ERIC Identifier: ED271477
Publication Date: 1986-08-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education
Teacher Mentoring. ERIC Digest #7.
Mentoring is the establishment of a personal relationship for the
purpose of professional instruction and guidance. In education, the value of
mentoring has been recognized in the use of teachers and other professionals in
one-on-one instruction of students for vocational education, science, and
reading (Evenson, 1982). Mentoring programs have been implemented recently for
beginning teacher induction and continuing staff development. This digest
describes teacher mentoring and its different applications.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS AND ACTIVITIES OF MENTORING?
From the literature on mentoring in professions, Bova and Phillips (1981)
compiled a list of ten characteristics inherent in any mentor-protege
1. Mentor-protege relationships grow out of voluntary interaction.
2. The mentor-protege relationship has a life cycle: introduction; mutual
trust-building; teaching of risk-taking, communication, and professional skills;
transfer of professional standards; and dissolution.
3. People become mentors to pass down information to the next generation.
4. Mentors encourage proteges in setting and attaining short- and long-term
5. Mentors guide technically and professionally. Mentors teach proteges
skills necessary to survive daily experiences and promote career-scope
6. Mentors protect proteges from major mistakes by limiting their exposure to
7. Mentors provide opportunities for proteges to observe and participate in
8. Mentors are role models.
9. Mentors sponsor proteges organizationally and professionally.
10. Mentor-protege relationships end, amiably or bitterly.
FORMALIZING AN INFORMAL PROCESS
Some school systems have formalized mentoring processes as part of newly
developed induction programs, thus compromising some of the mentor-protege
relationship characteristics. Voluntary participation becomes mandatory for the
protege. At the same time the sphere of influences in which the mentor would
ordinarily affect the protege is decreased by time and authority restrictions.
The mentor cannot regulate the beginning teacher's levels of responsibility. The
mentor does not have the freedom to direct the protege's activities nor the time
to adequately oversee developing classroom performance. The mentoring
relationship can be supported by creating a school environment which openly
offers assistance and provides the means to expand the initiate's repertoire of
teaching techniques and classroom management skills.
WHAT BENEFITS DOES MENTORING BRING TO THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM?
As an interactive system, mentoring benefits all participants: the mentor,
the protege, and the school system. Mentors gain the satisfaction of being able
to transfer skills and knowledge accumulated through extensive professional
practice (California State Board of Education, 1983; Krupp, 1984). Much of this
knowledge is intangible and is not contained in teacher preparation programs. It
might be lost entirely if it were not rediscovered by each beginner. The
questions from beginning teachers provide opportunities for mentor teachers to
reexamine their own classroom practices and the effects of accepted
instructional techniques on the teaching/learning process.
The protege benefits in three major ways: fast assimilation into the school
environment, establishment of professional competence, and introduction to
teaching as a continually developing, lifelong career. One of the most
recognized uses of mentoring is the conveyance of operating procedures to the
beginner (Evenson, 1982).
The school administration provides an introduction to the rules but the
mentor teaches the skills necessary to comply and cope with them (Driscoll et
al., 1985). The mentor provides the protege with opportunities to develop
professional competence through a cycle of
observation/assessment/practice/assessment. This permits continuous
communication and constant feedback to the protege. Classroom skills develop
under the mentor's constant and consistent assistance. The mentor also guides
the protege though the maze of local and state administration systems which
potentially influence the practices of the classroom teacher. Finally, the
mentor directs the protege to professional organizations for academic and
The school district benefits both directly and indirectly from mentoring
programs. A school which enthusiastically welcomes beginning teachers and
initiates them to active participation in the educational processes potentially
reduces its teacher attrition rate (Driscoll et al., 1985). Furthermore, close
supervision of the beginning teacher catches problems which may affect the
instructional process or discourage the teacher. Involving experienced teachers
in the program and providing them the opportunity to pass on their expertise
further demonstrates long-term professional interest in the faculty and provides
an environment conducive to lifelong professional careers.
PROBLEMS COMMON TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF MENTORING PROGRAMS
Confusing "assessment" with "evaluation" provides a common cause of mentor
program failure (Griffin, 1984). An effective mentoring process is built on a
foundation of mutual trust. The objective of the process is assistance. Both
trust and assistance are placed in serious jeopardy if the mentor is saddled
with evaluation responsibilities. Assessment, however, is an important part of
the mentoring process which allows the protege self-criticism and direction for
improvement (California State Board of Education, 1983). Programs can resolve
this conflict by appointing separate evaluators who meet with the protege and
mentor to discuss performance evaluations.
Mandatory program participation could cause problems in the mentoring
process, but surveys of post-program proteges and mentors repeatedly report
enthusiastic support of organized mentoring programs (Krupp, 1984; Huffman and
Leak, 1986). This seems to indicate that schools can establish an environment
for effective mentoring in mandatory programs.
Finding criteria and methods for choosing mentors is a problem common to all
programs. Some criteria and methods for mentor selection are suggested by
Driscoll in her description of the Utah Teacher Evaluation Program. The
California Teacher Mentor Program (California State Board of Education, 1983)
and the Model School Project of Louisville (Benningfield et al., 1984) offer
additional mentor characteristics. Proteges become good teachers by assimilating
the desirable skills, attitudes, and professional outlook of their mentors. The
latter is unlikely unless the beginning teachers are matched judiciously with
prequalified senior teachers who share professional interests, expressed
educational philosophies, and compatible personalities.
