Answer to "How do you educate your mentors?"

 

Topic Editor: Lianne Loosveld

Aspfors and Fransson (2015) point out that they see mentoring as a specific profession within the teaching domain, of which competences must be acquired and practised before a teacher can actually be a good mentor. They also press that acquiring this new job in teaching must be properly guided, monitored and evaluated. Learning how to be a mentor used to be a ‘learning on the job skill’, but more and more institutes started to offer training to their new mentors (Aspfors & Fransson, 2015; Pfund, Maidl Pribbenow, Branchaw, Miller Lauffer, & Handelsman, 2006). In the eyes of Aspfors and Fransson (2015), mentor education is either/or:

  • A formal course that involves universities, faculty development organisations or researchers.

  • A professional development activity shaped by for example coaching or reflective seminars.

  • An action research project that involves mentors and researchers.

In addition to a more educational component, mentors themselves also express a need to be mentored; to be able to express their uncertainties and problems and get advice (Ramani, Gruppen & Krajic Kachur, 2006). Garvey (1995) concluded that the main development needs of mentors are: specific training (63%), opportunities to discuss mentoring with other mentors (63%) and access to materials on mentoring (55%).

Several other choices need to be made to set mentor education: structured or unstructured, optional or mandatory, with or without guidance, prolonged vs short-term and education on individual or group basis (Michael, 2008). Korthagen et al. (2006) emphasize that the traditional method of teacher development, namely lecturing of psychology, sociology and general education, might not suffice for mentoring. On the other hand, they do also warn that a more practical approach must not be overdone, transferring training into learning tricks from the old hands in the trade and skipping theory entirely. Training developers must take care to balance the line between a research-based approach and the practice-oriented approach, trying to offer faculty development in an educative way (Langdon, 2014) which is at the same time evidence based, practically applicable and preferably workplace-based.

 

Resources

Aspfors J, Fransson G (2015). Research on mentor education for mentors of newly qualified teachers: A qualitative meta-synthesis. Teaching Teacher Educ, 48: 75-86.

Garvey B (1995). Healthy Signs for Mentoring. Educ Train, 37(5): 12-19.

Korthagen F, Loughran J, Russell T (2006). Developing fundamental principles for teacher education programs and practices. Teaching Teacher Educ, 22: 1020-1041.

Langdon F (2014). Evidence of mentor learning and development: an analysis of New Zealand mentor/mentee professional conversations. Prof Dev Educ, 40: 36-55.

Michael O (2008). Mentoring mentors as a tool for personal and professional empowerment in teacher education. Int J Ev-Based Coach Ment, 6:1-18.

Pfund C, Maidl Pribbenow C, Branchaw J, Miller Lauffer S, Handelsman J (2006). Professional skills. The merits of training mentors. Science (New York, N.Y.), 311(5760):473-474.

Ramani S, Gruppen L, Krajic Kachur E (2006). Twelve tips for developing effective mentors, Med Teach, 28:404-408.

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