This discussion aims to develop a conversation around the differences and similarities of the mentoring and coaching roles.
In the case study for Workbook 1 of the SHOOC we explore the distinction between mentoring as a structured sustained process for supporting professional learners through career transitions, including entry to the profession; and coaching as a structured sustained process for enabling the development of an aspect of a professional learner’s practice (Lofthouse, Leat, & Towler, 2010). We wanted to pay particular attention to how mentees understand and experience this as a starting point to help us reflect on our mentoring roles.
Coaching and Mentoring
One significant difference is that a mentor normally encourages their mentee to take risks and be innovative, creative, and consider the widest possible range of options for completing the task or process facing them, whilst a coach usually wishes to ‘train’ their coachee to carry out particular tasks or processes in a specific way which is the accepted ‘correct’ method.
It was interesting to see the responses that colleagues give when we asked them to think about their own experiences as mentors or mentees. Significantly, several participants commented about how they had quite recently been mentees themselves and now, as mentors, are modelling themselves on either their own mentor or on what they wished their mentor had been. Another very significant recurring comment was about the relationship between mentor and mentee and the need for this to be trusting and non-judgemental. Weare (2004) comments that being judgemental and / or punitive “…does nothing to build up trust that is the bedrock of relationships.” This is something which many mentors and probably coaches too are all too familiar with as they understand that when they give judgemental feedback to mentees / coachees, only too frequently this results in ‘barriers’ developing between them (Hobson & Malderez, 2013).
Some of the participants gave sage advice on this area, such as “don’t rush in with what you perceive is the correct way of doing something” and “Listen without judgement” and a good number of the Top Tips posted to our Padlet included remarks to the effect that Mentoring someone helps the mentor to reflect on their own practice and develop themselves further too.
So, some questions to think about as we move towards the end of week one of the programme:
- Reflecting on your own experience, are you acting as a mentor or a coach?
- When you have been a mentee, have you actually been a coachee?
- How can you foster a reflective attitude in your mentees?
- and perhaps most importantly, how can you facilitate the building of that ” trust that is the bedrock of relationships”?
Coaching and Mentoring: Approaches to support the Professional Update process (General Teaching Council Scotland) (link)
Aspfors, J., & Fransson, G. (2015). Research on mentor education for mentors of newly qualified teachers: A qualitative meta-synthesis. Teaching and teacher education, 48, 75-86. (download)
Hobson, A. J., & Malderez, A. (2013). Judgementoring and other threats to realizing the potential of school-based mentoring in teacher education. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 2(2), 89-108. (download)
Lofthouse, R., Leat, D., & Towler, C. (2010). Coaching for teaching and learning: A practical guide for schools. United Kingdom: CfBT Education Trust. (link)
Weare, K. (2003). Developing the emotionally literate school. Sage, London (link)
[…] ‘mentors’ actually mentoring? Well, not really in my opinion. During my studies for the Mentor SHOOC course, the first thing we were exposed to were the definitions of mentors and coaches and Keele also note […]
Currently I am involved in a coaching project and also act as a mentor tor trainees. It is increasingly easy to see the difference in the two roles and also the overlap. My main issue is not in coaching the mentee but mentoring the coachee, I really have to ensure that I hold my tongue, give plenty of space and time for what has been said/discussed to really be heard before saying anything. The temptation is to problem solve because of the pressured environment of education, particularly when we are so strapped for time. In terms of being a mentee my recent induction is my latest personal experience. Due to the requirements to pick up the workings and intricacies of the role there has been very limited time to permit coaching – it has been ‘telling’ and practise approach rather than anything else. A style that I appreciated and welcomed.
Mentees can feel a bit overawed initially with their mentor, particularly because they usually have a reputation as an excellent practitioner and have a wealth of experience. Encouraging reflection can be done through being verbally self reflective in the processes involved in supporting a mentee – it could be that talking through a lesson which has been delivered by the mentor in a reflective way will model the process. Gently prompting the trainee to talk through the different aspects of their teaching and how that felt from their own and others perspectives would be helpful. Building trust in the relationship so that failures can be seen as the most valuable learning opportunities and relating that to children can also be encouraging. Building trust is critical in all aspects of education, how can children succeed if they don’t feel safe and valued with you as a teacher and this is the same for trainees. They need to come to respect the role model a mentor can provide, recognise that the motivation is based on a clear set of values with moral purpose and integrity. Trainees also need to see the mentor as a human being, who has humour and troubles like everyone else and does not set themselves above the trainee but alongside them. Valuing what the trainee brings in terms of growth for the mentor would certainly build that trusting relationship.
Fascinating and very accurate.
I feel that with my NQT although there are elements of mentoring , there are also more elements of coaching where I want her to develop a new skills set
The boundaries are so intertwined and school environments often so time pressured that elements of both mentoring and coaching feature when asked to mentor a new member of staff. This is not necessarily a bad thing and if anything, surely it forces us as the more experienced professionals to reflect more critically on our own practice. There is a time and a place for mentoring and equally so for coaching!
I have just signed up for a mentoring course and I have previously been a coach. I feel that there are a lot of similarities as the relationship is key and there must be mutual respect. I feel that coaching is very specific with clear objectives and tasks that the trainee has to complete. Whereas mentoring offers a more encouraging approach and pushes the trainee to come up with exciting and creative ways of approaching tasks.