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Published in European Journal of Teacher Education, Spring 1998

†Correspondance: Sarah Fletcher
School of Education
University of Bath
Claverton Down
Bath BA2 7AY


Sarah Fletcher is employed as a Lecturer in Education at the University of Bath. Her current research is investigating the School's perspective of involvement in school-based ITE. Prior to joining the University she was a teacher and mentor involved in training Licensed Teachers in an upper school in Bedfordshire.

This paper relates to the practice of mentoring within ITE which has become widespread in schools in England and Wales over the past three years. It explores some of the factors that motivate mentors and through Maslow's hierarchy of needs suggests what might constitute a state of self-actualisation for mentors. Currently there is little attention paid to matching mentor to mentee and vice-versa and this paper looks at examples of practice where this is occuring. It comes to the conclusion that successful interpersonal relationships are crucial to successful mentoring and matching of mentor/mentee should be undertaken.

Heralded by Kenneth Clarke to the North of England Conference in 1992, implemented following circular 9/92 in 1993, the move began in England and Wales to transfer increasing responsibility to schools from HE for the initial training of secondary school teachers. Attention has focused on the need for clear definition of partners' roles within HE/School partnerships, (Glover & Mardle, 1995), and on implications of increased involvement for schools undertaking greater participation in ITE (Watkins and Whalley 1993) the qualities essential to effective mentoring (Beardon et al, 1992), and the role of mentoring in the continuing professional development for teachers (Kerry, T. and Shelton-Mayes, A., 1995). To date, there has been some attention (Tomlinson, P. 1995, Brooks, V. 1995, DeBolt, 1992) focused on the nature of the interpersonal behaviour between mentor and mentee but not regarding the importance in matching in good mentoring practice.

According to Wilkin (1992) it was the Oxford University Department of Educational Studies which first designated teachers who had a responsibility for beginning teachers as "mentors". According to Wilkin, they were "experienced and trusted counsellors, who have a teaching, not merely a supervisory role."

In secondary school-based initial teacher education (ITE) schemes across England and Wales a variety of nomenclatures have arisen but in general a mentor is taken to be the classroom teacher who takes most of the responsibility for the pre-service teacher's professional and personal welfare within a subject department. The term "mentor" is also used in some European ITE school-based schemes but in Holland it is now apparently to be replaced by the term "coach" which perhaps better describes the role. Mentoring unlike supervising calls upon the classroom teacher to take responsibility not only for training but for assessing new teacher's professional development. But good mentors are more than trainers and assessors working their charges.

Good mentors are critical friends, personal guides, counsellors, engaged in a relationship that can become as fundamental to the personal development of the mentor as to the development of the mentee. The goals of mentoring can be described as essentially three-fold:

* good practice of teaching

* learning how and why good teaching comes about

* moral support.

It is the third category more than the other two that necessarily depends upon a close rapport between mentor and mentee. Several handbooks have been published since the move to school-based ITE assist mentors in their work (Hagger, H. Burn, K. and Mc Intyre,D. 1993; Stephens, P. 1996 and Calvert, M. and Fletcher, S. 1994) but though useful in guiding support in improving the practice of teaching they have barely addressed this issue of moral support. No matter how comprehensive the handbook or the training for a mentor, if s/he does not have the potential to be an effective mentor they cannot be one. Pasloe's (1993) description contains more than a hint of truth about the scope of mentoring in commenting that a mentor needs " the memory of an elephant, the patience of a saint and an unremitting sense of humour." Crucially, Tomlinson (1995) stresses that "mentors have to relate to and help student teachers as persons ... which means engaging with their values, motives and feelings." He highlights three core conditions for effective mentoring; an accepting stance; sensitivity to the feelings and experiences of the person being helped and genuineness. Again the word "counsellor" is used as a synonym for "mentor." Though teachers are normally selected for mentoring on the basis of being excellent classroom teachers, some do not have the potential to be effective mentors - the two roles are not interchangeable.

