10 Mentoring and coaching
10.1 The TSF report stated that "Mentoring is central to professional development at all stages in a teacher's career and all teachers should see themselves as mentors not just of students and newly qualified teachers but more generally. The required skills should be developed and refreshed through initial teacher education, induction and CPD." In addition, the review advised that "...every teacher will be engaged in professional dialogue with peers. Mentoring and coaching skills enable much more effective dialogue and learning to take place within groups of teachers and with stakeholders and partners."
10.2 This section explores mentoring and coaching in the context of CLPL for teachers. Mentoring during student placements and probation is discussed separately in the Probation chapter section 6.12.
What's working well?
Increased mentoring and coaching activity
10.3 There has been a substantial increase in the number of teachers participating in mentoring/coaching since 2010. When asked 'Which professional learning activities have you participated in during the last full academic year?', 37% of all teachers in the 2015 survey said they had participated in mentoring/coaching, compared with 20% in the 2010 survey.
10.4 The findings also suggest that teachers' are finding it beneficial. The more that teachers had received mentoring/coaching support, the more they felt it had a positive impact on their practice: most of those who said they had received 'a great deal' reported that it had 'a great deal' of impact on their practice; those that had received 'a fair amount' said that it had a 'fair amount' of impact; and those that had 'a little' said it had 'a little' impact.
10.5 Participants in the qualitative research also indicated that they had found mentoring/coaching from colleagues helpful. In addition, they felt that acting as a mentor/coach benefited them, as well as the recipient, as it encouraged them to reflect on their own practice.
Links with leadership and increased provision of professional learning opportunities
10.6 There were also indications from the qualitative research of an increased interest in, and increased provision of, professional learning opportunities to develop mentoring and coaching skills. This is driven, in part, by the increased focus on leadership. Participants (head teachers and deputes in particular), saw mentoring and coaching as one of the key components of leadership and, when talking about developing their leadership skills, they often talked about training in mentoring and coaching.
10.7 Class teachers who were mentors to students and probationers also linked mentoring and coaching with leadership - seeing their mentoring/coaching role as a form of leadership.
10.8 LA leadership programmes often included mentoring and coaching modules and several LA representatives identified mentoring and coaching as one of their priorities for development.
What are the challenges?
Mentoring/coaching still not widespread
10.9 However, despite the increase in activity and interest in developing mentoring and coaching skills, there is still a long way to go before all teachers see themselves as mentors and all teachers are benefitting from mentoring.
10.10 When asked 'To what extent do your colleagues provide mentoring/coaching support for your professional learning?', most teachers (61%) indicated that they were receiving little or no mentoring: 15% said 'not at all', 47% 'a little', 30% 'a fair amount' and 8% 'a great deal'. There was little difference by grade although depute head teachers were slightly more likely to be receiving it: 49% said 'a fair amount'/'a great deal' compared with 38% overall. The qualitative research suggests they are receiving it from their head teachers. Supply teachers were least likely to be receiving it: 38% said 'not at all' compared with 15% overall.
10.11 Moreover, only a third of class teachers currently see themselves as a mentor/coach to their colleagues (Figure 10.1).This compares with 77% of principal teachers, 92% of depute head teachers and 96% of head teachers.
10.12 It is worth noting that more teachers felt they had the skills to mentor/coach than were currently seeing themselves this way. So, although opportunities to increase mentoring/coaching skills are required, there is already a degree of untapped potential.
Figure 10.1: Seeing themselves as mentors and having skills to mentor
Base: Class teachers (not including probationers) (2736)
Different interpretations of mentoring and coaching
10.13 One of the issues to emerge from the qualitative research, which may partly explain why more teachers don't see themselves as mentors, is a lack of a shared understanding of what constitutes 'mentoring' and 'coaching'. Some saw mentoring and coaching as something that teachers who are more senior and experienced would do with staff for whom they have a line management responsibility (e.g. head teachers with depute head teachers, principal teachers with non-promoted teachers), or something that more experienced teachers would do with students, probationers and early career teachers. In other words, it is something that a more experienced/senior teacher does with a less experienced teacher - rather than something that peers would do with each other or that less experienced teachers would do with more experienced colleagues. This somewhat hierarchical perception of mentoring and coaching may be perpetuated by the fact that many mentoring and coaching courses are linked with leadership programmes or are aimed at student/probationer supporters.
10.14 At the opposite end of the spectrum, there was a view that almost any professional dialogue equated to 'mentoring' and 'coaching'. The potential problem with this interpretation is that it misses a crucial aspect of the TSF report point about professional dialogue - which was not that professional dialogue is mentoring or coaching but that "mentoring and coaching skills enable much more effective dialogue and learning". Teachers with this interpretation were therefore less likely to reflect on the mentoring/coaching skills aspect of different forms of professional dialogue or to be consciously trying to develop their skills in this area.
Key area for consideration
- Develop a common understanding of what mentoring and coaching is within the profession
- Raising awareness of the benefits of coaching and mentoring skills for ALL teachers
Email: James Niven
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