The National Institute of Teaching (NIoT) has published the first phase of its inaugural research project, ‘Mentoring and coaching trainee and early career teachers: conceptual review and current practice survey’. The aim of the research function of NIoT is to find workable and evidence-based solutions for the most urgent and complex teacher professional development challenges faced by schools everywhere.
The mentoring project draws on a diversity of perspectives and reference points from across the teacher development and wider education sectors*, bringing together a wide range of experts, organisations, skills and expertise. This first phase clarifies definitions and approaches – and explains the theories behind how schools-based mentoring can achieve a range of positive outcomes.
To inform the project’s recommendations to the sector, this phase also includes findings from a Teacher Tapp survey of around 300 mentees in their first five years of teaching and more than 1,000 mentors**, including:
- Mentees in the sample were generally positive about being mentored: 87 per cent named at least one benefit, particularly greater confidence and improved teaching practices.
- Whilst almost all mentors report experiencing some benefits, most also named some detrimental effects, and these frequently relate to lack of time and mentoring detracting from other activities.
- A third of primary teachers in the sample did not feel that they had been given an appropriate mentor – twice the proportion of secondary teachers, who will typically work in schools with larger staff teams.
- The benefits and challenges of mentorship reported by mentees did not differ substantially between those who were mentored by their line manager and those who had a separate line manager and mentor. However, more than half of all teachers surveyed said they would prefer not to be mentored by their line manager.
This work will help inform the final stage of this project, the publication in Spring 2023 of recommendations on effective practice for mentoring in primary and secondary education. Recommendations will also be informed by a review of the evidence. We will bridge gaps in evidence with practical, transparent and actionable recommendations that can benefit the whole school system, including other teacher-development providers, as well as NIoT’s own programmes.
Executive Director of Research and Best Practice, Calum Davey, said: “Achieving our mission to improve the quality of teaching across the country means conducting rigorous research on areas of professional development that are challenging for schools to implement.”
“We chose teacher mentoring as our first research project because mentoring is a fundamental element of trainee and early career teacher training and, when done well, is a powerful way to support, develop and retain effective teachers. Issues such as capacity and expertise persist, which mean that schools can struggle to identify appropriate mentors and to provide them with sufficient time and support.
“Schools, training providers and policy makers can benefit from guidance on where to focus effort and resource. Working closely with our research partners across the sector, the next phase of this project will analyse the evidence and findings to produce evidence-based recommendations. These will inform our own training programmes and, crucially, be proactively shared with everyone in education for the purpose of benefiting teachers and pupils everywhere.”
To read the full conceptual review and research findings, go to niot.org.uk/teacher-mentoring-research.
* The core project team consists of education and research experts including teachers, leaders and academics.
The expert panel has senior-level practitioner, academic and provider representation from seven leading teacher training universities, providers and academies.
** This data was collected via the Teacher Tapp survey app in early July 2022 in order to give an overview of current mentoring practice in state-funded schools in England for teachers with fewer than five years’ experience.