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Extending the mentor role in initial teacher education: embracing social justice

Vicky Duckworth (Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK)
Bronwen Maxwell (Centre for Education and Inclusion Research, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)

International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education

ISSN: 2046-6854

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore how mentors can act as change agents for social justice. It examines mentors’ roles in initial teacher education in the lifelong learning sector (LLS) and how critical spaces can be opened up to promote a flow of mentor, trainee teacher, learner and community empowerment.


Two thematic literature reviews were undertaken: one of UK LLS ITE mentoring and the other an international review of social justice in relation to mentoring in ITE and the first year of teaching. Bourdieu’s concepts of capital, field and habitus (Bourdieu, 1986) are used as sensitising tools to explore LLS mentors’ practices and the possibilities for increasing the flow of “pedagogical capital” between mentors, trainee teachers, learners and communities, in such a way that would enable mentors to become agents for social justice.


LLS mentors and trainee teachers are uncertain about their roles. In the UK and several countries, mentoring is dominated by an instrumental assessment-focused approach, whereby social justice is marginalised. In contrast, what we call social justice mentors establish collaborative democratic mentoring relationships, create spaces for critical reflection, support trainees to experience different cultures, develop inclusive critical pedagogies, and generally act as advocates and foster passion for social justice.

Research limitations/implications

While the literature reviews provide timely and important insights into UK and international approaches, the existing literature bases are limited in scale and scope.

Practical implications

A model for mentoring that promotes social justice and recommendations for mentor training are proposed.


The paper addresses the omission in policy, research and practice of the potential for mentors to promote social justice. The proposed model and training approach can be adopted across all education phases.



Duckworth, V. and Maxwell, B. (2015), "Extending the mentor role in initial teacher education: embracing social justice", International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 4-20.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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