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Learning to teach: mentoring and tutoring student teachers
Learning to teach: mentoring and tutoring student teachers

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2.2 Balancing support and challenge

As with any effective student-centred learning, development and progression in Initial Teacher Education is based on achieving the right balance between support, appropriate to the stage in their learning and challenge to move the student teacher forward in their thinking or practice. This balance is represented in Figure 1.

Described image
Figure 1 This diagram demonstrates pictorially the balancing dynamics of the mentor role, of providing both support and challenge to the student teacher. (Source: adapted from Martin (1996), Daloz (1986))

Although this model can be taken to represent the overall balance between support and challenge, it is quite likely that student teachers will need different levels of support and challenge in different scenarios. This may change from week to week or even day to day. An obvious example is when students are at different levels of the course. A shorter term example may be if they are struggling with one issue, such as behaviour management, with a particular class or individual. Recognising the level of support or challenge that is needed in a particular circumstance and being flexible in your approach is a key mentoring skill.

Activity 2: Challenge and support

Timing: Time: 20 minutes

Using the model above, think about mentoring a student teacher. What student behaviours might indicate a need to modify the balance between challenge and support?


You may have noted down some general emotional or personal indications such as a dip in confidence, signs of significant stress, or a lack of organisation.

You may have thought about performance indicators such as not taking on advice where before they did, lack of detail in lesson planning or struggling with particular aspects for a long period of time without having new strategies or ideas to overcome them.