A few weeks ago now, I completed the ‘Transforming Teacher Education’ course with Sheffield Hallam University and the Education and Training Foundation.
One of our online weeks covered the topics of effective mentoring and these are my notes.
Trainees’ areas for development may consist of any or all of the following-
- Acquiring teacher expertise
- Understanding different situations
- Understanding how an institution works
- Acquiring a new approach to learning
- Overcome setbacks and obstacles
- Adjust to change
- Understand appropriate behaviour
- Develop personally
Trainees have a wide spectrum of development areas as they have the dual role of being both a student and a teacher.
Tutors on teacher education courses have a more coaching than mentoring role; they’re concerned with the tasks trainees need to complete and there’s an emphasis on feedback to enable them to perform better. Tutors will typically address their short-term needs.
Mentors of trainee teachers are focussed on capability and future progression of the trainee. It’s a relationship for life, or at least has real potential to be.
Tutors and mentors should ideally be working in tandem to help a trainee to adjust personally and professionally, as well as adjust to the context and culture they find themselves in.
Developing an effective relationship
Being mindful of ego states will be helpful for all parties in a mentoring relationship.
Whilst we will strive for an adult-adult relationship, there are moments we where we fall into being more of a parent, or even a child.
- Common niceties
- Sharing of information
- Sharing of opinions and ideas
- Sharing of beliefs and values
- Peak rapport
The levels have to be taken one at a time- we can’t skip to peak rapport; the relationship is built over time.
In order to bring a trainee along, we need to take the step first before other trainees feel it’s do-able for themselves. Once we share opinions and ideas for instance, then other people will feel it’s safe to do so.
Clear boundaries need to be maintained. As a teacher-educator, we don’t have to share everything so we should set boundaries in advance about what we’ll choose to share.
What might the consequences be for providing too little support to a trainee? How about too much? We need to work to get the balance right
Trainees will require different levels of support at different times. We won’t always get it right but it’s important to continue reflecting to get it right
Mentor-teacher educator relationship
When discussing the progress of a trainee, it should be discussed within an evidence-based model so that it doesn’t become about their personality.
It’s vital for each party to share honest and open feedback and thoughts about the trainees so that the trainee can be supported in the best way possible by both parties.
Forming a directive and stretching environment is important and can be achieved through coaching- we know what they need to do and help them achieve it. The relationship could be more nurturing at times as we’re moving them towards a future goal. At a point of high emotion (good or bad), it’s important to provide a nurturing and empathetic, non-directive manner. Our decision about what approach to use (coaching, guiding, empathy, networking – whether directive, non-directive, stretching or nurturing), should be based on the specific context at the time.
We watch a couple of observations from a secondary school to learn about different mentoring approaches. When observing trainees, making a minute by minute account of a lesson gives you things to speak about and demonstrates a thorough approach.
Some comments are more directive (where there’s something REQUIRED). Other comments are just much more coaching and stretching to help him think.
For me, the mentoring conversations I saw could have focussed far more on a teacher’s fixed mindset but also a range of areas were discussed with no single area of development prioritised- likely to lead to trainees being unclear about what action will have the greatest impact on trainees (see my learning from Match Education here).
Adjusting to change is as important for trainee teachers as skills and knowledge development.
Feedback is avoided- we’re often in denial. It can feel confrontational. It can also be difficult to hear- we respond emotionally but can be reluctant to share how we feel. BUT- if feedback doesn’t take pace then there is no change; no longer-term development takes place and teaching & students suffer.
- Pick your moment
- Make an accurate and short statement
- State the general (evidenced) case
- Say how it makes you feel
- What you want to happen
- Ask the trainee to respond
‘John, today, I noticed…’
‘I noticed’ can introduce evidence but also demonstrates to a trainee that we’ve been paying attention.
‘It makes me feel…’ demonstrates empathy
Share what point you want them to get to- through a coaching conversation
Do they feel like they can respond/act in the way agreed or not – if not, then what else might help?
Self-evaluation questions can help trainees to evaluate their progress
- What do you like about what you did?
- If you had the opportunity to teach this again, what might you do differently?
- What help do you need from me? (Take care not to fall into a parent-child relationship)
My concern with these questions was how far they focus on impact upon students (not very). I see it as vital that student teachers, early on in their career, are able to identify the impact they have on students. This way, their continued development and actions taken to improve their practice are more closely connected to impact on students.
A model that can be used for coaching rather than mentoring within the relationship is ‘GROW’, but it may also be helpful for trainees to use as self-assessment too.
Goal – what will success look like?
Reality– What have you already tried?
Options– What haven’t you tried yet?
Wrap up– ‘So what are you going to do?’
We were then give a trainee to respond to who had emailed us about workload and how far behind he felt he was on everything.
Thanks for contacting me.
This email is an important first step in getting back on track and so I appreciate your honesty.
This is not a unique situation to be in and whilst it is far from ideal, there are positive steps you can take almost straight away to feel more ‘on top’ of your workload.
1- Visioning for success
I’d like you to first of all take a step back and consider what ‘success’ looks and feels like with your workload. What point would you like to get to, by when and why? (It’s important to be realistic as well as hopeful for this activity). This exercise should get you into a state where you can see light at the end of the tunnel. It may also be helpful for you to think about times when you have felt this way before- what has lead to success in these situations? What approaches did you try that worked or didn’t?
It will then be helpful for you to write down all the things that are causing concern for you currently and prioritise them according to the level of urgency and importance (the Covey time management matrix shared on our VLE at the start of term might be of use here).
What have you tried already?- Make a list of everything you’ve tried so far (whether it’s worked or not)
What else could you try?- Now make a list of anything you’ve yet to try- consider where you’re trying to get work done, how you’re prioritising it, what time of day you’re working, distraction factors, how to de-stress so that you’re in the right frame of mind to work.
Support from me
Hopefully you should arrive at some short-term steps you can take. If not then let me know as I have some availability tomorrow afternoon and we could work through some approaches together.