At present, though some mentors volunteer for their mentoring, the role of mentor is frequently assigned to teachers by senior staff and there may be little or no room for negotiation. One of the tensions in mentoring within a school-based environment is that this selection process can be left to chance. Choice of mentor by the school may depend upon availability rather than suitability; sometimes this is successful, sometimes it is not. A coopted mentor is more likely to see mentoring as a means of additional professional help in the classroom rather than as it should be an opportunity for planning the development of a mentee from professional infancy to professional adulthood. Mentors across Partnership Schools frequently state that they became involved in mentoring "because there was nobody else to do it."

In other schools, the mentoring role is shared out among colleagues who may have little or no knowledge of or preparation for such a demanding job. There can be distinct advantages in sharing mentoring - personality clashes are minimised and the mentee has the opportunity to work with mentors with different conceptualisations of teaching and of their mentoring role.

There should be concern where mentees are assigned to a teacher as a kind of sop for having an over-demanding teaching timetable. The expectation is that the mentee will provide an extra pair of hands in the classroom and ease the teaching load. While most teachers can service the role of mentor since there are similarities between teaching and mentoring not all can become efficient and effective mentors. Schoolteachers have chosen to train children and one would expect this to figure prominently in any self-actualization process. They may or may have the potential to mentor beginning teachers though finding themselves increasingly placed under pressure by school and HE to do so.

Mentoring in terms of transaction

†If a mentor's potential ie their state of self-actualization is to work with children rather than with adults they are likely to approach mentoring as they might approach teaching children. This may mean that they are will be happy to instruct, to give tips for successful teaching in a particular context but less able to empower the novice teacher to understand the dynamics of classroom interaction between teacher and learner. According to Berne (1964) every human being embodies three ego states (parental, adult and child). In the Child, reside intuition, creativity and spontaneous enjoyment. The Adult processes data and computes the probabilities which are essential for dealing effectively with the outside world. Additionally the Adult state regulates the activities of the Parent and the Child ego states. The Parent has two functions. First it embodies the nurturing aspect of the human, promoting survival. Secondly it makes many responses automatic "because that is the way things are" and saves the Adult being constricted by continuously making conscious decisions. Berne states emphatically that "each of (the states) Parent, Adult and Child is entitled to equal respect and has its legitimate place in a full and productive life."

If the mentor constantly operates in the Parent state the novice is likely to remain in the Child. The mentee will be protected and nurtured but not encouraged to challenge the mentor's or his/her own practice and by remaining fixed in a subordinate role is unlikely to grow to their professional maturity during the school placement. If, on the other hand the mentor can interact with the mentee in a flexible way where there is potential for both to function in Parent, Adult and Child states and mentor and mentee will benefit accordingly.

The classroom teacher has often little opportunity to act in the Adult mode but operates almost exclusively as Parent to the pupils. Just as the original Mentor was charged with nurturing (Parent) bringing Telemachus to a state of maturity so mentors should nurture their mentees. The fundamental difference is that while Telemachus WAS a child trainee teachers are not. They came as adults with an identity and preconceptions about teaching ready formed. The school-based mentor is faced with a dilemma. The beginning teacher is an adult yet s/he is in some aspects is a child to be nurtured, corrected and challenged in order to grow to professional adulthood. A mentor needs the ability to empathise, probe and provide the stimulation as well as the classroom context for the novice to attain professional growth. This is as much a pro-active as a reactive role for the mentor and working in such close contact with another human being may be beyond the normal experience of a classroom teacher.

As Martin (1996) makes clear, the mentor should set a climate of expectations in which their mentee will operate - as did the original Mentor - and this demands a process of needs analysis not only for the mentee but also for the mentor to undertake before the process of counselling and equally crucially that of assessing the beginning teacher's progress can get underway. As Dunne and Bennett (1997) point out, there are two critical factors in determining the success of the mentoring process;

* the quality of the relationship between the student teacher and the cooperating teacher (mentor).

* the classroom context in which they work.

