I just came across an article by Andrew Jones 'Coaching v mentoring: what works best for teachers?'. He put forward the notion that most of us have been mentored at some point during our teaching career but very few have actually been coached. Andrew makes clear that it is difficult to tell the difference and he explains that:

 "In a nutshell, mentoring is a way of managing career transition whereas coaching is used whenever an individual feels the need to evaluate their professional capabilities, allowing for genuine continuous professional development (CPD)"

It is an interesting point and it has made me think about the difference between the support I have received, as well as when I have given support.

My brain went through a few mini explosions trying to really pin down the difference between the two and I tend to agree with the origin of the word mentor. In the Odyssey, Odysseus gets Mentor to teach and oversee his son Telemachus. Mentor invested time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of Telemachus. I like this view because it uses the phrase 'assisting the growth ' and I think that it encapsulates the fundamental difference between support and coaching.  

Coaching is very performance driven. It tends to be focused on a improving a certain aspect of a teachers practice and it is usually short-term. You could be coached on a variety of different aspects but coaching is normally more focused and wants to see a much quicker improvement than mentoring. Coaching is expected to yield results as the coach is a 'partner in the growth' as opposed to 'assisting the growth'.

In my experience mentoring tends to be more objective. You see the person being mentored for their strengths, weaknesses, experience and style they can bring and you try to understand how best to assist the natural direction of their career. You establish a relationship that is based on freedom and trust. You don't force a change on their personality of teaching and you never seek to change their style. You look at the person for the best they can bring out of themselves. It is a relationship based on the principle that the mentor can learn just as much about themselves as the person being mentored. This is where my view differs from the one in the article. It is my experience that by mentoring in a way that is 'assisting the growth' you allow room for the individual to evaluate the direction of their own practice and you allow for genuine CPD.

 The article states that mentoring usually takes the form of imparting knowledge. The mentor provides themselves as a model of their own style, strengths and weaknesses. I would argue that coaching is equally, if not more narrow in the way it imparts knowledge. The person being mentored might say "I would like to improve this aspect of my teaching, can you coach me to improve?" The coach then becomes a partner in the growth and they bring with it their own subjective views of teaching. I have experienced people that have said, "What would you like to improve on in your own practice?" to only then go on to say "It is great that you are reflecting but from what I have seen I think it would be more appropriate to do X or Y." I have had scenarios where they have said "Yes you have clearly reflected well and I think that would be appropriate, if you want to succeed you should do this, this and this." Even if they have asked, "How do you think you could achieve that?" The conversation invariably becomes subjective, I do not blame it for being so because a coach can only help improve skills and practice in the way they know and within their capabilities. I have found it difficult to stay objective when there is a clear skill that needs improvement even if it has been identified by the teacher. Some might argue that you should be objective in your coaching and nurture their skills and style while coaching them to improve. In my experience this is difficult to do.

I do not think the best way forward is arguing coaching against mentoring. I think taking on more of a coaching role has a tendency to pass across your own views on how you can achieve that goal. There is a place for coaching but I think it is for the practitioner to coach themselves. The most important way of supporting is in the form of mentoring. You take a long term approach to a person's development. Mentoring takes an understanding that growth is always on-going and any support someone has should fit into where they want to go themselves and not the views of the person giving support. You should seek to understand the whole person, what makes them tick, what their work/life balance is like, what they base their self-confidence on, whether they have any damaging self-perceptions, and how the personal influences the professional. It should develop the person for the future and not just the skills or changes needed right now. In trusting the people you mentor, understanding them and giving them freedom, you can enrich the school community and enhance your own professional development.

Coaching focuses on results and changes which need to be made in the immediate future in order to pass and not fail. Coaching will always bring the potential for subjective influences. Whereas, mentoring respects what people can bring to the community, because it makes them aware of themselves and it gives them the self-confidence to coach themselves.  

 


Comments

07/06/2016 09:29

It was outstanding and really informative.I likewise like composing something if my leisure. So I could discover something from your post. Thanks.

Reply

At first, I thought that mentoring and coaching has the same meaning. Now that I've read your article, I know that they are two different words having two different purposes. Depending on the learning curve of an individual, coaching and mentoring may take some time. Especially if we want to achieve the best results. So it's important to choose the best coach or mentor for yourself. Choose someone who you can rely on.

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07/06/2016 10:40

An attention-grabbing dialogue is worth comment. I think that it's best to write more on this topic, it may not be a taboo subject but typically people are not sufficient to talk on such topics. To the next. Cheers

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That's really difficult to do, I agree with you!
I'd like to mentor somebody, but I have not enough experience for it!

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21/01/2017 14:57

The article is good for teachers to study. It should be shared at teachers platforms as many of them may be unaware of such things.

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At to start with, I imagined that mentoring and training has a similar importance. Since I've perused your article, I realize that they are two unique words having two distinct purposes. Contingent upon the expectation to learn and adapt of an individual, drilling and tutoring may take some time. Particularly in the event that we need to accomplish the best outcomes. So it's vital to pick the best mentor or tutor for yourself. Pick somebody who you can depend on.

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18/06/2017 04:17

When I haven;t read the whole article yet, I asked myself " is there a difference between the two? I thought it was just the same." But as I read the whole article, I've seen so many differences and that the two are completely different and separable. In my personal opinion, mentoring is much better because you give freedom and 100% trust to the one you mentor.

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