ERIC Identifier: ED477728 Publication Date: 2002-12-00
Author: Mullinix, Bonnie B. Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Teaching and Teacher Education Washington DC.
Selecting and Retaining Teacher Mentors. ERIC Digest.
The last decade has produced a great deal of literature and research
documenting the importance of teacher mentors in teacher training and retention
programs. This digest offers some collected wisdom regarding considerations and
strategies for selecting and retaining teacher mentors. Related sub-issues of
recruitment and compensation are also addressed. While presented in a sequential
pattern, selection and retention of mentors are, in reality, integrated features
of an on-going and spiraling process. Mentors continually cycle into and out of
teacher education, induction and retention programs. The degree to which these
critical participants are meaningfully engaged in the mentoring process may have
a significant impact on a program's success.
RECRUITING AND SELECTING MENTORS
Strategies for recruiting
mentors appear to range from opportunistic appointment to promoting
self-nomination to tying mentorship status to a developmental career ladder.
These strategies, buoyed primarily by support, incentives, and compensation
mechanisms, are a less prominently reported thread in the literature than the
selection criteria and desired characteristics for mentor participation in
programs; there are fewer documented articulations of recruitment strategies to
draw from than there are selection strategies.
Various programs identify selection criteria based on their vision of the
purposes of mentoring and the factors they most wish to promote. Feiman-Nemser
and Parker (1992) identified such purposes and associated expectations as
including: labor market improvement strategies (for improving trainees classroom
performance and strengthening commitment to remain in teaching); an
institutionalized buddy system (to provide emotional and material support to
decrease isolation of new teachers); on-the-job training (to introduce
curriculum materials, management systems, program goals, and school culture);
collegiality (to encourage reflective practice, action research and
participation in collaborative learning communities); or clinical teacher
education (that focuses on student learning, pedagogical reasoning in connecting
practical clustering based issues to larger social political and moral
questions) (p 20-21).
Consideration of special needs and contexts can also influence the approach
to recruiting and selecting mentors. Programs supporting bilingual teachers in
the southwest for example, will have different needs, foci and characteristics
for its mentors than those trying to recruit and retain teachers in the rural
Midwest or urban subcultural settings across the country. Nationwide, programs
supporting teacher induction in such wide-ranging areas as early childhood
education (Breunig & Bellm, 1996), special education (Reid, 1994),
integration of technology and assessment (Nichols & Singer, 2000) report on
how their strategic use of mentors enhances their programs.
One of the most influential criterions for selection of mentors is their
reputation as effective classroom teachers. Some additional common
characteristics of and criteria for selecting mentor teachers are: a clearly
articulated vision of teaching and learning, knowledge of content, accomplished
curriculum developer, professional interests, expressed educational
philosophies, and compatible personalities (1986; Feiman-Nemser, 1996; Tillman,
2000). Awareness and facility with mentoring processes are seldom among
selection criteria, but are often handled through mentor training mechanisms.
Orientation of mentors and their inclusion in the participatory design and
modification of mentoring programs can serve as its own recruitment and
selection mechanism. Mauer and Zimmerman (1996) describe how self-selection of
mentors coupled with solid training and an embedded understanding of Ellen
Moir's five phases characterizing first-year teacher experiences (anticipation,
survival, disillusionment, rejuvenation, reflection) helped veteran teachers and
administrators recognize areas that needed to be addressed in the mentoring
process and contributed to the overall success of the program (Mauer &
RETAINING AND COMPENSATING MENTORS
In general, retaining
quality teachers within school systems remains the core concern. In this light,
mentoring is perhaps most appropriately perceived as a way to engage, challenge
and retain effective teachers. As practicing teachers, mentors appreciate and
value the opportunities to interact, share their expertise and develop as they
support new teachers (Tillman, 2000). Mentoring can offer teachers the
opportunity to shine and share where they might otherwise hesitate or hide.
Innovators isolated in their classrooms who may appear threatening to their
peers, are transformed into inspirational role models for new teachers and feel
appreciated and are renewed through the process of mentoring. By the same token,
when not strategically selected, mentors can serve to perpetuate stagnant
educational approaches, undermined teacher education, and stifle reform efforts
(Feiman-Nemser, 1996). So just as good mentors should be retained, it is
important to evaluate mentor effectiveness and establish clear and objective
criteria for differentially encouraging or discouraging continued participation
Once a mentor has been recruited and identified as effective, however,
experts agree the mentor should be retained. Even so, there is currently little
documentation of strategies utilized to retain mentors. A Mentor Teacher program
in Los Angeles designed to retain capable teachers by expanding their rewards
and opportunities, conceptualized mentors as educational companions and worked
to maximize opportunities for professionally rewarding interactions with
colleagues (Feiman-Nemser, 1992). Recognizing the expertise of mentors and
acknowledging and compensating their contribution to professional development of
new teachers can go a long way toward ensuring their retention. If appropriately
valued and integrated into administrative and program structures, mentor
retention and advancement can be a natural byproduct of a teacher mentoring
program (Purdue, 1986).
In the last half-decade a significant amount of research has been focused on
the benefits experienced teachers receive from serving as mentors. Best
categorized as professional development, these benefits fall into seven
categories: improved professional competency; reflective practice; professional
renewal; psychological benefits (enhanced self-esteem); collaboration and
collegiality; contributions to teacher leadership; and pedagogical
inquiry/teacher research (Huling & Resta, 2001). These appear to be the key
reasons mentors continue to serve in this capacity.
