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Creating an environment where high quality mentoring can flourish

In this article, Caroline Daly summarises the challenges that school leaders and mentors have told us that they've faced around mentoring.

For mentoring to flourish, careful consideration must be given to supporting the process. This includes both the wider school environment and the details of the mentoring relationship itself. In this article we consider two important aspects of the mentoring relationship: initial contracting and responding when mentoring isn’t going smoothly.

Initial contracting
Mentoring involves a relationship between two individuals so it is important for mentors to give careful consideration to how this relationship will be fostered. The first mentor meeting is an opportunity to talk about your roles and responsibilities as a mentor and a mentee. It is where you begin to establish ways of working that focus on the ECT’s development. ‘Contracting’ refers to agreeing how you will work together and the commitments that each of you makes to supporting the process.

The following prompts should help you to plan for mentor sessions that are focused on ECT development. They could be used to inform an agenda for your first mentoring session with your ECT. You may be provided with agenda templates by an ECF provider, in which case you can review these to ensure the following issues are discussed. Both you and your ECT could refer to these prompts and add further ideas for how to maintain a developmental focus throughout the induction period.

  • How frequently will meetings be held? When and where will they take place? Will they follow lessons where you have observed the ECT teaching or will there be an interval for reflection before the post-lesson dialogue?
  • What preparation for mentor sessions will you as the mentor carry out?
  • What kinds of preparation will the ECT carry out?
  • How can you ensure the session gives ample time to the ECT to voice their experiences, their thinking about their needs and any ideas from the Early Career Framework which they have found relevant?
  • How will a record be kept of mentoring sessions and who will keep this record?
  • How will the record help to ensure the ECT fully understands their development needs, achievements and actions they can undertake?
  • How will the agenda items be decided, and how will you ensure the specific focus is on the ECT’s development needs, not aimed towards assessment against the Teachers’ Standards?
  • How will lesson observation feedback be discussed to acknowledge strengths and explore how to develop teaching?
  • What pedagogical methods will you use within the mentor sessions? A summary of pedagogical methods of teacher education is available to download at the end of this page.
  • How can mentor sessions be used to help the ECT sustain their capacity to learn? How will you ensure a regular discussion about their work-life balance and well-being?
  • Some new teachers can find it hard to discuss issues where they feel vulnerable. How will you foster a relationship in which the ECT feels able to raise issues that concern them?

Exercise: Resolving challenges to the mentoring relationship
Particularly for new mentors, it can be valuable to plan in advance how you might respond if the mentoring relationship isn’t proceeding as you’ve hoped. There are two cases available to download at the bottom of this page. In each case you can read about typical challenges experienced by mentors and use some prompt questions to shape your thinking about possible responses. We have included a short commentary on each case which you can refer to if you wish.

Case 1: ‘he’s not getting it’ is more suited to mentors with some previous experience.

Case 2: ‘it’s got to come from her’ is more suited to new mentors.

In the next two steps you can hear from ECTs about their experiences of learning through the ECF. Consider how you might set up your mentoring environment to maximise opportunities for effective learning and positive relationships, right from the start.

© UCL Institute of Education
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