During Autumn 2004, nine ITT centres started developing models for improving mentoring practice in their institutions. In 2005 they were joined by a much larger group looking for new ways to deal with initial assessment, ILPs and teacher observation practice. These were part of a Department for
Education and Skills (DFES Standards Unit programme of work commission reforming ITT for the
Learning and Skills sector)
ACER (The Association of Colleges in the Eastern Region) were asked to manage the evaluation of the DFES ITT pilots project and to commission an independent team of evaluators to work with the pilot centres and to evaluate their progress.
The project managed:-
The process of Action Research projects for ITT
The development of outcomes – a model which was piloted/ field tested
The centres and partners with a range of contexts and varied aspirations
Structure and Organisation
Policy and Guidelines in the organisation need to state clearly how the mentoring scheme will work, who is entitled to mentoring, roles and responsibilities of mentors and mentees and how this fits with other forms of support, eg coaching, induction, appraisal and so on.
Guidance should be given to mentors and mentees on the parameters of their role and relationship.
This will help to avoid conflict with other members of ITT teams.
The ‘Whole organisational’ approach to mentoring enables ITT mentoring to sit within a suite of other support. The advantages of this are that difficulties or challenges (and examples of good practice) are not seen in isolation and can be approached using a number of interventions and strategies as appropriate.
Any mentoring scheme needs to be costed out. In order to be effective mentors need time within their job to carry out the role effectively.
Providers need to meet the needs of their ITT staff whether they train in-house or not. The move to a workplace focus in ITT in the future suggests that all providers will need to undertake mentoring of their workforce.
The Process of Mentoring
Mentoring works best
when mentors and mentees are clear about the purpose and structure of mentoring within their organisation when it’s based on a Reflective Practitioner model when mentors and mentees stress the developmental approach rather than an assessment model. The former encourages disclosure and experimentation
Mentees are more likely to ask for support if mentors ‘have the time’
There is no consensus on the use of documentation. A lot or a little is used in various organisations but mentees are happiest when they have ownership.
It is important to consider whether documentation is simply a record of meetings or does it enable reflective practice?
Documentation lends formality and is evidence that mentoring is taking place and will enable quality assurance.
Confidentiality is an issue.
Selection of Mentors
There were a variety of models within institutions. Mentors were sometimes chosen and sometimes volunteered. The selection and rewarding of mentors was found to be the key to quality. Time was often rated as of higher importance than money and the role often carried an intrinsic reward for mentors.
Training was found to be very useful including:-
Clarity over roles
The benefits of mentoring
How to initiate a reflective dialogue
The use of helpful questioning
Co-ordinator support was welcomed as was peer support
If confidentiality needed to be broken it must be agreed with the mentee. An action plan was found to be useful in this instance.
The Role of the Mentor
A coach focusing on specific learning skills and strategies
A critical friend helping and encouraging the student teacher
A facilitator linking with their teachers, managers and departments
What makes a good mentor?
Being welcoming, warm and accepting
Giving space and encouragement
Putting oneself in the student’s place
Giving constructive feedback
In the early stages offering more advice and guidance but then moving towards peer mentoring as the student teacher gains in confidence and experience