The words coaching and mentoring seem to be regularly passing through my experience at the moment, partly as I am responsible for training mentors within a Teaching School Alliance and in my role as a university link tutor, but they also passed through a presentation by a colleague at Winchester University.
The role of a coach or mentor is focused on the person whom they are seeking to develop. The University example drew from sporting situations, where the guiding person is regularly seen as a coach.
Wondering what the difference is between a coach and a mentor, I came to the following conclusion; a coach is someone who supports development of discrete skills through exploration and improvement advice in each area, whereas a mentor, to me, signifies someone capable of nurturing a whole talent, always focused on the bigger goals, helping the trainee to maintain their own focus on agreed targets.
Being a coach and mentor is not unusual. Teacher mentors are, at one and the same time, coach and mentor, keeping the bigger picture in sight while exploring the details along the thinking journey. It is a positive, developmental eye kept on the process of becoming a teacher, as well as the outcomes.
Below is a diagram exploring the thinking process within teaching; based on the analyse, plan, do, review, record idea that I have explored in other posts. These statements link with the Teacher Standards as they currently exist; 2 Progress and outcomes (know your children), 4 Planning (order and organisation for lessons), 6 Assessment (thinking in and between lessons), 5 Adaptation (spotting needs and doing something about them). A return to 2 will be based on a more detailed understanding of the children, allowing subsequent information sharing and challenges to be more refined to needs and achievements.
The mentor role is to unpick the detail of each element within the whole, engaging in a reflective dialogue with the trainee, so that it can be put back together within the agreed lesson structure. I was introduced to the “whole-part-whole” approach by a PE inspector early in my career. While it can be overt in a PE lesson, it can also apply in any other learning situation.
The mentor is then needed as a sounding board for discussion of the process and the outcomes, with the trainee, as much as the mentor, identifying the areas where further reflection is needed.
Consider again; 2 Progress and outcomes (know your children), 4 Planning (order and organisation for lessons), 6 Assessment (thinking in and between lessons), 5 Adaptation (spotting needs and doing something about them).
The first (2) encompasses the whole of child development for the age groups being taught, across a wide range of subject areas within the Primary Curriculum.
Subject knowledge, standard 3, as a teacher must include the pedagogy of how to teach the subject, across the age range, understanding the steps that children have to take to acquire proficiency, selecting of appropriate vocabulary to aid the narrative of the lesson and also having a good understanding of the available resources that are available in and outside the school.
Standard 4, planning, needs to consider planning over different timescales, long, medium and short term, to ensure coverage, use and application of the known in challenges. Planning structures can be a variable between schools, and imposed structures can become limiting factors for individuals. Plans should support the order and organisation of learning.
Standards 6 and 5 may well have to be the subject of much coaching, as they constitute the thinking teacher skills, inside and between lessons; reacting to evident needs and doing something about them, to affect the learning dynamics for individuals, groups or the whole class. Checkpoints and interventions (please don’t call them plenaries) to need are positive. Just stopping the class to show that you can is a waste of time.
And then we’re back to 2, a reflection on the lessons from the lesson, that will guide decisions for the next lesson, where adaptation may be required. It’s the get it, got it, good approach to assessment; get it, move on; not got it, review next lesson before moving on.
The plan is for the trainee to enact and the mentor to oversee and provide a developmental commentary, together with personalised areas for further development, which, in the case of teaching, can be areas to reflect on, to read about or signposting to discuss with a knowledgeable colleague.
The mentor role will always be to make the trainee as good as they can be. Limitations can be very personal, in understanding the complexities within each of the simple statements, such as planning and subject knowledge. It’s sometimes like having all the jigsaw pieces but not a clear picture of how they fit together. That’s a significant part of mentoring; holding onto the bigger picture. They are, after all, good at their craft.
Shared experience is excellent CPD.