Mentoring Theory into Practice Program
Teaching is an art and a science that can be bettered with experience and the right information. Even though the challenges faced by teachers are often similar, there are some cases that present different and unique challenges. Adult learners present a number of challenges that may impede the learning process and affect the levels of motivation attained by teachers especially the new teachers. Adult learners tend to be goal oriented and join schools or learning institutions for specific reasons.
Additionally, the adult learners have learning histories from past education and experience that must be considered by the teachers. Pre-formed habits and relating new information to what is already known are the other characteristics of adult learners that may affect the learning process and complicate the tasks and expectations placed on a teacher (Mcdonald and Flint, 2011). These are characteristics that make adult teaching a demanding endeavor on the teacher thereby creating a need for effective support systems thus mentorship.
Studies reveal that there is a greater dropout rate for beginning teachers in adult education than at intermediate or lower age groups. This could on part be a result of the highly demanding nature of adult education. This is a problem that denies adult education programs the manpower and new experiences and ideas required to ensure continuity and development of adult education.
Research findings on the other hand show that beginning teachers drop at lower rates if they are offered and receive on-going support. In some cases, up to 90% of beginning teachers that receive support remain in the profession and had greater job satisfaction. Mentoring and support systems have been shown to have positive impact on the quality of classroom teaching especially in diverse student population. The interaction between a mentor and a protégé if properly designed is mutually beneficial on the parties involved.
The vision of the program is to ensure the retention of quality teachers, It is important that new teachers receive the support, direction and advice required to better their initial experience, perception and understanding of teaching. This will provide the basis required to better their professional acumen.
The program appreciates the importance of incoming teachers to attaining literacy goals especially with respect to supporting adult education. The support that new teachers receive affects their ability to perform duties and ultimately their longevity within adult education and teaching as a career. Mentoring allows the beginning and existing teachers to obtain the experience and support that they require to better their experience as adult learners’ teachers.
Thus, the mentoring process will ultimately help the teachers master the tasks of effective use of skill for teaching and adaptation to the social system of the adult education programs. These are the two main missions of the mentoring program.
The following are the specific goals of the beginning teachers’ mentorship program:
- To promote the quality of education and achievement by adult students.
- To promote beginning teachers with basic processing information
- To ensure that beginning teachers are familiar with the district and local procedures and guidelines that may affect or influence their professional development and growth
- To provide continuous support and encouragement to beginning teachers
- To improve the rate of retention of beginning teachers and their satisfaction with teaching as a career path.
To attain the set goals the program will provide:
- The training and guidance required by mentors
- An environment that is non-threatening and conducive for beginning teachers
- Platforms to ensure that beginning teachers are familiar with local and school policies and procedures
- Platform for ensuring that beginning teachers easily acclimatize to their new work and class environments
- Continuous support, networking and encouragement for the beginning teachers
- Training and guidance for the beginning teachers
- Providing opportunities for beginning teachers to master effective teaching practices
- Update, reflection and evaluation of the progress made by beginning teachers
The following will be expected of the mentors:
- Mentors are expected to remain committed to the program for a whole year.
- Teachers’ performance appraisal will not be linked or affected by their performance as mentors. This is a move aimed at eliminating unnecessary pressure from potential mentors and encouraging participation in the program.
- Schools will be expected to create mentoring teams that will be expected to serve as mentors for all incoming teachers.
Guidelines for Success
The following guidelines help better the interaction between mentors and their protégés and can better the mentoring process:
- Meetings between beginning teachers and mentors are scheduled frequently. Since the mentor programs offers support to beginning teachers the participants need time for support activities. This may involve interaction and meetings during non-school hours.
- Mentors should endeavor to be available at all times for their protégés.
- Maintenance of confidentiality is vital as mentoring involves building relationships based on trust and mutual respect.
- Mentors should serve as role models for the incoming teachers.
- Mentors should assist beginning teachers develop relationships with other staff and community members.
- Mentors should give the beginning teachers the option to accept or reject suggestions made by the mentor
- Mentors should be flexible and sensitive to needs of the beginning teachers.
Specific Strategic Directions
The first step will involve evaluating the mentors to determine their personal experiences of being mentored and how these influence how they think about being mentors. This is a major step in ensuring that the mentors are aware of their strengths, weaknesses and biases in their interaction with the beginning teachers. This will involve the following steps:
- Mentors will complete a form profiling the individuals or people that have mentored them in the past.
- The mentors will share with others how they came about gaining the knowledge and experiences that they have. The focus in the process is determining the role played by the mentors and the impact of the experience on the kind of mentor that the participants want to be.
- The mentors will share and discuss the attributes of an effective mentor within groups. This is a move aimed at facilitating self-reflection and ensuring that the mentors are aware of their strengths and weaknesses in communication, interaction and as role models.
The next step is ensuring that the participants understand their primary role as mentors in the program. The participants will be required to read, understand and discuss their role as mentors as stipulated in the program. The role of mentors in the program is defined as providing support for beginning teachers in assessing their teaching and student learning via:
- Helping beginning teachers collect data and information on their own.
