Coaching And Mentoring: EIS Policy Paper

Created on: 23 Jan 2018 | Last modified: 04 Jul 2018


The EIS welcomes the investment in establishing and promoting coaching and mentoring initiatives in Scottish education. Coaching and mentoring have the potential to contribute significantly to improving learning and teaching, and contribute to the wider professional development framework that continues to evolve in the context of A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century.

Coaching and mentoring is neither cheap nor a substitute for other forms of learning and professional development. Coaching and mentoring is about encouraging and
promoting professional development based on existing capacities and the potential for improvement.

Schools and colleges will only be able to progress in relation to their existing capacities for collegiality and leadership, and their ability to source and prioritise the necessary investment in terms of time and money.

It is important to guard against over-ambition and over-zealousness where the lack of necessary resources can often lead to poor implementation. The EIS supports a model of coaching and mentoring which is primarily about developing and enhancing collegiality, and developing professional confidence among teachers – a model of coaching and mentoring primarily for, and by, teachers.

The EIS would resist any unnecessary commercialisation of coaching and mentoring, and would question any need to import models from elsewhere which were not consistent with aims and principles outlined in this paper. The development of mentoring and coaching is fairly well established in many schools for probationers, and features as part of the Scottish Qualification for Headteachers and also Project Leadership schemes.

There is a need, however, for a clear focus on coaching and mentoring initiatives for supporting classroom teachers, including specific initiatives which build coaching and mentoring capacities themselves, and not simply building management capacities.

Over time coaching and mentoring may become part of professional development for all teachers. EIS Learning representatives can play a significant role in such a development. It is important, however, that coaching and mentoring is not seen as the dominant vehicle for promoting professional development.

The issue of resources, particularly time, cannot be avoided; there is also a clear financial requirement. A longer-term strategic outlook is necessary in order to create structures and systems and to identify funding to support coaching and mentoring initiatives.

The EIS would support a focus on the following aims and principles within a framework of openness, effective communication, mutual trust and collaboration:

  • Structured professional dialogue
  • Setting personal and professional goals within a context of self-evaluation and self-direction
  • Developing trust and a tolerance of different approaches
  • Learning agreements at school and local level which establish ground rules and acknowledge imbalances in power and accountability
  • Acknowledging benefits to mentors and coaches themselves
  • Combines internal and external support
  • Collaboration with colleagues
  • Experimenting and observing
  • Using resources effectively to protect and sustain learning and teaching.

However, clarity of purpose is important even if precise definitions may prove difficult. There is plenty of effective mentoring and coaching practice developing in Scottish schools and important work is being undertaken in our schools and, also, universities such as Aberdeen, Glasgow and Paisley. Recognition of what a coaching and mentoring culture looks like, and an understanding of what it can offer are important.

It is a matter of priority that the Scottish educational community establish working definitions linked to illustrative examples of practice. An emphasis on coaching and mentoring may help focus on a model of professional development that is essentially collegiate in nature, which is preferable to notions of ‘charismatic leadership’ based on apparent exceptional character and personality traits.

A focus on skill, knowledge and effort as opposed to charisma is much more productive, helpful and practical, and certainly more amenable to influence and development, and therefore, to coaching and mentoring.

This is a gradual process which takes account of personnel, priorities and resources. The potential barriers to progress are unexceptional in the context of any significant initiative: existing capacities and prevailing organisational culture may support, or impede, progress in the area of developing collegiality, a prerequisite for successful coaching and mentoring; a lack of understanding including a superficial notion of delegation; a lack of time and resources; competing priorities within traditional structures; and an overdependence on imported models which may be inappropriate to the specific context.

Coaching and mentoring is not about making judgements, creating dependency, imposing others' agendas and initiatives, nor confirming habit, routine or long-held prejudices.

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