Best Practices in Mentoring for Teacher and Leader Development
reviewed by Shamaine Bazemore-Bertrand, Kristien Zenkov & Ellen Clark - April 12, 2016
Title: Best Practices in Mentoring for Teacher and Leader Development
Author(s): Linda J. Searby and Susan K. Brondyk (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1681232987, Pages: 332, Year: 2016
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Linda J. Searby and Susan K. Brondyk's edited volume of research on best practices in the mentoring of new teachers and administrators in K-12 settings is the sixth in the Perspectives on Mentoring series. The editors identify three goals that seem both simultaneously achievable and grand:
To show the value of using empirical research methods to evaluate the effectiveness of P12 mentoring practices;
To identify mentoring practices and programs for P12 teachers and administrators that meet one or more of the criteria of a best practice, so that we may replicate them in future mentoring endeavors; and
To highlight any emerging new trends in P12 mentoring that may be important to consider. (p. xii)
Best Practices in Mentoring for Teacher and Leader Development offers a candid and deeply considered look at what works and what does not in the mentoring field, via a range of studies of mentoring practices in a variety of scholars own diverse contexts. Several themes run across these examinations of mentoring best practices: the foundational place of relationships in any mentoring context, the increasing importance of technology in mentoring exchanges, and the central role of mentors in new teacher and new education leaders career-long development. As such, this volume does not exclusively focus merely on their entry into and survival in their profession. The authors also address a lack of shared language within the field and offer ideas about future trends in the mentoring of new teachers and new school principals. The volume represents an important step forward in the literature on mentoring, with a unique merging of both the actual and ideal.
WHY THIS BOOK NOW
In the first chapter, the editors describe the troubling complexity of mentoring practices in education. They decry the lack of a universal definition of mentoring and the fields failure to determine a common lexicon. Of course, definitions of roles and structures in the field do exist, and the benefits of mentoring practices are real and measurable, with outcomes related to PK12 student learning, teacher development, and personal growth. Although the mentoring field is hardly a new one, few comprehensive scholarly efforts have been made to identify its best practices.
Searby, Brondyk, and thirteen teams of engaged scholar-practitioners step into this void with critical explorations of their mentoring practices in a range of contexts. The first seven chapters consider new teacher mentoring, and the latter six chapters examine new principal mentoring. The editors have chosen chapters that highlight research on mentoring in universities and in urban, rural, suburban, and international school settings. Mentors include teachers, university faculty, school administrators, and pre-service teachers. Chapters are grounded in a range of theoretical perspectives, and authors operate and write with their own nuanced, but transparently shared, notions of mentoring. In the following discussion, we highlight the richness and range of the volume, illustrating it with details of several of the texts most important chapters.
Chapter Two, Developing Mentors Across Contexts: The Reciprocity of Mentorship in School/University Partnerships, focuses on eliminating the historical disconnect among members of the traditional teacher preparation triad: the pre-service teacher, collaborating teacher, and university supervisor. The researchers share how to develop reciprocal mentoring relationships between members of all groups. This chapter is particularly important in the quickly evolving field of clinical teacher education because it highlights the nature of mentoring that can exist in formal school-university partnerships or professional development schools. For such broadly conceived reciprocal mentoring relationships to exist, more full-time university faculty will have to demonstrate interest and be allowed to participate in such partnerships.
Chapter Six, Empowering Teachers Through Mentoring, also represents some of the most important contributions of this volume. The chapter considers mentoring through the lens of special education teachers and their co-teaching orientation. The authors of this chapter unsurprisingly discover that the traditional teacher education triad is even less effective in special education contexts, where collaboration among professionals is key, than in general education settings. This study reveals the impact of an effective mentoring program on improving teacher development and teacher retention. Schools and universities face an intersecting challenge: to staff high-needs and often geographically inaccessible schools with qualified special education teachers and university supervisors. In such contexts, we might consider alternative notions of hybrid pre- and in-service mentors, in the form of veteran teachers trained to serve in both capacities. As this chapter details, such a mentoring model can yield positive outcomes for teacher candidates, mentor teachers, teacher preparation programs, and, most importantly, PK12 students.
We would be remiss if we did not pay particular attention to the editors and authors consideration of the role of technology in almost every example of mentoring in operation today. Chapter Five, titled Face-to-Face, Online, and Hybrid Mentoring in a Professional Development Program, is a particularly powerful illustration of the central and revolutionary role of technology in mentoring exchanges. This chapter introduces us to the importance of mentoring in ongoing relationships and growth that educators might experience after, but still connected to, their pre-service training and in the early stages of their careers.
In this seminal piece, the authors describe their study of three different forms of mentoring: face-to-face, online, and hybrid. They find that regardless of the extent to which exchanges rely on technology, building relationships face-to-face in professional development mentoring contexts is absolutely essential. This study also highlights the importance of mentees engaging in ongoing reflection to improve their teaching and implement curricula with greater integrity. While technology can, and will, play an increasingly important role in our mentoring efforts, technology is no substitute for a preliminary formal face-to-face observation of a mentees teaching or leadership practices.
The latter chapters of the book primarily focus on mentoring principals for their leadership roles in schools. The chapters concentrate on the importance of peer mentoring for school administrators, lessons in how to mentor new principals in urban school districts, and best practices for supporting beginning principals. Many of these chapters provide insights into leadership development that are rooted in mentoring practices. A highlight is Chapter Thirteen, Best Practices for Supporting Beginning Principals as Instructional Leaders: The Consultant Coaching Model, where the researchers share a consultant coaching model that illustrates high quality mentoring and professional development.
Other chapters in this volume explore mentoring in international and U.S. border communities and describe how mentoring interactions can be among the most effective at addressing teaching, learning, and leadership challenges in these communities. Other authors examine the idea of mentor networks (rather than 1:1 mentor-mentee relationships), the role of culture in mentoring efforts, and the importance of considering the fullest range of constituent needs and institutional, state, and federal mandates. The editors also select chapters that explore the connections between mentoring and teacher and principal induction efforts and conclude the volume with a description of trends in mentor development, school-university-community partnerships, and virtual mentoring.
Mentoring programs too often remain mired in a netherworld of professional practice and are too frequently considered by the constituents of our schools as soft practices without observable or explicit benefits. Mentoring programs can be the worst example of unfunded educational mandates; structures that policy makers require to be implemented with grossly insufficient knowledge of the investment required to make these effective or sustainable. This may be where this book addresses a particularly important need; it offers a meticulous exploration of mentoring practices to which every policy maker might appeal and that every advocate can employ.
This volume also leads us toward a common language of mentoring. While the chapters of this text reinforce that there is no singular definition of mentoring, there are terms that continuously emerge when considering its practices. Mentoring is counseling, instructing, guiding, motivating, encouraging, and supporting someone who is a protégé.
This book is a timely effort at analyzing the roles mentors can and should play in PK12 settings. The varied contexts depicted within its pages make this volume a compelling one for teachers and teacher educators across the U.S. and beyond. It could be of particular use to districts and universities building or revitalizing mentoring programs. As reviewers, we wondered about the intersections the authors and editors might have identified between the best practices of new teacher and new principal mentoring.
Best Practices in Mentoring for Teacher and Leader Development may be most useful for the rigorous measures the editors utilize when crafting chapter selection criteria and determining the mentoring practices on which they focus. While we are cautious about appealing to an overly narrow notion of science or research, the mentoring field and education writ large needs such volumes if we are to make increasingly stronger cases for such intentional practices.