Mentoring and its impact on classroom teaching
Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan has been providing quality training for all the subject school teachers throughout the state over years. In a recent collaboration with British Council, it conducted a four year programme titled English Language Initiative for Secondary Schools (ELISS) after the successful completion of English Language Initiative for Primary Schools (ELIPS). ELISS is a four year programme consisting of three years’ training and one year assessment. This programme consists of 423 Master Trainers specially interviewed and selected.
One concern that always lingered overhead of the government is the post-training follow up and further support. Official visits were often inspectional in nature and didn’t really help in providing any further support to the teachers for their professional growth. The government of Maharashtra and British Council wanted to extend formal but friendly observation system which would offer support to the teachers for their professional growth and also record the change in teaching approach. It is purely developmental and not inspectional.
To tackle this issue RMSA and BC decided to start ‘Mentoring’ project. Who else would justify being Mentors than the Master Trainer themselves. So, as a part of pilot project, during the third year training programme, it was decided to select 80 mentors who were already working as Master Trainers across the state. They were selected through an online test.
These 80 mentors were given training in the month of June 2015. The five days’ training covered various aspects of mentoring like: Observing classes, preparing Action Plans, follow up activities as per action plan, recording the observations in detail, giving constructive feedback, etc. This paper covers the concept of mentoring, the process and its influence on the teachers.
Mentoring: The Concept
It could be defined as – ‘Employee training system under which a senior or more experienced individual (the mentor) is assigned to act as an advisor, counselor, or guide to a junior or trainee’.
The other definition of mentoring goes ‘the purposeful, formal and systematic process of counseling or guiding a colleague or an employee who is seeking professional growth’. It is a continuous process ranging from short term goal to long term goal. It involves a systematic recording right from setting a goal for professional growth to the process of achieving it through various stages which are activities essentially directing towards the goal. The goal is actually the area of development of the mentee. A mentor assists to prepare an action plan. It is a written document which records the various activities that are targeted to be undertaken until the goal is achieved.
First of its kind in the state:
It is now accepted that a friend or colleague is one of the best resources for providing professional support to the professional learners at the early stage of their career, through a career transition or when facing a particular challenge. It is for the first time that the government in collaboration with British Council designed a follow-up system of this sort. Since it is a pilot project only secondary education was covered. Hence, Maharashtra becomes the first state to start mentoring in India.
Objective of mentoring:
The main objective of mentoring is extending support to the teachers in terms of effective lesson planning, methods to be adopted, ways of activities to be conducted, facilitate various resources, provide solutions to some of the common problems in English language teaching.
All the mentors are basically full-time teachers. The ratio of mentoring structure is 1:15, where one mentor is associated with 15 mentees starting from his school to other schools within the area of 8 kms.
In order to understand mentoring better, let’s study the some of the key roles of three direct stakeholders clearly.
|– Establish a friendly relation with mentee
– Observe lessons and be observed
– Offer assistance for professional growth
– Offer various ideas, solutions towards the challenges a mentee might face
– Encouraging Peer-Observations within the school by a colleague
|– Welcome the friendly relation
– Get observed
– Identify the area of development
– Discuss and mutually design Action Plan activities
– Discuss some of the challenges openly with the mentor
|– Offer any official help needed.
This project involves following steps:
- Selection of mentors through online test
- Mentors’ training
- Assigning 15 mentees around the locality of mentors’ schools.
- Workshop for Headmasters in order to brief about the project and clearing their role in the process.
- First meeting with mentees and briefing about the project.
- Mutually scheduling the observation dates.
- School visits and documenting the observations.
- Reporting to the officials via email and WhatsApp groups
- British Council officials taking follow ups by field visits.
Lesson observation also involves systematic steps.
- Pre-observation talk
- Lesson Observation
- Post-Observation talk
Impact of Mentoring on classroom teaching
After first half year completion of mentoring it was time to check on this pilot project’s effect on actual teaching learning process in the classroom. Feedback was taken via online survey, personal meeting, telephonic conversation and observation notes.
Following significant changes were seen with the practitioners of the project that is mentor and mentee
Being selected as Mentor itself was a special feeling for the Master Trainers. Mentors underwent an intensive face to face training from British Council. The training helped in boosting confidence in mentors. Armed with mentoring skills they took it as a privilege to be a part of pilot project.
- Considered it to be a significant addition to their professional growth.
- Their own classrooms were to set as models for mentees, hence it became more learner centered.
- Became professionals in terms of building relationship with a mentee.
- Offer resources for the mentee’s development.
- Learnt quite a few things from their mentees as well.
