ERIC Identifier: ED460125
Publication Date: 2001-11-00
Author: Huling, Leslie - Resta, Virginia
Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education Washington DC.
Teacher Mentoring as Professional Development. ERIC Digest.
Teacher mentoring programs have dramatically increased since the early 1980s
as a vehicle to support and retain novice teachers. The vast majority of what
has been written about mentoring has focused on what mentors should believe and
do in their work with novice teachers. The professional literature typically
describes the benefits for novice teachers (Odell and Huling, 2000). However,
facilitators of mentoring programs and researchers are recognizing that mentors
also derive substantial benefits from the mentoring experience (Resta, Huling,
White and Matschek, 1997; David, 2000; Holloway, 2001). The professional
development benefits of the mentoring experience for the mentor teacher are the
focus of this digest.
The idea that mentors derive benefits from mentoring is not completely new.
As early as the mid-1980s, a few educators were beginning to examine this
question. For example, in a 1986 study of 178 mentor teachers, more than
two-thirds responded "definitely" to the statement that participation in the
mentoring programs "provided positive professional growth for me" (Hawk,
1986-87, p. 62). When mentors were asked to elaborate upon the ways they grew
professionally, more than half of them (N=91) did so with responses falling into
three categories: (1) forced me to focus on and improve my own classroom
teaching skills; (2) made me aware of the need for educators to communicate with
each other; and (3) helped me better understand the principal and central office
supervisors' roles. These findings led Hawk to conclude that "educators should
look not only at the direct effects that teacher induction programs have on
beginning teachers, but also at residual effects that such programs have on all
involved professionals" (Hawk, 1986-87, p. 62).
Since 1986, only a few studies have focused on the primary question of mentor
benefits, but a considerable number of researchers and mentor program evaluators
have reported mentor benefits in the realm of unanticipated or secondary
positive effects. This body of work will be briefly examined in a broader
discussion of how mentoring contributes to the ongoing professional development
of experienced educators.
Professional competency. As mentor teachers
assist their protegees in improving their teaching, they also improve their own
professional competency. Several studies have documented the positive effects of
mentoring on the mentors themselves (Gordon and Maxey, 2000). The quality of
teaching by mentors improves (Yosha, 1991). Mentors benefit by applying
cognitive coaching skills with their students such as listening, asking
inquisitive questions, providing non-judgmental feedback, and by reassessing
their classroom management (Clinard and Ariav, 1998). Mentor teachers frequently
characterize working closely with beginning teachers as a source of new ideas
about curriculum and teaching (Ganser, 1997). In a study of 542 mentors in New
York City, mentors reported that their interns helped them by giving them
feedback on demonstrations and by sharing literature, teaching techniques,
curriculum, and lesson plans (Mei, 1993).
Reflective Practice. Mentors report that mentoring has forced them to be
reflective about their own beliefs about teaching, students, learning, and
teaching as a career. It also provided them with opportunities to validate the
experience they have gained over the years (Ganser, 1997). Mentors find that
just as teachers learn more about their subject by teaching, so analyzing and
talking about teaching is a natural opportunity to deepen teaching sensitivity
and skill (Tomlinson, 1995). Critically reflective mentors find that they are
more focused in their mentoring relationships; they bring expanded energy, take
more informed action, and are generally more satisfied with their mentoring
relationships. Reflective practice in mentoring can also provide an opportunity
for renewal and regeneration necessary for all adults. The drive toward
generativity is an essential antidote to the threat of stagnation in the adult
years (Daloz, 1999; Stevens, 1995).
Renewal. A number of researchers have reported that mentors experience
professional renewal, are re-energized, and often strengthen their commitment to
the teaching profession (Ford and Parsons, 2000; Steffey, Wolfe, Pasch, and Enz,
Psychological Benefits. The benefits of mentoring are both career-related and
psychological. Mentoring enhances mentors' self-esteem (Wollman-Bonilla, 1997).
The experience of mentoring empowers experienced teachers and gives them a
greater sense of significance in their world (Carger, 1996). Mentors derive
satisfaction from helping less experienced colleagues (Scott, 1999). Mentors
frequently describe their mentoring contribution as a way of giving back to the
teaching profession (Boreen, Johnson, Niday and Potts, 2000).
Collaboration. Mentors report that continued contact with mentees provides
some of their richest collegial interactions (Boreen, Johnson, Niday, and Potts,
2000). A number of researchers have noted the growth of veteran teachers'
self-esteem as they engage in mentoring (Ford, and Parsons, 2000; Mei, 1993;
Scott, 1999). Interviews with urban mentor teachers revealed that they felt a
sense of increased confidence and maturity in dealing with other adults, a more
clearly defined set of beliefs about teaching and curriculum, and more
objectivity in reflecting on their own teaching as a result of mentoring
(Freiberg, Zbikowski, and Ganser, 1996).
