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Foundational theories of mentoring: ONSIDE mentoring

In this article, Caroline Daly outlines the ONSIDE model of mentoring that can be used to support ECTs.
© UCL Institute of Education
So far you have reflected on your personal vision of mentoring. This may be influenced by training you have had around mentoring, and/or by models of mentoring that you have encountered in literature. Models of mentoring are coherent frameworks that structure thinking and practice around mentoring. In last week’s material we mentioned that some of the ECF lead providers have built into their programmes their understanding of instructional coaching. This is one model of coaching/mentoring*. On the IOE’s Early Career Teacher programme we draw on two models of mentoring: ONSIDE mentoring and educative mentoring.
Onside mentoring
ONSIDE mentoring is a model of mentoring that was developed by Andy Hobson (2016), based on five research studies of mentoring and professional learning and a review of international research evidence. Hobson insists that a model for mentoring ECTs should be based on broad and well-balanced research evidence that is concerned with getting the balance right between supporting and challenging ECTs. ONSIDE mentoring is based on building trust and moves between the mentor working alongside the ECT as an ally and also being directive and giving advice when needed. It calls for a high degree of professional judgement from the mentor about increasing the opportunities for mentees to have agency over their development and take risks in order to learn.
Mentoring is / should be… Mentoring should not…
Off-line (i.e., separated from line-management or supervision) and non-hierarchical Occur within hierarchical and power relationships – e.g. where mentors formally assess the work of mentees. This makes it difficult to establish relational trust and for mentees to openly share their professional learning and development needs with mentors.
Non-evaluative and non-judgemental Be evaluative or judgemental, which can also impede the establishment or maintenance of a trusting relationship between mentor and mentee, and (partly in consequence) impede mentees’ professional learning, development and well-being.
Supportive of mentees’ psychosocial needs and well-being Focus solely on mentees’ ‘performance’ or the development of their capability with no consideration for mentees’ emotional or psychological state or their well-being. The latter are both important in their own right and impact on mentees’ capacity to learn and develop.
Individualised — tailored to the specific and changing needs (emotional as well as developmental) of the mentee Be one-size-fits-all, since any given mentoring strategy will be more or less relevant to and produce different (positive or negative) responses in/from different mentees.
Developmental and growth-oriented — seeking to promote mentees’ learnacy and provide them with appropriate degrees of challenge Be solely or selectively deployed as a remedial strategy to ‘correct’ perceived deficiencies in professional practice. This can discourage mentees from taking advantage of the ‘support’ of mentors, and encourage them to fabricate their learning and development needs.
Empowering — progressively non-directive to support mentees to become more autonomous and agentic (Normally) be directive, in which mentors provide ‘solutions’ rather than supporting mentees to find their own, and which accords mentees little autonomy and agency. This encourages mentees’ dependency on the mentor and does not promote learnacy.

Optional exercises
If this model interests you, consider completing one or both of the exercises below.
Reading research exercise
Read Hobson’s research explaining the ONSIDE model. Who else in your school should read this article, to establish shared aims for mentoring ECTs? Pass it on and suggest a discussion as part of professional development for mentors.
Reflection exercise
Look at the table above that summarises the ONSIDE mentoring model.
  1. Consider each component of the model. How did your own experience as a ECT compare to each of them?
  2. How do the components compare with current practice of mentoring ECTs in your school?
  3. What specifically needs to change to adopt ONSIDE mentoring in your context?
  4. Who needs to be involved in making the changes?

You’re now ready to move on to the next step.
*A note if you’re interested in learning more about instructional coaching: the term is used quite differently by different training providers, so it’s important to be clear about how it influences in practice any programme that you’re interested in following.
© UCL Institute of Education
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