Mentor-Coaching – empowering staff, governors and leaders by @chizkent

I first came across Mentor-Coaching as a tool for developing staff in 2006. A group of Kent Headteachers were trained by Roger Pask & Barrie Joy from the London Centre for Leadership in Education to deliver Mentor-Coach training across the county. The Mentor-Coaching system is a holistic process to empower the menthe-coachee to think through unresolved issues in their professional life and to navigate a path through them to a positive resolution.

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The principles of Mentor-Coaching can also be applied across a range of strategies in school and can have a profound impact on the development of school staff. Here are three examples of how I have used mentor-coaching to empower staff, governors and leaders to take charge of their own improvement across the school.

  • Empowering teachers through lesson review

Lesson review offers a powerful engagement in mentor-coaching.  The full blog on Lesson Review is here.  Through the use of mentor-coaching, we have moved away from formal lesson observations as a means to developing the quality of teaching and learning and adapted a process that is both challenging and developmental.  The teachers love the process and state that they feel better challenged in their practice and this is equipping them better to become the best teachers they can be.

  • Empowering staff through Appraisal

Our Appraisal cycle for all staff starts with a Mentor-Coaching session. All team leaders have been trained in Mentor-Coaching skills and use appreciative inquiry to start the dialogue with appraisees. Appreciative enquiry offers a powerful tool to encourage the member of staff to talk about what has gone well in their role over the past year. This sets the context to building trust and deepening relationships between team leaders and their staff.

The conversation then moves to unresolved issues that the appraisee faces. Again, the team leaders lean on their Mentor-Coach training to ask questions of the staff to draw out a clear picture of the key issues they face in the year ahead and through skilful questioning draw out a key research question that will move the appraisee’s practice forward.

Once the key research question is found the staff member is then asked to consider how their research will impact on their own practice, the pupils in their purview and how they intend to share the fruits of their research? This ensures the research question is pertinent to the staff member, will impact on their pupils or relevant staff teams and that they consider how their research will be shared (through blogs, Teach-meets, social media or more formal staff training events).

The culture of the school is also vital to ensure there is time set aside for research, mentors to support the staff member, governor ascent and where relevant, funding that supports the research. In my school, we offer each teacher a £150 ‘Learning Ticket’ to fund their research and a “Research Bursary’ of £500 for deeper research projects. This ensures staff see that research based targets are valued by the school and that outcomes are expected by the process.

The final stage of the appraisal review allows the staff member to share the outcomes of their research with their mentor. During this process, the mentor-coach will challenge the staff member to ensure their research findings are precise and how they intend to share their findings. Our school holds a Teach-meet style INSET day in November where staff share their research outcomes. All staff and governors are invited to attend and presentations are limited to a maximum of seven minutes. Teachers, TAs, office staff and lunch staff present on their findings, all staff seen as both teachers and learners.

  • Empowering Governors to intelligently challenge

Our governors have an untenable role at times to ensure they are robustly holding the leadership of the school to account. Strong governance leads to strong outcomes for pupils. Training governors in the key skills of mentor-coaching can provide them with the tools to intelligently question the quality of provision across the school.

Governor training led governors through the key skills of appreciative enquiry, encouraging governors to learn how to ask key questions and start their monitoring visits to school with the important role of asking questions to clarify what is currently working well. The training then led the governors in understanding the importance of key questions to deepen their understanding of the standards at the school. Once this phase has been understood and undertaken, the governor is then in a position to ask intelligent and informed questions that challenge the school leadership; strengthening provision for the pupils and driving improvement.


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