The quality of the relationship is likely to be substantially influenced by the motivational drives of the mentor and correspondingly those of the mentee. Accordingly, The concept of self-actualization forms the pinnacle of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and has already received considerable attention in relation to mentoring (Tomlinson, op. cit., Adler et al., 1993).

However, just how self-actualization; of being true to one's nature; becoming actualized in what one is potentially, might appear for a mentor, has yet to be defined. It seems likely that there are aspects to this process of self-actualization common to all mentors but a number of issues affect the individual.

How can mentoring offer self actualization to mentors?†

Maslow (1971 b) describes self-actualising people as being

"devoted, working at something, something which is very precious to them - some calling or vocation in the old sense, the priestly sense."

A self-actualising teacher therefore is devoted to the practice of teaching as a part of his or her own being. Teaching is not simply an occupation or a means to an end, it is intrinsically of paramount importance to the person of the teacher. By embracing mentoring as the essence and the substance of teaching, rather than as an additional activity related to but not of pupil teaching it can be a means of self-actualization for the mentor. So long as mentoring is seen as additional to a teacher's job rather than as an intrinsically developmental part of it the teacher-mentor cannot develop fully. The profession of mentoring deserves to be held in esteem, to be accorded the respect and conditions (Smith and West-Burnham, 1993) that will empower mentor and mentee and to be regarded as part of a professional vision of teaching. Where a classroom teacher regards mentoring as activity extrinsic to their own classroom teaching, it is unlikely that a successful mentoring relationship can be established between mentor, mentee and pupils.

Though many teachers apparently reach a state of professional self-actualization by reaching their potential as classroom practitioners, mentoring offers professional opportunities that would not otherwise arise. These can be broadly divided into two categories:

* Personal development

* Professional development

With the dual incentive of direct participation in the personal and professional development of another human being as an over-arching factor, the two main categories can be subdivided thus:

* Personal development;

Increased self esteem


Improved interpersonal skills

Increased autonomy

* Professional development;

In-service training

Increased professional status

New teaching experiences

Reflection and improvement of teaching skills

When asked to comment on the benefits offered by involvement in ITE that would otherwise be unavailable to them, mentors working within the Bath University PGCE Scheme highlighted

* review of their own practice of teaching

* injection of new ideas and teaching strategies

* team teaching

* additional and enhanced teaching resources

* reinforcement of their self-worth

* working with another adult

* passing on professional skills to another adult

* career enhancement

For some teachers, working to develop children's potential as learners is alone sufficient to bring a sense of personal and professional completeness. For others mentoring can facilitate this development towards self-actualization.

Issues affecting individual self-actualization;

* timing in a classroom teacher's career

* age of the mentor and mentee

* previous experience of the mentor and mentee

* personality of the mentor and mentee

* gender of the mentor and mentee

A time for mentoring?

It seems possible that the nature of a person's self-actualization changes over time. Just as there are phases in personal life (Levinson, 1978) there are phases in professional life (Sikes, 1992) These professional phases can be expected to engage with phases in the mentoring relationship (Furlong and Maynard, 1995).

As there is an optimum season for seeking a mentor so there is perhaps also an optimum time for being a mentor. A teacher who is still finding his or her own way in a new career or in a new school environment is effectively still a novice rather than an experienced guide in a particular location. An experienced mentor changing schools can still act as a critical friend that a new teacher needs but cannot easily assist the mentee within that new situation.

Experience Issues

For many classroom teachers there is a choice to be made in their careers; to remain as classroom teachers in close and sustained contact with pupils or move upwards in promotion terms into senior management. In secondary schools this is likely to entail moving increasingly away from contact with pupils and into administration. There are few stages of significance in teaching than one normally finds in other areas of employment and few ways exist for teachers to remain in the classroom teaching contact while taking on a recognised post of seniority. There have been national and local schemes to reward "good" classroom practitioners have largely passed into oblivion and while some classroom teachers are happy to move up and away others feel that it is the contact with children that is their own reason for being, a large constituent within their self-actualization. There may few teachers in a school with sufficient experience to become mentors.

