The study found that while the quality of institution-based mentoring has improved to some extent across the FE and Skills Sector in the last decade or so, it remains extremely variable. A wide range of impediments to effective mentoring and coaching currently exists, including:
- issues with the selection and training of mentors and coaches
- limited time available to mentors/coaches to meet with and provide support for their mentees/coaches
- the use of mentoring and (in particular) coaching as a remedial strategy to address the perceived under-performance of teachers.
Where they are working well, mentoring and coaching can result in a range of benefits for the teachers being supported, including: enabling them to talk about various difficulties that they experience with their teaching and in the workplace; supporting their emotional wellbeing; helping them develop general pedagogical techniques; and helping develop their subject pedagogy.
A number of factors were found to enhance the effectiveness and impact of institution-based mentoring and coaching, including:
- having mentors/coaches who share the subject/vocational specialism of the teachers they are supporting
- the mentor not being the line manager of the mentee
- having a rigorous process for the selection of mentors/coaches and for pairing them with specific teachers
- having regular and sustained contact between mentors/coaches and the teachers being supported.
Almost half (48 per cent) of teachers responding to the online survey indicated that they felt they might benefit from the support of an external mentor or coach for at least one of the subjects/vocational areas they teach. Respondents indicated that they might wish to take advantage of such support for a variety of reasons – the most frequently stated responses being support for their subject/vocational pedagogy, for their subject/vocational content knowledge, and to gain an independent perspective on some issues.
On the basis of their research, the researchers make a number of recommendations both for policy makers and senior leadership teams of FE providers. Findings from the study are informing improvements to support for the professional learning and development of teachers, tutors, trainers, assessors and lecturers in the FE and Skills Sector.