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

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

4.1 Sharing practice

Learning to interpret classrooms from the teacher’s perspective, and understanding the actions that lie behind what teachers do is the first – and most difficult – task that student teachers have to undertake. The teaching of an experienced teacher is often so fluent that it looks easy. Important decisions and processing of information about the pupils is hidden from the inexperienced observer. Observers only see what they understand and, in the early days of learning to teach, student teachers may have little understanding of the complexities of teaching.

Student teachers need a great deal of help when observing lesson, even when they are mature candidates with a wide range of other life and career experiences. The mentor has a key role in helping the student teacher to examine critically the strengths and weaknesses of lessons through carrying out an analysis of their own teaching: evaluating and sharing practice with their student teacher and modelling the process of critically reflecting on practice.

This process involves:

  • the student teacher observing the mentor
  • the mentor talking about what the student saw during the observation.

It is valuable for mentors to discuss both the strengths and weaknesses of their own practice, for several reasons:

  • being open about weaknesses in the lesson can help to establish a relationship based on mutual trust in which areas of practice are seen to be available for discussion and analysis
  • it shows the student teacher that things do go wrong in lessons, even for experienced practitioners, but that professional teachers will evaluate and adapt their planning in the light of that analysis
  • it reveals that experienced teachers continue to evaluate their own practice in order to improve it, emphasising that professional development is a commitment that runs throughout the teacher’s career
  • it provides the student teacher with a model of how the experienced teacher does that analysis.

The mentor, therefore, is seen as a role model for the student teacher, in their development of a self-evaluative and reflective approach to teaching.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371