Mentoring and coaching in the Further Education and Skills Sector

  • Hobson, Andrew (PI)
  • Maxwell, Bronwen (CoI)
  • Stevens, Anna (CoI)
  • Doyle, Kerry (CoI)
  • Malderez, Angi (CoI)

Project Details


This project is one of the most substantial pieces of research conducted on institution-based teacher mentoring in the Further Education and Skills (FE) Sector in England, and original in its exploration of the potential of external mentoring for the sector.

The research, funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, employed a sequential mixed method design, comprising three main elements:

> an initial review of literature, which informed
> semi-structured interviews with teachers, mentors and a range of other stakeholders associated with the teaching of STEM and other subjects in the FE and Skills Sector
> an online survey of teachers in the sector.

The research sought to:

> examine the reach, strengths and limitations of institution-based teacher mentoring in the FE sector in England, with a particular but not exclusive focus on teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
> explore the potential need for and appropriateness of a programme of external mentor support for FE teachers in general and teachers of STEM subjects in particular.
> identify factors which may encourage or discourage FE teachers of STEM and other subjects from accessing and taking full advantage of external and/or institution-based mentoring, and identify other barriers to effective mentoring and potential means of overcoming these.
> make recommendations with respect to strengthening institution-based mentoring and/or introducing a programme of external mentor support for FE teachers.

Key findings

"In order to enhance the quality of mentoring and coaching, and hence the professional learning and development (PLD) of teachers, policy makers and senior leadership teams of FE providers should (amongst other things) reduce the emphasis on the observation, assessment and evaluation of teachers’ ‘performance’. Emphasis should be placed on developmental support which values risk-taking, accepts making mistakes as part of the learning process, and thus encourages teachers to openly discuss and seek to address their perceived limitations and PLD needs in a safe, trusting environment." Professor Andy Hobson

The study found that while the quality of institution-based mentoring has improved to some extent across the FE and Skills Sector in the last decade or so, it remains extremely variable. A wide range of impediments to effective mentoring and coaching currently exists, including:

> issues with the selection and training of mentors and coaches
> limited time available to mentors/coaches to meet with and provide support for their mentees/coaches
> the use of mentoring and (in particular) coaching as a remedial strategy to address the perceived under-performance of teachers.

Where they are working well, mentoring and coaching can result in a range of benefits for the teachers being supported, including: enabling them to talk about various difficulties that they experience with their teaching and in the workplace; supporting their emotional wellbeing; helping them develop general pedagogical techniques; and helping develop their subject pedagogy.

A number of factors were found to enhance the effectiveness and impact of institution-based mentoring and coaching, including:

> having mentors/coaches who share the subject/vocational specialism of the teachers they are supporting
> the mentor not being the line manager of the mentee
> having a rigorous process for the selection of mentors/coaches and for pairing them with specific teachers
> having regular and sustained contact between mentors/coaches and the teachers being supported.

Almost half (48 per cent) of teachers responding to the online survey indicated that they felt they might benefit from the support of an external mentor or coach for at least one of the subjects/vocational areas they teach. Respondents indicated that they might wish to take advantage of such support for a variety of reasons – the most frequently stated responses being support for their subject/vocational pedagogy, for their subject/vocational content knowledge, and to gain an independent perspective on some issues.

On the basis of their research, the researchers make a number of recommendations both for policy makers and senior leadership teams of FE providers. Findings from the study are informing improvements to support for the professional learning and development of teachers, tutors, trainers, assessors and lecturers in the FE and Skills Sector.


Hobson, A.J., Maxwell, B., Stevens, A., Doyle, K. & Malderez, A. (2015) Mentoring and coaching for teachers in the Further Education and Skills Sector in England: full report. London: Gatsby Charitable Foundation.
Effective start/end date1/06/1431/08/15


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