Charlotte Grace

Our teachers can only be as good as the mentors that support them. If we want our teachers to be excellent, we need to be prepared to support our mentors to be the best they can be.

However, there is a widely held assumption that if a teacher can teach students then they can teach their peers. Both research and experience show this is not necessarily true (e.g. Goodwin & Kosnick, 2013). No formal framework exists to prepare teacher educators but we have developed the Outwood Institute of Education (OIE) Mentor Award, with firm foundations in academic research, to give our mentors the support they need to develop an awareness that as mentors, they are teacher educators.

At OIE, we have successfully run the Mentor Award for a number of years, based firmly in improving the quality and consistency of mentoring across our partnership schools, but also giving proper recognition to the skills and qualities our mentors have and put into the mentoring process. In 2020, in a world of Covid-19, we have adapted this course for the virtual world. The move to remote learning has engaged mentors in a new and unique way, and our team has had the privilege of facilitating the professional development of over 170 delegates who engaged in the OIE Mentor Award during 2020.

Within this programme, we utilise academic research to inform practice in a way that is accessible to busy teachers. We discuss the fundamental ‘essentials’ of mentoring – based on John Loughran’s principles of effective teacher education (relationships, purpose and modelling, 2006). The Mentor Award also introduced the analysis framework of the Knowledge Quartet (Rowland et al), allowing mentors to make their often subconscious reasoning and implicit teaching decisions explicit; moving dialogue on from basic classroom management when early career teachers are ready for the next step. We considered the reflective cycles that become automatic within expert teachers, breaking this down so that mentors can work through these reflective cycles with their mentee.

We brought in the Professional Framework for Teacher Educators, developed by NASBTT, in order to demonstrate another powerful network that mentors can access and utilise, further strengthening their identity as teacher educators. To further support our mentors working remotely, we asked them for their ‘top tips’ to share with new mentors. We also introduced the ‘Inspirational Mentor Award’ to give recognition to those doing an outstanding job and whose mentees wanted to pass on a special thanks.

To move forward, we hope to share our good practice with others so that mentors feel fully supported in their roles as teacher educators. We continue to adapt our training and obtain feedback on the needs of our mentors and mentees, and discuss whether their needs have been met throughout the year. We will also continue to take good practice and resources to share with our mentors from NASBTT’s Teacher Educator and Mentoring Zone (TEMZ) in order to further develop our programme and ultimately ensure that our mentors feel supported, so that our early career teachers can flourish.

Charlotte Grace is Assistant Principal – Outwood Institute of Education, Teach North





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