Using a mentoring program to fulfill state-mandated and district-required
certification, induction, and staff development programs loads mentoring with
obligations that the technique is not designed to handle. The mentor is a guide
to the profession, not a stand-in for administration (Driscoll et al., 1985)
EXISTING PROGRAMS: MODELS FOR FUTURE DEVELOPMENT
Krupp (1984) describes one of few wholly mentoring programs. This
experimental program conducted in Connecticut elementary and secondary schools
cultivated the spontaneous formation of mentoring relationships among teachers.
An introductory seminar for all school staff motivated an interest in the
mentoring process. Successive workshops for volunteer program participants
provided information and guidance to mentor teachers and their proteges.
In most teacher mentoring programs, mentoring forms a basic component of a
multipurpose teacher induction program. Many induction programs seek to qualify
a new teacher for certification and permanent employment, necessitating
evaluation of teaching skills and providing programs to improve those skills to
preset standards. The literature provides many examples of these
mentoring-evaluation program hybrids (see Galvez-Hjornevik, 1985). Another
purpose for supporting the teacher mentor/protege relationship with additional
induction activities is to restore some of the benefits of professional
mentoring which are necessarily curtailed by the teaching environment: time
constraints and limitations of personnel interaction. Driscoll et al. (1985)
discuss the problems common to the adaptation of the traditionally idealistic
relationship of mentor and protege to the teacher's real world of limited time
and structured activities.
The multipurpose programs come in two varieties: those using mentoring as a
part of an induction process and those using mentoring as a tool for general
staff development. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Career Development Program
(Schlechty, 1985) is representative of teacher induction programs which assign
each new teacher to an induction committee. This "Advisory/Assessment Team"
consists of a school administrator, an instructional consultant (often from a
teacher preparation program of a nearby college), and a peer teacher who acts as
a mentor to the beginner. These programs back up both the mentor and the protege
with separate supporting activities. The system has received favorable reviews,
despite the misleading use of the term "assessment": the final team "assessment"
determines the employment status for the protege.
Examples of programs which use mentoring as a general approach to staff
development are the California Mentor Teacher Program (California State
Department of Education, 1983) and the proposed Model School System of
Louisville, Kentucky (Benningfield et al., 1984). In these specific programs,
the use of "mentor" is a misnomer. Both programs professionalize the mentoring
process by training senior teachers as master teachers to instruct beginning and
experienced teachers in advanced instructional techniques and classroom skills.
Each trained "mentor" is assigned a group of "proteges." The mentor also is
responsible for curriculum development and the exploration of new instructional
techniques. The concept of training experienced teachers to advise and monitor a
group of other teachers does not evolve from developments in the use of
mentoring as much as it is derived from twenty years of induction program
development (see Galvez-Hjornevik's Appendix from Zeichner-1979, 1985). The
California and Louisville programs borrow the best of master teacher programs
and combine it with the less personal aspects of mentoring.
The success of mentoring programs has been documented largely by opinion
survey. Most of the programs using teacher mentoring are less than four years
old. Long-term objectives, including the retention of new teachers and
development of experienced ones, have had insufficient time to be realized.
However, surveys of perceptions of program success overwhelmingly conclude that
beginning teachers expand their techniques, improve teaching skills, and learn
classroom management (Huffman and Leak, 1986). Furthermore, mentors do
appreciate the opportunity to and do pass their expertise on to new teachers
(Califonia State Department of Education, 1983; Krupp, 1984). The varieties of
mentoring programs described in the literature should allow any school district
to find a model which fits its budget, time, and spatial constraints.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Benningfield, M., et al. "A Proposal to Establish Demonstration Schools and
the Identification, Training and Utilization of Master/Mentor and Master
Teacher: A Joint School District and University of Louisville Project." Paper
presented at the annual conference of the American Association of Colleges of
Teacher Education, 1984. ED 241 465.
Bova, B. M., and R. E. Philips. THE MENTOR RELATIONSHIP. A STUDY OF MENTORS
AND PROTEGES IN BUSINESS AND ACADEMIA. 1981. ED 208 233.
California State Department of Education. CALIFORNIA MENTOR TEACHER PROGRAM.
PROGRAM ADVISORY. 1983. ED 241 473.
Driscoll, A., et al. "Designing A Mentor System For Beginning Teachers."
JOURNAL OF STAFF DEVELOPMENT 6,2 (October 1985).
Evenson, J. S. WORKPLACE MENTORING. Far West Laboratory for Educational
Research and Development. 1982. ED 246 182.
Galvez-Hjornevik, C. "Teacher Mentors: A Review of the Literature." Austin,
TX: Research and Development Center for Teacher Education, University of Texas,
1985. SP 026 844. Note: most of this material appears in JOURNAL OF TEACHER
EDUCATION 37,1 (January-February 1986): 6-11.
Griffin, G. A. "Crossing the Bridge: The First Years of Teaching." Paper
prepared for the National Commission on Excellence in Teacher Education, 1984.
ED 250 292.
Huffman, G., and S. Leak. "Beginning Teachers' Perceptions of Mentors."
JOURNAL OF TEACHER EDUCATION 37,1 (January-February 1986): 22-25.
Krupp, J. A. "Mentor and Protege Perceptions of Mentoring Relationships in an
Elementary and Secondary School in Connecticut." Paper presented at the annual
meeting of the American Educational Research Association, 1984. ED 245 004.
Schlechty, P. "Evaluation Procedures in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Career
Ladder Plan." EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 43,3 (November 1985): 14-19.