- Providing data and information to the beginning teachers
- Promoting personal reflection by the beginning teachers
- Helping the beginning teachers plan
This is the primary role that the mentors will be required to discuss so as to determine the sources of data and strategies that they can use in meeting the demands defined in their role.
Mentoring is complicated by the fact that every teacher or protégé is unique and therefore the individual strategies should be tailored to meet the situational and professional needs of the beginning teachers. Mentors should be appreciative of this fact and adopt strategies that actually compliment the nature of mentoring.
The program will provide the opportunity for the participants to reflect on how the beginning teachers’ language and behavioral cues can be used to support the teachers. It is noteworthy that the mentor will be required to observe and collect formative assessment data on the protégé’s progress. The progress made coupled with the language and the behavioral cues will form the basis of the specific strategies that will be recommended by the mentor.
This step will also involve familiarizing the mentors on the need to adopt strategies across a continuum of strategies for effective teaching depending on the specific needs of the beginning teacher. The step will also involve ensuring that the mentors are aware of the different skills required for the different strategies. In the actual implementation, the mentors will have to establish if they will use directive, collaborative or non-directive strategies in mentoring depending on the specific needs of the protégé (Brady and Schuck, 2005).
Understanding the specific needs of beginning teachers is an important requirement for effective mentoring. The mentors were once beginning teachers and therefore have their own experiences as new teachers. The mentors should be able to relate their personal experiences as beginning teachers and the needs that they will discover in their interaction and assessment of beginning teachers.
The program will encourage mentors to share their experience as beginning teachers and compare their knowledge of what new teachers require and what research and best practices in mentoring state as the needs of beginning teachers. Generally, new teachers require that: their daily dilemmas are taken seriously; they are watched and provided feedback; they are helped to develop instructional strategies and they share insight on students’ lives and work.
Developing trust is critical in mentoring and this is an aspect that the program takes seriously. The development of trust has significant impact on the nature and manner of interaction between the mentors and the beginning teachers. As a result, a number of measures have been integrated into the program to ensure that the mentors have a clear understanding of what it means to trust and be trustworthy.
The mentors must appreciate the need of trust and assess their approach and perception of trust. The program will include measures aimed at ensuring that the mentors are aware and appreciate the development and growth of trusting behavior. For the development of trust, mentors must want to hear what the beginning teachers have to say, they must also view the beginning teachers as separate entities with different perspectives and the mentors must trust in their protégé’s capacity to find solutions to their problems (Mcdonald and Flint, 2011).
These are aspects that the mentors will be encouraged to observe and the program will also include a platform where mentors can share the challenges that they face in trusting and developing trust.
Conversations are critical to the establishment and maintenance of trust in relationships. In mentor-protégé relationships, conversations play important role in helping the mentor understand the beginning teachers. In fact, an effective mentoring relationship should include several platforms where the mentor can engage in reflective conversation with the beginning teacher.
The success of conversation in supporting mentoring relationship is largely dependent on the mentors’ abilities to communicate and converse in a manner that exudes trust. The program will include activities aimed at ensuring that mentors identify skills, attitudes and behaviors within conversations that reflect and help build trust. In this way, the mentors will be able to use the same cues and better their conversation skills. The specific activities will include group meetings where mentors will observe clips of conversations and discuss evidence of trust in the watched conversations.
Identification of skills that can be used to support and manage reflective conversation is also important as it allows mentors support beginning teachers reflect upon their own practice. Reflective conversations are tools that if effectively used by mentors can help ensure that beginning teachers become more autonomous (Long, 1997). It is worth noting that self-reflection is vital for the mentor and the beginning teacher as it helps both identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Importantly, the mentors must be appreciative of the role of reflective conversation and home the skills required to effectively use this tool. The role of the mentor in the mentoring relationship is to provide information and feedback that can help in solving the problems that beginning teachers face in practice (Eby, 1997). Thus the support proposed and used by the mentor should be responsive to the needs of the beginning teachers. With time, the mentor is expected to support the beginning teachers make their own decisions and judgment regarding their work or practice.
The program will seek to ensure that the mentors develop their paraphrasing, meditational and clarification techniques to better their ability to engage in meaningful reflectional conversations with the beginning teachers. In addition, the mentors will be encouraged and trained on how to integrate trusting relationships, listening skills, non-judgmental responses, positive intentionality and sincere belief in protégé’s abilities in their conversations.
These elements are vital for effective reflective conversation between the mentors and the beginning teachers. In some cases, the mentors will be encouraged to physically observe the beginning teachers (with their permission) in action. Information from such observation is vital in determining the weaknesses of the teachers and if knowledge gained from the mentoring relationship is being applied in practice.
To determine the effectiveness of the mentorship program, the beginning teachers will be required to fill a survey (appendix 1). Feedback from the survey will help the mentors chart the progress of the beginning teachers and make corrective actions in their approach to mentoring depending on the specific needs of the beginning teachers.
The program is designed with the aim of ensuring that beginning teachers are supported to develop their capabilities and yet remain unique in their practice of teaching. The aim of the mentoring program is to provide the support required by the beginning teachers via effective non-coercive techniques.
The program acknowledge the important role played by the mentors and reflection and seeks to ensure that the mentors have the skills, knowledge and expertise required to use simple techniques such as reflectional conversation to support beginning teachers.