of coaching and mentoring.
We will first of all look at coaching in more detail, and investigate how this activity can help practitioners to become resilient lifelong professional learners. As indicated at the start of this subtopic, there is considerable overlap between the concepts of coaching and mentoring, but in a coaching (or ‘specialist coaching’) relationship, there is generally a need to meet a specific development need and/or to address a specific issue. Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) may often find themselves in this situation; for example, they may feel they need help to build their skills and knowledge in the area of behaviour for learning (note that NQTS are entitled to mentoring support as discussed below).
Return to the CUREE National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching [.pdf].
Making reference to the section on page 5 entitled ‘Professional learners develop their ability to:’, note down some key characteristics that professional learners should show in order to make best use of specialist coaching or co-coaching activities.
The following activity provides an example of a school where a coaching programme is producing benefits.
Read the Estyn case study on the Teacher Coaching Programme utilised at Cardiff High School (external link), and reflect on the following points.
- Who was supported by coaching at Cardiff High School?
- What was the nature of the coaching cycle employed?
- Why was good listening an integral part of the programme?
- What sort of topics were targeted with specialist coaching activities?
- How did the ‘Refinery’ help the programme?
In the following activity, you will look at a specific example of coaching that proved very useful, and helped ensure successful learner outcomes.
Watch the video of Josh Jones, a relatively new teaching assistant at Ysgol y Felin, Felinfoel, and think about how his experience could apply to you.
- What was the particular need in this instance?
- Who provided coaching?
- What were the benefits to Josh and his learners?
- How might this coaching activity enhance the professional development of the coach(es)?
If you already have a coaching role, or might take on such a role in the future, it’s important to think about the practical arrangements you will put in place to ensure that coaching is effective. When and where will coaching take place, for example, and how will you know whether it has been effective? It will also be useful for you to think about some of the theories put forward for effective coaching. These include diagnosing the ‘skill and will’ of a ‘coachee’, and using the 'Goal, Reality, Options, Will' (GROW) model for coaching conversations, guiding the coachee through four key conversation phases. You can find out more about this at 'Good Practice for Leaders' (external link), along with a template for a ‘GROW’ conversation. Note that developing these skills will help you develop as a leader as well as a practitioner, and we will return to this idea in Topic 5.
Mentoring is a professional relationship with wider aims than coaching, and has an important role to play in supporting practitioners through many aspects of their development, and particularly at points of career transition such as becoming a newly-qualified teacher (NQT), or taking up a new post.
Mentoring is often informal in nature, but there is frequently value in putting in place a more formal arrangement (or ‘learning agreement’) as you’ll see in the next activity.
Mentoring has frequently featured within the Outstanding Teacher Programme, and Claire Brown, an Outstanding Teacher at Ysgol Pentre in Wrexham, has put her mentoring skills to good use within her role. Read about her experience, and reflect on how this example of mentoring in action could be reproduced in your organisation.
If you are currently being mentored, what do you need to do to ensure that the process is effective?
The 'Mentoring in Teaching' report [.pdf] (external link) produced by HM Inspectorate of Education in Scotland in 2008 provides much useful information and case studies about the role of mentoring in Scottish schools.
Listen to the recordings of recently-qualified teachers Elinor Williams and Christie Jones talking about their experiences of being mentored, and reflect on the questions below.
- For what sort of issues did mentors provide support?
- How do the experiences of Elinor and Christie to date compare to your experiences as a mentee?
An effective mentoring relationship needs a mentee who is receptive and keen to make progress, and a mentor who is experienced, and sympathetic to the professional needs of the mentee. If you are currently a mentee, what can you expect in this important professional relationship? If you are currently a mentor, or hope to take on this role, what characteristics should you possess, and what activities do you need to implement? Note that mentoring is currently an entitlement for NQTs in Wales, and this correspondingly may lead to mentoring opportunities supported by the Welsh Government.
Georgina Davidson is a Deputy Headteacher at Ebbw Fawr Learning Community, Ebbw Vale. She has mentored many practitioners, and her experience gives valuable pointers to practice for both mentees and mentors alike.
Watch the interview with Georgina, and consider the following points.
- What sort of meeting timetable is arranged between mentor and mentee?
- How important is a positive frame of mind, and good personal relationships?
- Why is it so important for the mentor to bear in mind individual needs?
- What steps can be taken if mentees do not make progress? What are the benefits of mentoring for the mentor?
Mentoring is not restricted to practitioners, and can be valuable for learners also. The ‘Achievement for All’ project features mentoring and ‘buddying’ schemes between pupils that have helped to improve outcomes for all learners. Download the report [.pdf] and read in particular, the brief case study about ‘Tara’ (p.90). What specific peer-to-peer interactions helped her make progress?
This is a scenario activity which takes you back to Activity 2.1.2 in Topic 2 where you are asked to use Brookfield’s model to consider different viewpoints. Imagine a situation in which recently-qualified practitioner Iwan has just completed his first term at a further education college. He is discussing his experiences with his mentor, Janice. Iwan has had some issues with learners who did not adhere to required assessment outcomes.
First of all, look at this scenario through the ‘lens’ of the mentee, Iwan, and respond to the following points.
- What do your learners need to know to ensure that they undertake their assessments effectively?
- What do you need to know?
- What do you need to do next?
- How will you know if/when your actions have been successful?
- What should you ask Janice?
Now, re-examine the situation through the eyes of Janice, the mentor, and ask yourself the following questions.
- Why did Iwan have issues in the first place?
- In what ways are his issues impacting on learner success and departmental results?
- What sort of support do you now need to provide?
- How can you continue to support Iwan in the longer term, and how will you know whether your support has been effective?
The NFER produced a report in 2007 which outlined many studies involving coaching and mentoring that had taken place within English schools, and discussed many aspects of effective coaching and mentoring. This report also summarised some of the impacts of both processes on mentees/coachees, on mentors/coaches, and on organisations. Download the report (external link) and find the impact summary (Diagram 2) on pages 27 and 28.
- How does this summary resonate with your experience to date?
- What do you now need to do to ensure that coaching and mentoring can be beneficial to your practice?
You have come a long way in your professional learning so far, but you haven’t finished the journey. Topic 5 will support you in ways in which you could implement all that you have learnt in this learning pack to date, and it will help you think about your ongoing professional development as you travel into the future.