Rachel M. Lofthouse (2016), "Best Practices in Mentoring for Teacher and Leader Development", International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 158-159. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMCE-03-2016-0020
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
This edited book is a collection of chapters representing the diversity of practices in coaching and mentoring written from the perspectives of both practitioners and researchers. The educational focus is clear, with the sequence of chapters creating a sense of career development from novice teacher through experienced teacher to educational leaders. An interesting and important feature of the title and the book is the recognition of “best practices” in the plural, and this is welcome given the tendency in school improvement and educational development literature and policy communication to make this singular. The editors develop an argument for identifying best practices at the start of the book, stating their criteria to “be effective in practice”, to “be empirically proven” and to “achieve the stated purpose”. On first glance these may seem simple, but the cases of coaching and mentoring documented, researched and reflected on in the subsequent chapters demonstrate why they are a valuable tool through which to consider the diverse and nuanced practices. Having said this I am always curious about the impact of the discourses of “best practice” in educational settings and wonder whether the concept of “good practices” is one that some (like me) would be more comfortable with.
The examples of coaching and mentoring discussed in the book are exclusively from the Americas, with the majority being situated in the USA. Interesting and crucial national and state differences in educational policy and practices are, however, reflected through the range of studies. As a collection, the chapters provide the reader with genuine insights into dilemmas, challenges and opportunities created by contemporary educational policies, practices and trends. In Chapter 7, for example, Etta Kralovec and Laura Gail Lunsford discuss the establishment of a mentoring network to confront some of the challenges of STEM teacher recruitment, retention, professional practice and professional development at the US-Mexico border. Ya-Wen Cheng, Deborah L. Hanuscin and Mark J. Volkmann use Chapter 5 to illustrate how online media created new opportunities for mentoring and coaching, and systematically compare these with face-to-face interactions in relation to curriculum project-based professional development communities. In Chapter 11, Constance Magee and Charles L. Slater provide evidence of the role of mentoring provision in supporting new principals to meet the high demands and realities of school leadership in urban school districts of California.
Common to all of the chapters is a successful articulation of mentoring and coaching practices, which already existed or were enabled through the research projects. As such, the book provides a strong sense of the wide scope and diverse characteristics of coaching and mentoring used for professional development in school contexts. The authors and editors are not particularly concerned with strictly defining coaching vs mentoring, and instead report authentically how these and other terms are used in the programmes to identify and support a range of practices in real workplace contexts. The focus here is on how we can learn to recognise and sustain “best practices” through research. Indeed, just as each chapter focuses on a unique coaching or mentoring set-up, they also illustrate the range of research methodologies and methods that are appropriate to capture, analyse and understand them. This makes the book equally interesting to practitioners, policy-makers and researchers. Each chapter is self-contained, meaning that the book can be read sporadically without losing the thread, and each one offers the reader a chance to engage critically with a relevant research literature as well as a specific research project.
In their introductory and concluding chapters, Linda J. Searby and Susan K. Brondyk make the case for the need to consider best practices across these diverse activities. They draw on each case and associated research evidence offered through the chapters to summarise their conclusions. As such, the editors demonstrate the continuing significance of dialogue and recognise that new tools can support new opportunities and forms of professional dialogue. They also emphasise the importance of reflection on practice as a key component of successful mentoring and coaching. The editors recognise too that securing and raising student achievement is the primary desired outcome of all schools, and that for mentoring and coaching to be sustained they need to orientate around this and the associated personal professional development goals. However, they also draw our attention to the need for coaching and mentoring programmes to be embedded in organisations and part of their culture. As such they take a strong and legitimate sociocultural stance in their perspectives on best practices. An extension of this would be the recognition of trust as an essential characteristic of good practices in coaching and mentoring. Trust is also critical for building healthy relationships and positive school climates, and can itself be created through a stance of empathy and inquiry that mentoring and coaching can enable.