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Which skills do mentors need?

What are the key responsibilities, qualities, skills and experiences of expert mentors? Here, we share our perspective on mentoring expertise. 
© UCL Institute of Education

What are the key responsibilities, qualities, skills and experiences of expert mentors? In this article we share our perspective on mentoring expertise.

These key mentoring responsibilities, qualities, skills and experience were identified through extensive consultation with mentors within the UCL Institute of Education teacher education partnership. They identify the features of mentoring as a skilled professional practice. The list might support the selection of mentors in your school. It may also help self-evaluation by mentors and identify potential support and learning needs for mentors, related to their experience and expertise in mentoring.

Responsibilities

  • Support, develop and challenge ECTs to integrate theory and practice, developing their vision for effective teaching in their phase/specialism.
  • Enhance their own knowledge of how teachers learn and develop.
  • Support the well-being of ECTs and their capacity to manage workload and maintain a work-life balance.
  • Work with a support programme for ECTs to ensure high-quality provision of early career support, including participation in mentor learning opportunities.
  • Provide context-specific knowledge relating to the school/setting and their wider community.
  • Help ECTs to establish a career-long engagement with professional learning, supporting them in developing their values and beliefs.
  • Model an ongoing commitment to question, reflect upon and develop practice in collaboration with colleagues.

Qualities, skills and experience

Mentors will usually:

  • Be experienced phase/subject specialists.
  • Be enthusiastic and skilled teachers with excellent knowledge of pedagogy, their phase and/or their specialism.
  • Provide a highly supportive but challenging learning environment for ECTs.
  • Have a clear understanding of teacher learning and development.
  • Develop a culture of support and dialogue.
  • Encourage ECTs to critically consider the complexity of teaching and learning and not feel there is one ‘right’ way to teach.
  • Be committed to their own learning and development.
  • Encourage ECTs to reflect on their own practice and the practice of others.
  • Encourage engagement with literature in education.
  • Focus on the capabilities, well-being and potential of the ECT, and encourage creativity and supported risk-taking.
© UCL Institute of Education
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