Novice teachers sometimes join PGCE course with considerable teaching experience behind them. The acquisition of Qualified Teaching Status is sometimes seen as a formality by mentor and mentee alike. The danger is that the experienced teacher-mentee will be allowed to remain at what Furlong and Maynard call the plateau stage. He or she needs particular challenges framed to refine and extend knowledge of and about teaching. An inexperienced mentor may not appreciate the very special needs such a mentee has and thus be unable to provide a suitable programme.

Age-related Issues

Traditionally the mentor is expected not only to be wiser and more experienced than the mentee but also older. With the steady influx of mature applicants to PGCE courses, particularly in the shortage subjects of Science and Modern Foreign Languages, a teacher who is younger than the mentee may become the mentor. Though this age difference in itself may appear irrelevant tensions can arise between a mentee who is more worldly-wise and a mentee who is more teaching-wise. Though attitude rather than age is a crucial factor in the mentoring relationship, there is no denying that age can present difficulties. Some schools have an unwritten policy of employing young teachers whom they expect to be more energetic and cost less than more mature applicants! A mature novice teacher can find difficultly in relating to younger colleagues and vice versa if visible signs of age are underpinned by less visible but insidious prejudice against it.

Personality-related issues

According to DeBolt et al, 1992:

"The relationship between mentor and partner teacher is collegial. The quality of interactions hinge on relationship issues (trust, rapport, readiness to assist and be assisted.)

There are inevitably occasions where a healthy relationship does not grow between mentor and beginning teacher. Given the shortage of school placements and thus of mentors there can be little flexibility of choice and some beginning teachers will find their early career blighted by disagreement and by clashes of personality. The mentor assigned may not be the mentor most suited to the personal needs of the mentee. In a failing partnership both mentor and mentee will suffer and ultimately it is the profession of teaching itself that bears the brunt of a mismatched partnership.

Novice teachers know well that the success of their placement in schools is largely dependent upon the quality of relationship they develop with their mentor. As one more than one beginning teacher has wryly commented "If you don't get on with your mentor - you've had it!" Personality clashes are a matter of everyday life and it can be difficult to avoid them when mentor and mentee are feeling under stress. As one of the novice teachers who has encountered difficulties with her mentor recently pointed out, "I cannot let differences of opinion matter to me, I have to learn to work with people I don't like and I disagree with." While her perspective is laudable in some respects it is nevertheless unfortunate. Why should this novice have to deal with such additional difficulties where others in her PGCE group do not? A prolonged clash of personalities can only be destructive for both mentor and mentee and arrangements to dissolve the mentoring relationship may be the best option.

Gender-related issues

Lortie (1993), reporting on a survey by Mason, draws attention to a gender-related issue in career aspirations which has implications for the mentoring relationship. Most women think of teaching as a terminal status; the vast majority of men reject teaching as an ultimate goal but see it as a means towards another end. It is possible that male and female teachers have a different conception of teaching and that this concept will characterise the interaction between mentor and mentee. Self-actualization, if Mason's survey is still indicative of the current situation in schools, would be different for male and female mentors.

Since the initial period of training is the most formative within a teacher's career, the assumptions and aspirations of the mentor are likely to have a significant impact on the development of the new teacher. A male:male mentor;mentee relationship is likely to be different from a female;male one and correspondingly a female;female relationship will differ from a male;female one. There has been a move to de-gender society by denying differences in approach to interpersonal relationships. Levinson does not fudge issues any more than Nature. There are differences not only of physiology but of instinct and both must surely have a significant effect on the mentoring relationship.

In 1995-6 a group of 100 mentors were surveyed by questionnaire in the PGCE Partnership coordinated by the University of Bath. With a response rate of 62%, proportionally more female than male mentors reported feeling pressured by senior management into adopting their role. More males than female mentors cited "personal interest" as their primary reason for undertaking mentoring. The motivational drives that lead mentors to mentor are likely to have a fundamental influence on their expectations of themselves and of their mentees. The data collected from this pilot survey also suggested that there were differences in perception between males and female teachers of the mentoring role. Male teachers appeared to be more concerned about the practical arrangements for mentoring - timetabling, course documentation, while their female counterparts stressed the interpersonal nature of their work.

