This chapter by Lesley-Anne Pearson is taken from How to Achieve Your QTS (Denby (ed) 2008) and is aimed at student or trainee teachers. It is explicitly linked to QTS Standards Q8 and Q9.
For a novice teacher, at the beginning of their training, the introductory paragraph in this chapter might be off-putting, rather than encouraging ("Ultimately you must be open to criticism from other teachers and be able to respond to this. This process is often referred to as coaching and mentoring" (p.51)), and there seems to be some blurring of meaning between the use of the word ‘criticism' and the concept of critical reflection which is also referred to in this introduction. Given that these concepts are sometimes difficult for student or trainee teachers to disentangle in the early stages of training, this use of language may be slightly unfortunate.
However, thereafter the tone of the chapter takes a much more positive view of coaching and mentoring. It aims to equip student or trainee teachers to respond positively and effectively to mentoring and coaching activity in schools, through outlining the essential features of mentoring and coaching and offering suggestions for maximising learning opportunities. A key theme running through the chapter is that of focused reflection on practice, and the importance of the student or trainee teacher being able to identify the next stage of their professional learning.
The chapter begins with a brief discussion of the distinction between mentoring and coaching, suggesting that "coaching helps performers to unlock their ability by learning with someone, while mentoring is provided by someone from whom performers learn"(p.52). However, the chapter frequently uses both terms together in relation to the range of activities that student or trainee teachers might undertake, for example in discussing the use of collaborative teaching: "Good coaches and mentors should encourage you to plan and teach collaboratively and should be prepared to model activities" (p.57). This makes it harder for the reader to understand the distinction between these roles. Other literature on mentoring, including the National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching (DCSF 2005), Yeomans & Sampson (1994) identify coaching as an element of mentoring activity with student or trainee teachers (for example), as well as an activity in its own right. However, the range of roles that a mentor might adopt during the process of teacher training are not discussed in this chapter.
Within the chapter, the student or trainee teacher is encouraged to be self-motivated and active in identifying the next stages in their learning. Helpful advice is given to support observation in other teachers' classrooms, including a reminder that teachers' and pupils' rights should be respected during the process, and that sensitivities should be respected. There is a useful checklist of questions to support self-review in lesson evaluations, and a reminder that it is important to identify good features of the lesson as well as areas for improvement. Similarly, in relation to target setting, sound advice is given in terms of not trying to do too much at once, and in ensuring that the targets agreed with the mentor are developed by the student or trainee teacher and not specified or imposed by the mentor.
This chapter thus presents a view of the good mentor as a facilitator, as one who develops an atmosphere of trust, and encourages the learner to take risks and try out new ideas (p.53); someone who encourages the student or trainee teacher to make their own choices and mistakes (p.54); someone who works collaboratively and models activities without expecting the student or trainee teacher to act as a ‘clone' of their practice, and someone who avoids over-direction or controlling behaviour. This seems a far cry from the notion of ‘criticism' indicated in the introductory paragraph.
No reference is made to the role of the mentor as an assessor against the QTS standards, as this is not the purpose of the chapter. Other than in the introductory paragraph, the tone is positive and motivational, although it is likely that student or trainee teachers will have been offered very similar information and advice by their training provider. This chapter could be a useful adjunct to such other materials, and might help to present engagement with mentoring and coaching during the process of initial teacher education as a positive, developmental process, as well as an evaluative one.
DCSF (2005) National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching
Yeomans R and Sampson J (Eds) (1994) Mentorship in the Primary School. London, Falmer Press