Aspects of Mentoring
It may be useful to view a pre-service mentee as an apprentice. There are several aspects of work-based experience which relate closely to what we could call an apprentice model of mentoring (Maynard and Furlong 1995). For example, we would expect that the mentee would spend time observing experienced teachers. Such observations would include note-taking and would follow with discussion perhaps with both teacher and learners about their experience. Questions and reflections about the observed session would be important in helping to relate theory to practices. Shared planning, teaching and reflecting would also be a feature of this model of mentoring with an emphasis on a gradual approach to taking responsibility for a full session.
Considering the trainee as an apprentice will help to avoid the 'sink or swim' style of mentoring, where the trainee is simply left to flounder in the classroom, rather than having a measured approach which steers them steadily towards independence.
In summary then; some aspects of your mentor role may take on an apprenticeship approach and this approach would be characterised by:
• observation of the mentee with informal discussion and feedback
• the mentee observing you and discussing aspects of the session afterwards (your opportunity to exemplify reflective practice)
• joint preparation of sessions and team teaching
• a gradual approach to the mentee taking responsibility for planning and teaching
Furlong is a great supporter of learning by observing the professional. He suggests that
'…effective mentoring demands the adoption of a range of different pedagogical strategies at different stages of development. In the very earliest days in the classroom it seems that students are unlikely to be able to benefit from systematic training (behaviourist or not). The sheer complexity of classroom processes means that at the earliest stages students are unable to see in order to focus on particular competences. At those early stages, forms of collaborative teaching where students can model themselves on experienced teachers are likely to be far more effective than systematic training'. (Furlong, 1995 p.228)
The Competent Teacher
Both you and your mentee will need to be re-assured that they are reaching a level of competence appropriate to their stage of training and experience and one aspect of the mentor role is to guide the mentee towards competence and ensure that they are able to perform their role to the required standard. The LLUK provides guidance on the areas of competence that we would expect a trainee teacher to achieve on completion of their course.
Clutterbuck (2004) defines competence as 'the consistent, observable and measurable ability to perform a defined task or element of a task' (p. 43), so, a key part of your mentor role will be to observe and measure aspects of the trainee's role as a teacher and provide clear feedback. Your feedback should point out where improvements could be made and you should follow these through when you next see your mentee.
The University draws clear differences between mentoring and assessing, although you may find that you are acting in both roles. Regardless of this, the mentor's role will always include informal assessment to give the mentee clear guidelines about their development.
A simple feedback in the early stages of the trainee's placement would articulate the following:
• Three positive aspects of the session
• Three areas for improvement
These six points would form the basis for your meeting following the observation and from your reflective discussion you could then identify suggestions for improvement and dates when these will be implemented and observed by you. Remember Ofsted expect that our trainees will be sufficiently challenged to ensure their progress, and that they receive clear feedback on their strengths and areas for development supported by target setting.
The trainee will be required to complete eight formally observed assessments. Two of these may be undertaken by the mentor (see the Mentor Guide for more information) and six will be by a University of Bolton approved assessor. The last four of these observations will be graded to Ofsted criteria.
Practical and administrative aspects of the mentoring role
More detailed information on the mentoring role is provided in the 'Mentor Guide'. The following is provides a quick checklist of the minimum practical and administrative requirements of the mentoring role and it is recognised that many mentors will provide more comprehensive support than this:
• Inducting the trainee teacher
• Arranging regular meetings to discuss progress against targets
• Enabling appropriate teaching practice and verifying the mentee's recorded teaching hours log
• Observing the mentee and providing feedback, evidence of which should be in the mentee's Continuing Personal and Professional Development (CPPD) file for at least two such occasions (see the Mentor Guide)
• Liaising with the Tutor at University where there are matters of concern
• Completing the interim and final summary evaluations
Clutterbuck, D. (2004) Everyone Needs a Mentor London: CIPD
Furlong, J. The Limits of Competence in Kerry, T. and Mayes, A.S. (1995) Issues in Mentoring London: Routledge
Maynard, T. and Furlong, J. (1995) Learning to Teach and Models of Mentoring in Kerry, T. and Mayes, A.S. (1995) Issues in Mentoring London: Routledge
The Reflective Practitioner
It could be argued that the most important role of the mentor is to help mentees to develop new insights in to the way that they think and work. They need to engage in reflective thinking. Dewey's words sum up the essence of this vital aspect of teaching:
'Reflective thinking, in distinction from other operations to which we apply the name of thought, involves (1) a state of doubt, hesitation, perplexity, mental difficulty , in which thinking originates, and (2) an act of searching, hunting, inquiring, to find material that will resolve the doubt, settle and dispose of the perplexity.' (Dewey, 1933 p.12)
As a mentor, you need to consider how you can engage the mentee in useful, critical thinking and Lipman (2003, p. 52) provides us with a series of steps that could be employed in dealing with problematic situations. They are:
• Expression of feeling that there is a problem
• Identification of cause of feeling (formulation of problem)
• Choice of desired end-state or goal (formulation of purpose)
• Identification of means (devising of hypothesis)
• Anticipation of consequences
• Selection among alternatives
• Devising plan of operations
• Evaluation of effects
It may be useful to use these eight steps as a way of helping your mentee to think more deeply about the situations that arise during the course of their work-experience.
Reflective thinking may be encouraged in the following ways:
• Using the mentee's reflective journal as a starting point for analysing issues
• Arranging the mentoring session a day or so after the observation so that both the mentee and you have had time to consider the events.
• Using open questions which allow the mentee to formulate and articulate their thoughts
• Providing a quiet, uninterrupted environment with clearly allotted time so that there is no sense of rushing.
Dewey, J. (1933) How We Think, New York: Prometheus Books
Lipman, M. (2003) Thinking in Education Cambridge: Cambridge University Press