Mentors' professional priorities

Differences exist in mentors' intent and perception and these differences influence the mentee's experience of teaching. Some mentees within the Bath University PGCE group report feeling personally neglected if the emphasis in mentoring is placed predominantly upon the mechanics of teaching. Others have sought slightly less personal involvement than their mentor especially as the mentor relationship has evolved over the year. Conflicts can arise where mentor and mentee see teaching in very different ways. Gender-related issues aside, a novice teacher who intends to teach for a few years may seem uncommitted to mentor who sees teaching as an lifelong activity. A mentee placed with a mentor who regards teaching as an interim activity may become progressively disillusioned if s/he conceptualises teaching as a life-long vocation. Consequently they are more likely to drift out of teaching seeing it as field for the committed but unambitious professional. As Lortie (op. cit.) points out, such discontinuities weaken the solidarity of the teaching profession.

Matching within mentoring relationships

Matching can occur in a number of ways:

* a mentor selects a mentee to work with

* a mentee selects a mentor to work with

* a third party selects a mentor and a mentee to work together

The first stage in selection requires needs analysis of bot mentor and mentee. What are the mentor's goals for this particular mentoring partnership? What odes the mentor need to derive from the mentoring relationship in order to reach a state of fulfilment? Conversely what are the needs and expectations of the mentee? Identifying mentor and mentee needs and taking both into account in matching can be an exacting matter for all concerned and a third party may be in a better position to analyze needs and effect a suitable match than either mentor or mentee.

Opportunities for matching

There is much to be said for giving time for mentee and mentor to get to know one another before a final decision to set up a pair is made. For the mentee and mentor to come to trust and feel safe in one another's company and for a healthy partnership to develop time must be set aside away from the classroom situation. A recent study of one ITE Partnership in Barcelona revealed an intriguing scheme to address the interpersonal needs of the mentoring relationship. Mentors were selected by the university tutor on the basis of their classroom expertise. They were then expected to make a video presentation of their school and but significantly to give a detailed account to the cohort of pre-service teachers of the nature of the mentoring relationship they could offer. This inevitably led to tensions as mentors jostled to promote their skills in the public arena but had the advantage of allowing mentees a limited opportunity to choose their mentor.

In the PGCE programme run by Bath University, novice teachers have three prolonged periods of school practice, two in the main or "Homeschool" and one in the "Complementary" School. Currently my Homeschools also offer Complementary School placements. As the name suggests, the second placement is intended to be different from but complementary to, the first. Within my Modern Languages group, I allocate my students to Homeschools initially on the basis of their main teaching languages. The novice teachers are later given a free hand to choose the Complementary School placement from those that offered mentoring. This choice is made on the basis of discussion between the novices. They ask about teaching subjects, the ethos of the school and about the mentor. Almost without fail the initial selection by them is made on the basis of the mentoring available and it is not unusual to find 25% of the group or more opting for the same school placement! Further negotiation reveals questions about the pupils, the discipline code, the school inspection report, national examination results and the friendliness of the staff.

Where mentors can assist HE tutors in the interview process for recruiting PGCE candidates, a mentor will sometimes request that a certain recruit be assigned to their school. This tends to be profitable situation for mentor and mentee and it is so because it grows from a position of choice, albeit one-sided. The norm is that mentors do not have a say in the selection of mentee assigned to them. They may ask for a novice who offers a particular subject but it is unlikely that they will request more than a "strong student who will not be a problem." In a situation akin to a blind date the mentor and mentee usually meet for the first occasion at the outset of the school placement. A mutually beneficial relationship may develop but its inception is largely a matter of chance.

