Mentoring styles and your beliefs and values

The previous sections should have given you some insight into the type of mentor you wish to be. This section explores some different models of mentoring. As you read through these, think about which you recognise in yourself and which you aspire to be like.

Trevethan (2017) described a number of mentoring models, namely:

  • • The traditional model
  • • The reflective practitioner model
  • • The learning partnership model.

The traditional model (Bullough and Draper, 2004) is categorised as a supervisory one. It can be viewed as a triad between a beginning teacher, the school mentor and a third party, often a university tutor, but can be from school-based training provider, in, for example, School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) or Teach First. This is shown in Figure 2.2.

In this traditional model the beginning teacher acts in a subordinate role accepting instruction from the school mentor, whereby the school mentor models teaching. The ITE provider exists to moderate the interactions taking place and is slightly removed from the process.

The reflective practitioner model (Ethel and McMeniman, 2000) is one that you may be more familiar with and recognise as typical mentoring. In this model, a mentor is meant to be a reflective practitioner in order to effectively support and nurture the beginning teacher to develop and become resilient and reflective themselves. This allows the beginning teacher to prepare for uncertainties, adopt and acquire attributes and abilities needed to deal with the complexity of teaching. However, French and Raven (1960) noted that the mentor in this model still acts as an expert and has a powerful influence over the beginning teacher as they do in the traditional model.

The learning partnership model is a more realised version of the reflective practitioner model in that it espouses the mentor's own development by developing a learning community (Le Cornu, 2010; McIntyre, Hagger and Hagger, 1993). Here, the mentor acts as a trusted colleague to the beginning teacher and the classroom is viewed as a place of inquiry. This allows both participants in the relationship to learn how to develop their teaching practices (Langdon, 2014). McDonald and Flint (2011) aptly noted that the mentor in this model would use a constructivist approach (Piaget, 1952), thus establishing prior knowledge and using explorative questioning to support both their own and the beginning teacher's development. These styles therefore describe not only the process of mentoring but also the outcome of

The traditional model of mentoring such styles used by a mentor

Figure 2.2 The traditional model of mentoring such styles used by a mentor. Task 2.6 is designed to help you identify your preferred style of mentoring. By now you should have a sense of how your beliefs and values and thus your style of mentorship impact and inform you behaviour.

Task 2.6 Which is your preferred style of mentoring?

Reflect on the three styles of mentoring (traditional, reflective and the learning partnership model) by answering the following guestions:

  • 1. What are the pros and cons of each style? Perhaps use a table to organise your thoughts.
  • 2. How do your beliefs and values fit with the description of the models?
  • 3. Do you see yourself as fitting into one of these styles or do you think they are useful at different stages of mentoring?

Teacher beliefs and values and its impact on you as a mentor

Your beliefs and values give voice to the person you are, but specifically those aspects of your character that guide your decisions as a teacher and as a mentor. Your mentoring role is bound up in who you are as a teacher. The next two sections explore some significant influences on these.

Cultural beliefs

There are influences that are so pervasive that they colour not only your decisions as a teacher but also as a person. For example, religious beliefs and aspects of culture rooted in your socio-economic background. It is said that teachers' beliefs are the most important psychological construct in teachers’ education and it is these beliefs that are the best indicator for pedagogic decisions. Therefore, beliefs influence a teacher's perception and conse-guently their behaviour in the classroom (Pajares, 1992). You will need to make a conscious choice about the degree to which you feel these beliefs are part of your own philosophy of teaching and awareness of these will help you to reflect on the decisions you make as a mentor. Self-awareness of your beliefs and values allows choices to be made about what impact these beliefs have on your mentoring role. For example, beliefs about the efficacy of practical work or the use of games in learning science could shape advice you give to a beginning teacher.

Other external forces

Mediating factors exist that generate barriers to any personal belief system. They prevent an individual enacting their beliefs. Structural and relational aspects of a school, such as work overload, working conditions, pupil behaviour and lack of resources may all mitigate against this enactment. You need to negotiate these, considering which impact the way you want to carry out your mentoring role. You may, for example, need to speak to colleagues to support you to obtain a suitable space for mentoring discussions, time for reflection and space to make contacts with the beginning teacher effective. Some of these may be out of your control and it is useful to acknowledge this.

However, there are influences over which you do have autonomy. Most science teachers are concerned about what kind of science teacher they should be (Wolf-Watz, 2000). For example, the amount of practical work and the degree to which they try to link scientific knowledge to the everyday experiences of their pupils. Another factor highlighted in the work of Wolf-Watz (2000) was the prevailing conception on the nature of boys' and girls’ learning, and whether boys prefer technology more than girls. Knowing how you respond to these and other considerations will allow you to reflect on the degree to which you shape and mediate between your own beliefs on teaching and those which you relay to a beginning teacher as best practice. Decisions need to be made about the extent to which your own beliefs and values are communicated both consciously and subconsciously in the advice shared with a beginning teacher and the decision you make in your mentoring role.

Task 2.7 Your beliefs: Teaching and mentoring

  • 1. What do you consider to be the keystones to your philosophy of teaching and teaching science? For example, the value you place on practical work, group work and discussion. You may wish to consider teaching and teaching science separately or think about them holistically. Write a list of these.
  • 2. Once you have listed these, ask yourself how much of this you would want to impart into your mentoring and if this would be a conscious effort to direct the teaching style of a beginning teacher or if you would explain your motivations for holding these beliefs and allow the beginning teacher to explore these alongside their own beliefs.
  • 3. What are the structural barriers you may encounter in your role as a mentor?
  • 4. How will you deal with those times of the year when your capacity to act as the mentor and teacher you want to be, are challenges by tiredness and stress?

Summary and key points

This chapter has highlighted that knowing a little more about yourself allows you to:

  • • Analyse your motivations and readiness to mentor beginning teachers
  • • Identify what good mentoring means to you
  • • Have a sense of self and how it impacts on your mentoring role
  • • Understand mentoring styles and their relationship to your beliefs and values
  • • Reflect on what your beliefs and values say good mentoring and teaching is
  • • Understand teacher beliefs and values and their impact on you as a mentor.

This will enable you to choose how much of your own teaching values and beliefs you impart to a beginning teacher and also how these can influence ongoing decisions you make.

Becoming more self-aware means you can reflect on and more consciously formulate the kind of mentor you want to become and how this can best benefit a beginning teacher under your care and guidance. Ultimately, though, the mentoring journey will also enable you to better build upon your own ideas about teaching and what good teaching and mentoring is.

Further resources

DfE (Department for Education) (2016b) National Standards for School-based Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Mentors, London: DfE, viewed 20 January 2020 from: https://assets.publishing. standards_report_Final.pdf

These are the DfE standards for mentors of beginning teachers in England. They make for interesting reading and you may well want to reflect to what extent they support your own values and beliefs about mentoring.

NERIS Analytics Limited (2020) 16 Personalities: Personality Test, viewed 2 January 2020 from:

Not only will this resource give you guidance about your own personality traits, but it will also allow you to explore those of others, enabling you to better understand the kind of person you are mentoring and those with whom you need to form relationships, such as your line manager and your subject lead.

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