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A mentoring mindset (Meddylfryd mentora)
A mentoring mindset (Meddylfryd mentora)

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6 The role of assessment

Unlike coaching activity between qualified teachers, assessment forms an important part of supporting beginner teachers. The element of assessment can add pressure on all involved parties.

In university-based ITE, a mentor or coach will play a socialising role. The role is one of helping to make sense of both educational and learning theory, and also their links to pedagogy and practice. In addition, school-based mentors/coaches are often asked to assess the competence of the early career teacher against a set of standards (e.g. the Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) standards). In this case, they act as gatekeepers of acceptance into the teaching profession.

When assessing early career teachers, coaching techniques can be applied to promote independent learning and a recognition of next steps. Discussing and co-constructing understanding of a classroom situation (i.e. a coaching style) has been found to promote development (Furlong and Maynard, 1995).

On the other hand, providing an excess of judgements and evaluations can prove to be an obstacle in school-based mentoring/coaching relationships. Adopting an assessor’s role provides challenge for the early career teacher, but little or no support. This has been termed ‘judge mentoring’ (Hobson and Malderez, 2013) and is considered an impediment to both the professional learning and wellbeing of early career teachers.

The need to balance support and challenge was discussed earlier, along with some techniques that can promote more balanced professional discussions. Research suggests that being able to practice their roles without fear of failure (Bauer et al., 2007), and in the absence of a performance climate (Černe, Jaklič and Škerlavaj, 2013), is beneficial to both early career teachers (in terms of extending or challenging their own range of pedagogies) and their schools (by keeping up to date with recent trends and evidence-based pedagogies).

Lesson observation is a common form of assessment for early career teachers. Love (2020) identifies four key lesson observation types:

  • absent
  • brutal
  • collegial
  • inspection.

Reflecting on each of these different types of lesson observation is useful when you are seeking to support an early career teacher. The next activity will support you as you deliberate on how the way observations are conducted can impact those being observed.

Activity 5 Observing and supporting

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes

This activity outlines the characteristics of the four types of lesson observation identified by Love (2020). As you read each one, consider the observation experience from the perspective of the person being observed. For example, how will this type of observation and feedback impact their development or their wellbeing?

Write brief notes to outline your thoughts.

Type of observation Likely purpose of the observation Characteristics of the observation Characteristics of the feedback


To check that the teacher is carrying out school ‘non-negotiables’ and the level of student engagement. Unannounced, short, drop-in style observation, less than 20 minutes in length – could have several in a day and more than one in a lesson. Either non-existent or minimal, usually a copy of the observation pro-forma attached to an email. Usually graded 1–4 according to inspectorate criteria.
Possible impact of an absent-type observation on the observed:
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To assess teacher capabilities and check they are carrying out the school ‘non-negotiables’ and the level of student engagement. Planned or unannounced observation lasting 20 minutes or longer. Non-developmental, delivered with little or no empathy, observer lists what the teacher has done wrong or not done, with little or no suggestions on how to improve. Usually graded 1–4.
Possible impact of a brutal-type observation on the observed:
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To help teacher development with issues such as behaviour or trying new teaching strategies. Agreed time and class, could be short or a longer observation depending on agreed purpose. Developmental/two-way conversation that allows teacher to explain their choices and concerns, ungraded.
Possible impact of a collegial-type observation on the observed:
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To assess teaching across the school. Short, drop-in or longer unannounced observations. May be non-graded, usually developmental with suggestions on how to improve.
Possible impact of an inspection-type observation on the observed:
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Ideally, assessment of beginner teachers should be a mix of collegial- and inspection-type lesson observations. Key aspects to include within an effective observation are:

  • an agreed purpose
  • a willingness to try things out
  • the promotion of positive self-esteem
  • constructive feedback to support future development.