The main purpose of mentoring in education is to support teachers and leaders to reflect critically on their knowledge, skills and dispositions in order to improve and enhance their practice and wellbeing.
Mentoring usually involves a one-to-one relationship where one teacher or leader mentors another who is less experienced. There are also more specific forms of mentoring such as peer mentoring, networks of mentoring, e-mentoring, and mentoring circles or networks.
Mentoring is most often associated with the induction of new and early career teachers, although ideally it should be available throughout a teacher’s career. As a teacher or leader progresses in their career, other forms of mentoring such as instructional coaching, peer mentoring or group mentoring may be more appropriate than a traditional model of a more experienced teacher/leader guiding a less experienced teacher/leader.
Research from New Zealand and around the world has found that mentoring can have positive impacts on teaching. Studies have reported that, in addition to new learning, mentors gained new perspectives, confidence in their own teaching and a re-invigoration of their teaching and professional identity. Mentees new to teaching benefit from emotional and psychological support that increases their confidence and morale. However, it is important to be aware that research about mentoring in educational settings is still in its developing stages and there is a lack of empirical evidence in this field.
It is important to recognise the range of expertise, skill and knowledge mentors require, and to ensure they receive appropriate training, support and resources. Leaders should also take care when setting up mentoring partnerships to ensure there is an appropriate match between mentor and mentee. Mentors can use a range of strategies to ensure that they provide appropriate pedagogical challenge and guidance as well as emotional and social support for mentees.
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