Mentoring and coaching trainee and early career teachers: Conceptual review

Project Details


1. What are the key terms, definitions and concepts used in the field of teacher mentoring?
2. In theory, what are the different models of mentoring and/or coaching that tend to be used during in-school trainee and novice teacher development?
3. Is it possible to develop a hypothesised overarching theory of change, including the moderators or contextual factors, features and intended outcomes, that might encompass these models, and, if so, what does it look like?
(From funder)

Key findings

Definitions of mentoring and coaching
Mentoring and coaching are contested concepts, and each is often understood and used in different ways. There is also much overlap between models, frameworks and definitions of coaching and those of mentoring. We consider it unproductive to attempt to differentiate between mentoring and coaching.
Instead, we offer a single, overarching working definition to encompass a wide range of mentoring and coaching theories, models, frameworks and approaches:

Mentoring and coaching are facilitative or helping relationships intended to
achieve some type of change, learning and/or enhanced individual and/or
organisational effectiveness

In this report, we also use the terms mentor, mentee and mentoring to be inclusive of coach, coachee and coaching.

Mentoring and coaching types
Based on our review of 18 mentoring or coaching models and frameworks that inform mentoring and coaching in schools, as well as the wider literature,  programmes, practices, policy and standards, we suggest that there are three generalised mentoring and coaching types. These share common features, but are also different in important respects. We give each type a dual label. The first part refers to a key feature of the mentoring or coaching relationship; the second refers to a key underlying goal of that relationship or programme. The three types are:
Type 1: Hierarchical-transmission mentoring and coaching – characterised by the mentee positioned as protégé and the mentor as expert, with a focus on inducting the mentee into the norms and practices of the school, improving the mentee’s performance and ensuring that they meet and act in accordance with externally prescribed standards.
Type 2: Nonevaluative-developmental mentoring and coaching – characterised by relatively non-directive mentors supporting mentees as they find their own solutions to issues they encounter, and by a greater emphasis on professional growth and building on mentees’ strengths.
Type 3: Collaborative-transformative mentoring and coaching – characterised by the mentor and mentee engaged in a collaborative, reciprocal, equal-status
relationship, in which challenges to the status quo (e.g. organisational norms and practices) are encouraged. 

We do not suggest that any of one these types is superior to another. Different types, models and frameworks may be more or less effective in bringing about positive impacts (eg improved practice, wellbeing, retention) at different stages in teachers’ careers and in different teaching contexts.

Provisional mentoring and coaching theory of change
Drawing on analyses of 19 empirical reviews of mentoring and coaching and 48 sources associated with 18 models and frameworks, together with consideration of the wider mentoring and coaching literature, we have developed a hypothesised theory of change for how mentoring and coaching is delivered. The theory of change comprises:

Outcomes: The most frequently reported positive outcomes for mentees were
improved teaching practices and enhanced professional learning and development. A wider range of further attitudinal, cognitive, behavioural, motivational, physiological, socialisation, career-development, professional-status and personal outcomes (eg enhanced wellbeing, resilience and self-efficacy) were also reported. We found similar positive outcomes cited for mentors, but there is less justification for these. There is also less justification for pupils’ outcomes, with the most common being improved attainment. The only common theme relating to outcomes for organisations was an enhanced culture.

Active ingredients: The literature suggests there may be four key active ingredients – that is, features of mentoring or coaching relationships that are necessary for triggering the mechanisms that lead to intended mentee outcomes:
1. A sustained, productive mentor-mentee relationship
2. Establishing mentees’ goals, so as to provide a key focus for the mentoring
3. Facilitation of mentees’ learning
4. Provision of emotional and psychosocial support

Mechanisms: A range of psychological, behavioural, neuroscience and sociological theories are proposed to explain the mechanisms through which these active ingredients lead to positive outcomes.

Modifiers: Features of mentoring programmes and the way the mentoring
relationship is enacted can modify (enhance or reduce) the positive effects of the
mentoring or coaching. The provision of effective mentor training was the most
frequently evidenced modifier associated with mentoring and coaching programmes.

Contextual factors: A range of mentor, mentee, provider and school characteristics, as well as wider contextual factors, can also enhance or reduce the potential positive impacts of mentoring and coaching.
Effective start/end date15/05/2231/10/22


  • Mentoring
  • Coaching
  • Early career teachers
  • Trainee teachers
  • Conceptual review
  • Mentoring and coaching types
  • Theory of change


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