In one PGCE course run by a School-centred ITE (SCITT) scheme in Bedfordshire without HE partnership, PGCE candidates undergo a double interview process. At the first interview a candidate is screened for suitability to join the course and are assigned initially to a school placements. At a second interview held at the placement school PGCE candidates spend time with the mentor in order that both can judge their likely suitability as mentor and mentee. Should a suitable match not seem likely the recruit is assigned to a further school for interview. In the unlikely event that this too seems ill-set to succeed the recruit is encouraged to withdraw from the PGCE course on the grounds that he or she would be unlikely to settle within a school-based team of teachers.


Currently the majority of mentoring relationships appear to function in a satisfactory way within school-based ITE. Most mentors enjoy the experience of mentoring and most novice teachers pass through the stage of being mentored to attain Qualified Teacher Status - but satisfactory mentoring could and should be upgraded to good mentoring. One way of doing this is to match mentor to mentee and vice versa. Quality mentoring is dependent upon the quality of the relationship established between mentor and mentee. A quality relationship is more likely to evolve as a result of choice by those investing in it.

Mentoring has the potential for mutual growth for mentor and mentee. As the mentee develops teaching skills the mentor can develop technical and counselling skills that can enrich his or her professional development as a classroom teacher. The potential for self-actualization for mentor and mentee is abundant. Adequate mentoring relationships abound but good mentoring relationships are rare. An awareness of the personal and professional needs of mentor and mentee is a prerequisite of a successful mentoring partnership. While Yamamamoto (1990) urges the reader to acknowledge that good mentoring is dependent upon "regard - an acknowledgement of one's personhood". Levinson reminds us that

"Poor mentoring in early adulthood is the equivalent of poor parenting in childhood."

With so much at stake for mentor and mentee should the acknowledgement of personhood within mentoring be left to chance?


Beardon T. Booth M Hargreaves D. and Reiss M.(1992), School-led Initial Teacher Training : the Way Forward, Department of Education, University of Cambridge.

Berne, E. (1964) Games People Play, Harlow: Penguin Books

Brooks, V. (1995) "Mentoring: the Interpersonal dimension" in Journal of Teacher Development, 5 (1) pp5-9

Calvert, M. and Fletcher, S.J. (1994) Working with Your Student Teacher, Cheltenham; Association of Language Learners/MGP

Clutterbuck, D. (1994) "Uncovering the Way a mentor does his work" in The Business Magazine, November 1994

DeBolt, G. and Morine-Dershimmer, G. (eds) (1992) Teacher Induction and Mentoring: School-based Collaborative Programs, State University of New York Press

Dunne, E. and Bennet, N. (1997) "Mentoring Processes in School-based Training" in British Educational Research Journal, Vol 23 (2) pp. 225-236

Furlong, J. and Maynard, T. (1995) Mentoring Student Teachers: the growth of professional knowledge London: Routledge

Hagger, H, Burn, K. and McIntyre, D. (1993) The School Mentor Handbook, London: Kogan Page,

Kerry, T. and Shelton Mayes, A. (eds) (1995) Issues in Mentoring, London: Routledge/OUP

Levinson, D. (1978) The Seasons of a Man's Life, New York, USA: Ballantyne Books

Maslow, A. (1973) The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Harlow: Penguin Books

Parsloe, E. (1993) Coaching, Mentoring and Assessing, London: Kogan Page

Sikes, P. (1992) "The Life Cycle of the Teacher" pp 27-60 in Ball, S. and Goodson, F. (eds) Teachers' Lives and Careers, London: The Falmer Press

Smith, P. and West-Burnham, J (eds) (1993) Mentoring in the Effective School, Harlow: Longman

Stephens, P. (1996) Essential Mentoring Skills, Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes

Tomlinson, P. (1995), Understanding Mentoring; reflective strategies for school-based teacher preparation, Open University Press, Buckingham

Watkins, C. and Whalley, C. (1993) "Mentoring Beginner Teachers - Issues for Schools to Anticipate and Manage" in School Organisation, 13(2), pp. 129-138. Carfax Publishing Company, Abingdon: Oxon

Wilkin, M. (1992) Mentoring in Schools London: the Falmer Press


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