3 ways experienced educators can effectively mentor student teachers

3 ways experienced educators can effectively mentor student teachers

Monash University
Monash University

The demand for mentors for pre-service teachers is at an all-time high. But how can educators provide effective support?

Monash Education Professional Practice Consultants Deanne Cannizzaro and Ondine Bradbury share their insights.

Mentors shape who we are as educators

As teachers, we know the impact our mentors can have, and the ways these experiences can shape who we were as educators.

As mentors, there are three key things we can offer.

  1. Ourselves – who we are as a person, our stories, experiences, growth and journey into teaching.
  2. Our context – the individual nuances of our school, our staff, our students and wider community.
  3. Our approaches – our knowledge of education, how we engage, our ability to deliver content and our legislative knowledge.

By basing your approach in these areas, you can increase the value and chance of success of the mentoring experience.

Teacher mentoring a student teacher in the science lab
As teachers, we know the impact our mentors can have.

Know yourself, and plan your time

Time is a big factor in a teacher’s life. When you know you will be mentoring a pre-service teacher, consider your schedule. Look at what times of the day suit you best for planning, feedback and report writing.

Think about how you communicate best, whether verbally or written.

Some mentors have creative ways of providing feedback. They use an audio recording, type straight into an email or write directly in a pre-service teacher’s lesson plan while watching the lesson.

Discuss what works best for you with the pre-service teacher you will be mentoring.

Checklist

  • How do I communicate?
  • How is my time best used?
  • How do I delegate work?
  • Am I open to feedback?
  • When does this occur and how?
  • How do I work best?

Share your knowledge about your school and the context you are teaching in

Teaching is not always contained to the classroom. When mentoring a pre-service teacher, consider the resources that are available within your wider community.

Options may include building a community of practice, accessing online communities to discuss strategies for supporting pre-service teachers with colleagues, using the people around you for support or participating in a virtual network.

Online tools – such as a shared Google document – can be used for planning and it enables mentors to comment and track changes in real time.

Checklist

  • How do I collaborate?
  • What would be the opportunities I can provide to take part in school-wide activities?
  • How can I connect with others who are mentoring or have mentored in my school or wider community?
Thee teachers conferring over a laptop
How do you collaborate with other mentors?

Know your stuff

“At the very basic level the mentor’s role is to ensure that the mentee meets the expected registration requirements” – Victorian Department for Education and Training

Professional placement is a rich opportunity for pre-service teachers to learn from their mentors – whether it be strengths in literacy, integrating STEM or differentiation.

Pre-service teachers are assessed against the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APSTs) during their professional experience. This forms part of their registration process.

Consider using your mentoring experience as a way to not only assess your mentee’s proficiency but also to develop your own practice. This formative style of analysis during the mentoring process can be beneficial to you both.

For example, to achieve standard 6.1 (Highly Accomplished) teachers can support colleagues to achieve professional development goals and pre-service teachers to improve their practice.

Checklist

  • What are my strengths?
  • What am I proud of in my practice?
  • What areas do I need to improve on?
  • How do I use the APSTs formatively in my own practice?

The Monash University Professional Practice Consultants work in the Faculty of Education. Their core business is to support mentors and pre-service teachers before, during and after professional experience. You can contact them at edu-ppc@monash.edu

As part of their work they have developed the Monash Mentor Hub for the mentors of Monash pre-service teachers. This is a platform for mentors to have professional discussions –particularly through forums – to learn from each other and deepen their own practice.

Additional reading

Drucker, P. F. (2008). Managing oneself. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press.

Loughran, J. (2018). Learning about self-study of teacher education practices. In J. K. Ritter, M. Lunenberg, K. Pithouse-Morgan, A. P. Samaras, & E. Vanassche (Eds.), Teaching, Learning, and Enacting of Self-Study Methodology: Unraveling a Complex Interplay (pp. 1-7). (Self-Study of Teaching and Teacher Education Practices; Vol. 19). Singapore: Springer.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., Snyder, W.M. (2002). A Guide to Managing Knowledge: Cultivating Communities of Practice. Boston: Harvard Business School

Department of Education and Training (2019), Mentoring Capability Framework

AITSL (2011), Australian Professional Standards for Teachers