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

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2.1 Learning by reflection

Dewey (1933) and Schön (1987) are perhaps the best-known theorists who see reflection as an important tool in professional learning. Reflection can enable a beginner teacher to relate theoretical ideas or the ideas promoted by a national curriculum to the hurly-burly of the classroom. It is a way to more closely align a beginner teacher’s professional actions with the values that they espouse.

Essentially reflection is seen ‘as a good thing’, but also as a habit of mind that is difficult to achieve at sufficient depth to make a difference. Beginner teachers may reflect on their experience and use reflection to seek solutions to complex problems. Exploring ‘their ideal’ and what factors might limit the achievement of that ideal can prompt the depth of reflection that will lead to learning. In this theory, the mentor’s role is to prompt the beginner teacher to explore and make overt their inner beliefs and values, in order to activate their competencies and plan new and improved ways of acting within the classroom.

There are difficulties with basing mentoring on this theory. These include finding a reflective space in school in which to explore beliefs and feelings in this way, and also finding the time necessary to build solutions to issues. Time is a big issue for the mentoring relationship, especially when the student needs something organised, wants your views on how to teach a difficult concept, needs a form signed, and so on.

Activity 3 Supporting reflection in different situations

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes

Consider the scenarios below and identify how you might support reflection in each situation.

Scenario How might I support reflection effectively?
You are undertaking work in the classroom while the beginner teacher takes the last lesson of the day. The beginner teacher sets work that is too easy for the learners, and they start to become disengaged. You have a meeting straight after school and will not see the beginner teacher until the next day.
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The beginner teacher decides to try a new approach to group work, which results in disruption in the lesson; you feel you need to intervene to prevent further disruption.
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A beginner teacher shares some learner work which he/she is particularly pleased with, but you feel the beginner teacher has not taken into account the prior learning of the class.
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A beginner teacher is highly self-critical, completing every lesson with a list of things that went wrong.
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Rather than simply telling them what needs to be done, it’s usually far more effective to ask questions in a way that encourages beginner teachers to reflect and recognise for themselves where development is needed. Creating opportunities for an open discussion, encouraging the beginner teacher to consider why something might have occurred, is the best mentoring practice – but often the timing of such conversations needs careful consideration. Meeting immediately after a disastrous lesson may not be the most appropriate time to dissect what happened, although the beginner teacher is likely to need some reassurance. Waiting some time can bring perspective, as the beginner teacher can process their immediate feelings, allowing deeper reflection to take place.

Beginner teachers may need to be supported in recognising positive aspects of their teaching. Encouraging initial discussion about positives and where progress has been made will usually allow an honest discussion of points for development to take place, resulting in the creation of specific, achievable targets.

When time is precious, questions that encourage deep reflection could be jotted onto lesson planning or in a notebook that may be shared with the beginner teacher. For example, questions that ask the beginner teacher to consider why something happened in a lesson could be jotted down in the moment, and then followed up in a regular meeting.