Mentoring and coaching

September 7, 2016

Mentoring and coaching are two evidence-based approaches to professional growth that can provide teachers and administrators, whether new or experienced, with support and practice in order to increase effectiveness and master new skills.

Laurie-ann M. Hellsten, Michelle P. Prytula, Althea Ebanks and Hollis Lai in Teacher Induction: Exploring Beginning Teacher Mentorship in a 2009 issue of the Canadian Journal of Education, state that mentorship, or the mentoring of novice teachers by experienced teachers, assists in the transition from student to full-fledged teacher. It also reduces isolation, enhances coping skills and increases retention. They also point out that mutual learning, respect and strong interpersonal skills are integral to a successful mentoring relationship.

Bridging the Professional Learning Gap: Enhancing the Beginning Teacher Experience Through an Induction-by-Mentoring Model, a 2015 McDowell Foundation report by Lynn Lemisko, Laurie-ann M. Hellsten and Carol Demchuk-Kosolofski, shares key insights around the sustainability and promising results of this made-in-Saskatchewan model.

Mentoring Teachers: Navigating the Real-World Tensions, by Ann Lieberman, Susan Hanson and Janet Gless, is an excellent guide which focuses on building a mentoring identity, developing trusting relationships, fostering teacher development, mentoring in challenging contexts and learning leadership skills.

Supporting New Teachers: A How-To Guide for Leaders, by Lynn F. Howard; Mentoring as Collaboration: Lessons From the Field for Classroom, School, and District Leaders, by Mary Ann Blank and Cheryl A. Kershaw; and Powerful Partnerships: A Handbook for Principals Mentoring Assistant Principals, by Gary Bloom and Martin L. Krovetz, provide numerous approaches for helping beginning teachers and administrators develop confidence, competence and professional skills.

A book that bridges mentoring and coaching is When Mentoring Meets Coaching: Shifting the Stance in Education, by Kate Sharpe and Jeanie Nishimura. The authors argue that coaching, which is another proven way of building professional capacity, can also enhance mentoring. Thoughtful suggestions for developing the mentor-coach’s skills related to listening deeply, asking impactful questions, navigating challenging conversations, and offering and inviting feedback are provided.

Stating that coaching is an essential leadership behaviour, Michael Bungay Stanier, in his book The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever, describes an engaging model of coaching that is based on seven types of core questions that can assist in developing an impactful coaching habit. Practical tools and sample questions are also provided.

Student-Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Coaches and Principals, by Diane Sweeney, emphasizes setting specific targets for students that are rooted in curriculum and working collaboratively with teachers to improve student learning. Suggestions for setting up the coaching program, crafting a culture of learning, engaging the adult learner, and developing systems and structures for teacher learning are included.

Coaching teachers in specific subject areas is featured in other books. The Mathematics Coaching Handbook: Working With K-8 Teachers to Improve Instruction, by Pia M. Hansen, provides advice on designing professional development and on using online chats and book studies. Collaborative Coaching for Disciplinary Literacy: Strategies to Support Teachers in Grades 6-12, by Laurie Elish-Piper, Susan K. L’Allier, Michael Manderino and Paula Di Domenico, presents coaching strategies to use with individuals and with small and large groups.

Nina Morel’s Learning From Coaching: How Do I Work With an Instructional Coach to Grow as a Teacher? answers common questions teachers have about entering into coaching relationships and includes ideas for setting goals and evaluating success.

As these books attest, effective mentoring and coaching programs have a positive impact on teacher and principal success, which in turn is directly related to student success.

To borrow these and other resources, please visit the Stewart Resources Centre webpage.