Contributions to Teacher Leadership. Mentor training and experiences can
build mentors' capacity for leadership through structured professional
development including training and experience in classroom observation and
coaching skills. Mentors become recognized for their valuable knowledge and
expertise in these areas and are sought out for various campus and district
leadership roles. It is not uncommon for mentors to move into leadership
positions as a result of their success as mentors, and it is often the case that
they are more effective in these new positions because of the training and
insights they received as mentors. For example, Freiberg found that at the end
of their tenure as mentors, 100 percent of the mentors in her study were offered
unsolicited positions as a result of their experience in the mentoring program,
and the positions offered provided opportunities to build on what they had
learned as mentors or combined elements of mentoring and teaching (Freiberg,
Zbikowski and Ganzer, 1996).
Mentoring Combined with Inquiry. Working with new teachers can lead mentors
to participate in university research projects or teacher research. Mentors who
participate in inquiry critically examine their own practice, which can lead to
a heightened awareness of the complexity of teaching (Stanulis and Weaver,
IMPLICATIONS FOR ADMINISTRATORS
The benefits of mentoring
programs are substantial for both novice and mentor teachers. This reality has
important implications for funding decisions made by administrators and staff
development personnel. Principals need to understand that creating a structure
that allows experienced teachers to work with novice teachers will ultimately
benefit the students of both novices and mentors, and the overall organization
will be stronger as a result of the increased capacity of teachers serving as
mentors. As staff developers grow in their understanding of comprehensive
professional development that extends well beyond training workshops, they can
begin to embrace mentoring programs not only as a valuable resource for novice
teachers, but also as a growth-promoting experience for mentors as well. When
administrators grapple with funding decisions related to mentoring programs,
they need to recognize the dual benefits of their investments. Finally, because
mentors can exert substantially greater influence on the school organization
than novices, the benefits mentors derive from mentoring may be of equal, or
even greater, importance than those experienced by novice teachers.
References identified with an EJ or ED number
have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should
be available at most research libraries; most documents (ED) are available in
microfiche collections at more than 900 locations. Documents can also be ordered
through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (800-443-ERIC).
Boreen, J., Johnson, M. K., Niday, D., & Potts, J. (2000). Mentoring
beginning teachers: guiding, reflecting, coaching. York, Maine: Stenhouse
Carger, C.L. (1996). The two Bills: Reflecting on the gift of mentorship.
Peabody Journal of Education, 71(1), 22-29.
Cheng, M. & Brown, R. (1992). A two-year evaluation of the peer support
pilot project. Evaluation/Feasibility Report, Toronto Board of Education. ED 356
Clinard, L. M. & Ariav, T. (1998). What mentoring does for mentors: A
cross-cultural perspective. European Journal of Teacher Education, 21(1),
Cox, M.D. (1997). Walking the tightrope: The role of mentoring in developing
educators as professionals, in Mullen, C.A.. In M.D. Cox, C.K. Boettcher, &
D.S. Adoue (Eds.), Breaking the circle of one: Redefining mentorship in the
lives and writings of educators. New York: Peter Lang.
Daloz, L. A. (1999). Mentor: Guiding the journey of adult learners. San
David, T. (2000). Programs in practice: Teacher mentoring - benefits all
around. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 36(3), 134-136.
Ford, D. & Parsons, J. (2000). Teachers as mentors. ED 447 073.
Freiberg, M., Zbikowski, J., & Ganser, T. (1996, April). Where do we go
from here? Decisions and dilemmas of teacher mentors. Paper presented at the
Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York. ED
Ganser, T. (1997, April). Promises and pitfalls for mentors of beginning
teachers. Paper presented at the Conference on Diversity in Mentoring, Tempe,
AZ. ED 407 379.
Gordon, S. & Maxey, S. (2000). How to help beginning teachers succeed.
2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
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educator in recruiting and inducting quality personnel for schools. Action in
Teacher Education, the Journal of the Association of Teacher Educators, 8(4),
Holloway, J. (2001). The benefits of mentoring. Educational Leadership,
Mei, L. (1993). Mentor teacher internship program. Evaluation/Feasibility
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Odell, S.J. & Huling L. (2000). Quality mentoring for novice teachers.
Joint publication: Washington, D.C.: Association of Teacher Educators and
Indianapolis, Indiana: Kappa Delta Pi.
Resta, V., Huling, L., White, S. & Matschek, D. (1997). A year to grow
on. Journal of Staff Development, 18(1), 43-45.
Scott, N. (1999, May). Careful planning or serendipity? Promoting well-being
through teacher induction. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian
Society for the Study of Education, Ottawa, Canada. ED 420 627.
Stanulis, R., & Weaver, D. (1998). Teacher as mentor, teacher as learner:
lessons from a middle-school language arts teacher. The Teacher Educator, 34(2),
Steffy, B, Wolfe, M., Pasch, S. & Enz, B. (2000). Life cycle of the
career teacher. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press and Kappa Delta Pi.
Stevens, N. (1995). R and r for mentors: renewal and reaffirmation for
mentors as benefits from the mentoring experience. Educational Horizons, 73(3),
Tomlinson, P. (1995). Understanding mentoring: Reflective strategies for
school-based teacher preparation. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Wollman-Bonilla, J. (1997). Mentoring as a two-way street. Journal of Staff
Development, 18(3), 50-52.
Yosha, P. (1991, April). The benefits of an induction program: What do
mentors and novices say? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American
Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. ED 332 994.