The issue of appropriately matching mentors to proteges is one that often
receives attention as it also can impact retention of both teacher and teacher
mentor. This is not surprising given that mentors can provide the emotional and
professional support that often influences teachers' decisions to remain in the
profession. With teachers of color decreasing in number and leaving the
profession early (Lewis, 1996), maximizing support for this cohort involves
integrating strategies for multicultural mentoring (Rodriguez & Sjostrom,
2000). While there remains disagreement over the advantages and disadvantages of
matching characteristics in mentoring relationships, it has been noted that the
personal relationship at the heart of mentoring can be problematic when mentor
and protege are of different genders, races, or ethnic backgrounds (Kerka,
1998). Where few veteran teachers of color exist, program developers are advised
to consider creating optimal conditions for mentoring rather than trying to
promote optimal matches (Tauer, 1996). Implementing programmatic structures to
ensure that mentoring facilitates professional empowerment and promotes
diversity may be a vital key to a successful program.
On-going training and support designed specifically for mentors often serves
as an important mechanism for retaining mentors. Practical scenarios and
strategies shared in a timely manner can work to increase mentor effectiveness
and help to differentiate between the various roles and responsibilities of
mentors. Requirements for mentors operating within various programs often
differ, but generally the distinction between evaluation, supervision and
mentoring are important considerations to understand and address in training
programs. Training that provides experiential orientation to techniques of
observation, consultation, coaching and theories of adult learning help acquaint
mentors with their new roles (Feiman-Nemser, 1996). Periodic workshops
addressing leadership styles, time management and balancing teaching and
mentoring responsibilities as well as sessions that share current research
applications can help support mentor development. Ongoing dialogue groups for
mentors also serve as excellent support mechanisms for collaborative reflection
and shared learning regarding the mentoring process.
While many of the retention strategies highlighted above certainly provide
compensatory support to mentors, compensation is traditionally viewed as
financial in nature. Recognition of the need to restructure compensation
programs to reward teacher knowledge and skill was directly addressed in "What
Matters Most: Improving Teaching and Learning", the 1996 report of the National
Commission on Teaching & America's Future (NCTAF), as it recommended
reallocating $10 billion towards such ends (1996). Mentors represent a vital
component of this latent potential for educational renewal and reform. The
February 2001 State Higher Education Executive Officers' research-based report
on teacher recruitment, continues this thread, adding that compensation of
teacher mentors should extend to enabling in-class support of novice teachers in
their initial years of teaching (Hirsch, 2001). Innovative programs in various
states continue to experiment with the most effective combination of incentive
and compensation strategies to complement the inherent benefits of mentoring and
appropriately acknowledge the contributions and efforts of mentors (Ballinger,
2000; Carr & Dunne, 1991; Smith, 2000). These authors and others note that
compensation of mentors generally takes the following forms:
* Stipends paid directly to mentors;
* Time--release time for mentoring, observation, in-class support, joint
planning and teaching; additional compensatory personal time;
* Allocations of funds to schools and districts to support associated
implementation costs such as mentor release time, substitutes and travel between
schools or even percentages of augmented mentor salaries;
* Additional classroom assistance and support for teaching and non-teaching
* Financial support and priority access to professional development in the
form of university courses, training workshops and conferences.
Other non-financial and unplanned outcome compensation cited by the
researchers above include increased involvement in decision-making, increased
status and respect and, longer-term, recruitment into administrative and
supervisory positions. Creative options for additional compensation as well as
more careful evaluation of current strategies are worthy of future exploration.
Mentors may well provide the turnkey to educational renewal and reform. If
so, the attention paid to appropriately structuring programs that support their
strategic recruitment, thoughtful retention, and appropriate compensation will
represent time well spent.
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.
Ballinger, J. (2000). Programs aim to stop teacher washout. Journal of Staff
Development, 21(2), 28-33.
Breunig, G. S., & Bellm, D. (1996). Early childhood mentoring programs: A
survey of community initiatives. Washington, DC: National Center for the Early
Childhood Work Force.
Carr, J. C., & Dunne, K. (1991). The New Hampshire Mentor Project:
Bridging the gap between concept and application. Paper presented at the Annual
Conference of the National Council of States on Inservice Education (16th,
November 21-26, 1991), Houston, TX.
Darling-Hammond, L. (1996). The quiet revolution: Rethinking teacher
development. Educational Leadership, 53(4), 4-10.
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Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education. ED 397 060
Feiman-Nemser, S., & Parker, M. B. (1992). Los Angeles mentors: Local
guides or educational companions? East Lansing, MI: National Center for Research
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teachers. Denver, CO: State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO). ED 453
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Kerka, S. (1998). New perspectives on mentoring. ERIC Digests. Columbus, OH:
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Lewis, M. S. (1996). Supply and demand of teachers of color. ERIC Digests.
Washington, D.C.: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education. ED 390
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most: Improving teaching and learning. New York: Author.
Nichols, B. W., & Singer, K. P. (2000). Developing data mentors.
Educational Leadership, 57(5), 34-7.
Purdue, P. (1986). Teacher mentoring. ERIC Digests. Washington, DC: ERIC
Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education. ED 271 447
Reid, B. J. Ed. (1994). Small special education teacher preparation programs:
Innovative programming and solutions to problems in higher education. Reston VA:
Small Special Education Programs Caucus, Teacher Education Division of the
Council for Exceptional Children. ED 377 669
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for Teacher Education (52nd, Chicago, IL, February 26-29, 2000). ED 440 076
Smith, C. L. (2000). Focus on legislation affecting teachers in SREB states.
Atlanta GA: Southern Regional Education Board. ED 444 961
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teachers. Momentum, 31(1), 24-6.
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