As the nation’s attention is increasingly focused on the outcomes of education, policymakers have undertaken a wide range of reforms to improve schools, ranging from new standards and tests to redesigned schools, new curricula, and new instructional strategies. One important lesson from these efforts has been the recurrent finding that teachers are the fulcrum that determines whether any school initiative tips toward success or failure. Next to the status of the profession and the role of the teacher in the educational enterprise, the quality of teaching, the process of teacher professional development and the strategies to influence that process are the central issues. Every aspect of school reform; the creation of more challenging curriculum, the use of ambitious assessments, the implementation of decentralized management, the invention of new model schools and programs is totally depends on highly-skilled teachers. Teacher mentoring programs are now perceived as an effective staff development approach for beginning teachers. By establishing teacher mentoring programs, the district serves two important purposes: novice teachers are given a strong start at the beginning of their careers, and experienced classroom teachers serving as mentors receive recognition and incentives (Little and Nelson, 1990). Researchers believe that mentoring can be a valuable process in educational reform for beginning teachers as well as veteran teachers (Ganser, 1996). Supporting beginning teachers at the outset contributes to retention of new teachers in the school system. Formalizing the mentor role for experienced teachers creates another niche in the career ladder for teachers and contributes to the professionalism of education. The significance of mentoring for beginning teachers is gaining wider recognition throughout the Pacific region. Planning the development of a mentoring program was initiated in Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia. In 1993, the Office of Personnel Services in the Hawaii State Department of Education disseminated “Guidelines for Mentor Teacher Programs.” The intent of these guidelines, developed in collaboration with the Hawaii State Teachers Association, was “to develop additional mentor teacher projects at schools and to support existing mentor projects” (November 1, 1993). As attention continues to be focused on teachers as a key factor in educational reform, and on their need for ongoing improvement and support, mentoring becomes a viable option in educational policy. Without this focus on professional improvement for teachers, some researchers believe that educational reform efforts will eventually fail (Dilworth and Imig, 1995).
Mentoring as defined by Sullivan and Glanz (2000) is “a process that facilitates instructional improvement wherein an experienced educator agrees to provide assistance, support, and recommendations to another staff member” (p. 213). Mentoring is a form of collaborative (peer) supervision focused on helping new teachers or beginning teachers successfully learn their roles, establish their self images as teachers figure out the school and its culture, and understand how teaching unfolds in real class rooms (Sergiovanni & Starratt, 2007). Sullivan and Glanz (2000) stated the works of mentors as: The mentor can work with a novice or less experienced teacher collaboratively, nonjudgmentally studying and deliberating on ways instruction in the class room may be improved, or the mentor can share expertise in a specific area with other educators. Mentors are not judges or critics, but facilitators of instructional improvement. All interactions and recommendations between the mentor and staff members are confidential. (p. 213) Research projects and publications revealed that mentoring has clear connections with supervision and professional development which serve to augment the succession planning and professional development of teachers (Reiman & Thies-Sprinthall, 1998).In addition, Sergiovanni and Starratt (2007) described that the emphasis of mentoring on helping new or beginner teachers is typically useful for mentors as well. By helping a colleague (beginner teacher), mentors able to see their problems more clearly and to learn ways to overcome them. As a result, mentoring is the kind of relationship in which learning benefits everyone involved.
Peer coaching, according to Sullivan and Glanz (2000), is defined as “teachers helping teachers reflect on and improve teaching practice and/or implement particular teaching skills needed to implement knowledge gained through faculty or curriculum development” (p. 215). The term coaching is introduced to characterize practice and feedback following staff development sessions. According to Singhal (1996), supervision is more effective if the supervisor follows the team approach. This would mean that the supervisor should have a clear interaction with teachers and group of teachers, provide an open, but supportive atmosphere for efficient communication, and involve them in decision making. The goal of coaching as described by Sergiovanni and Starratt (2007), is to develop communities within which “teachers collaborate to honor a very simple value- when we learn together, we learn more, and when we learn more, we will more effectively serve our students” (p. 251). Thus, peer coaching provides possible opportunities to beginner teachers to refine teaching skills through collaborative relationships, participatory decision making, and immediate feedback (Bowman & McCormick, 2000; Sullivan & Glanz, 2000). In this regard, research findings showed that beginning teachers rated experienced teachers who coached than as highly competent and the process itself as very necessary (Kutsyuruba, 2003).
Definition of Mentoring
Numerous interpretations of the mentoring process are contained in the literature on mentoring. It is commonly agreed that the process includes the various developmental phases of the mentoring relationship, the dynamics of the mentoring relationship itself, and the application of cognitive developmental theory to the mentoring process (Bey and Holmes,1992). In education, mentoring is a complex and multi-dimensional process of guiding, teaching, influencing and supporting a beginning or new teacher. It is generally accepted that a mentor teacher leads, guides and advises another teacher more junior in experience in a work situation characterized by mutual trust and belief. Typically, mentoring programs pair novice teachers with more experienced teachers who can ably explain school policies, regulations and procedures; share methods, materials and other resources; help solve problems in teaching and learning; provide personal and professional support; and guide the growth of the new teacher through reflection, collaboration, and shared inquiry (Feiman-Nemser and Parker, 1992). Mentoring/Modeling/Coaching
The terms mentoring, modeling, and coaching are frequently used interchangeably by educators. While there are overlaps in meaning among these terms, there are significant differences in concept. Modeling is the process of serving as a model. A model is a tangible embodiment of an idea or ideal (a product). One of the functions of a mentor is to be a positive role model. In the context of teaching, coaching, frequently referred to as peer coaching, is the assistance that one teacher provides to another in the development of teaching skills, strategies, or techniques generally within a formal three-part structure: peer-conference, lesson observation, and post-conference. In doing classroom observation in mentoring, the coaching structure is commonly used to structure the classroom observation by the mentor. Coaching by the mentor may also become an essential activity if this type of support is needed by the beginning teacher. Mentoring is the process of serving as a mentor, someone who facilitates and assists another’s development. The process includes modeling because the mentor must be able to model the messages and suggestions being taught to the beginning teacher (Gay, 1995). Also, as indicated, the mentor must be able to serve as a model of the teacher’s role in education. The mentoring process includes coaching as an instructional technique used in endeavors such as sports or apprenticeship at the work place. In addition, it includes “cognitive coaching,” a term gaining wider familiarity in education. To be effective, the mentor must be able to demonstrate a range of cognitive coaching competencies, such as posing carefully constructed questions to stimulate reflection, paraphrasing, probing, using wait-time, and collecting and using data to improve teaching and learning. Mentoring, like coaching, is a collaborative process (Gay, 1995). However, as a function—a special duty required of a person—mentoring has considerably more dimensions than coaching or modeling. Therefore, it is more complex and demanding (Head, Reiman and Thies-Sprinthall, 1992).