- Became well-equipped with various resources to offer
- Made conscious efforts to be well prepared and knowledgeable by pre-reading resources before offering to the mentee
- Explored possible ways of addressing some of the common challenges encountered in the classroom
- Shared views, opinions, suggestions and experiences via WhatsApp and Facebook groups and blogs
After a briefing workshop about the project, teachers were offered to be a part of this remarkable project voluntarily. From June 2015 till the end of first term in November several mentees’ lessons were observed. Some were observed more than once and some observed mentors lessons.
Following changes were noticed in teaching learning process.
– Started using pair work, group work and class work more effectively
– Started using learning aids effectively
– Explored various possible ways to conduct the lessons
– Discussed possible solutions to some of the common challenges they face in classroom
– Wrote lesson plans effectively
– Used various interaction patterns in teaching
– A significant addition in their CPD
– Considered ‘activity based teaching’ very beneficial
– Made a considerable shift from traditional ways of teaching to learner centered teaching
– Used ICT in their teaching
– Shared their views, opinions and experiences with mentor and others via WhatsApp and Facebook groups
– Tried using textbooks more creatively
Below are the images of data collected via online survey.
Sample A: An extract from online survey – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NFLMPQJ
Sample B : An extract from online survey – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NFLMPQJ
Headmasters too found Mentoring as a crucial factor in providing assistance to the teachers’ professional growth. They found that English classes turned out to be more activity based and interactive. They also observed that English teachers were well prepared for the lesson and have become more open minded to accept the desirable change.
With mentoring teachers have started thinking about learners and their abilities while planning a lesson, that is, the teachers lesson plan are more learner centered now. Learners are enjoying the change in the classroom. They have become more interactive as they are provided with many opportunities during the activities. A significant change is also noticed about the interaction pattern, where in, students are also brought on the foreground.
Due to the group, pair and individual activities learners are trying to interact in English. They are pouring ideas in the group and share their opinions sometimes in English and sometimes in Marathi. They are also trying to express all they could in English through speaking or writing activities. Overall, learners are enjoying the change.
Mentoring – Some Challenges
In the first half mentoring year it self it is noticed that mentoring has a tremendous potential. It is certain to make positive changes in the traditional Indian classrooms. Yet, there are some potential challenges in the process. The data collected projects a few potential challenges in this project:
- Time: Since Mentors are full time teachers, the first thing they find it difficult is time. Though they are strongly willing, it becomes tough for the Mentors to schedule the lesson observations and school visits as they have their own classes to conduct which they cannot afford to lose. Besides, being mentors, they are also shouldered several responsibilities at their own work place which they cannot shrug off. Many mentors have invested their weekly offs for school visits, which they feel has affected their personal time.
- Administrative support: Though a workshop was conducted exclusively for Headmasters and appropriate letters directing to relieve the mentors for mentoring were issued, they found themselves helpless in adjusting the timetable in the mentors’ absence. The number of such problems is significant and cannot be denied.
- Remuneration: Mentoring involves school visits, frequent phone calls and providing extra support with ample of resources either in print form or online. This involves expenditure for amount of hard work being put. Some of the mentors have expressed that they should be paid for a state level project like this. They have also mentioned that an honorary amount will be added advantage as a motivational factor for the mentors who haven’t taken up mentoring a serious thing.
- Unwilling mentees: Though the mentoring offers a supporting and developmental hand some of the mentors found it challenging to convince well-experienced mentees to change over their traditional way of teaching English. However, this number isn’t high.
Following are the links to the interviews of some of the mentors:
1) Nadeem Khan, a mentor from Bhandara shares his experience.
2) Pundalik Kaviraj, a mentor from Gadchiroli speaks about ‘time’ being one of the prominent challenges in this project.
3) Balkrishna Shinde from Kalyan speaks how mentoring has helped him in his CPD
4) Rakesh Jadhav, a mentor from Nagpur opines that mentoring should be there in other subjects too.
5) Anil Petkar, a mentor from Chandrapur speaks about the importance of administrative support
6) Rajiv Sankpal from Nandurbar speaks his experience out
Looking at the details above, it is clear that mentoring certainly holds a great potential in changing over the traditional way of teaching English to leaner centered approach. Its strength overweighs its challenges and gives a promising picture for tomorrow. The pilot project is definitely a success. Hence the project can be initiated in full fledge from next year when RMSA and BC are going to appoint rest of the Master Trainers as Mentors from the academic year 2016-15.
- British Council Mentoring Training Materials
- Online survey link for Mentors: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/26CSQZZ
- Online survey link for Mentees: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NFLMPQJ
- Personal interviews of the mentors
5. Personal interviews of some Headmasters