Obtaining excellent grades on school assignments require the student’s ability to study effectively by grasping concepts and understanding the course materials. However, many students in today’s society lack in their studies, partly because they have no one to encourage them along the way of their educational journeys. Oftentimes, the encouragement of someone who cares or someone who takes a special interest in the welfare of a student makes a significant difference in the way that student learns and understands the educational materials. Encouragement also influences the student’s interest in learning and motivates them to strive for excellence. Mentoring is a way of giving students the encouragement they need. Merriam-Webster defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide” (mentor), such as someone who leads the initiatives of someone else, through advising, training, encouraging and example setting, for the purpose of helping the person achieve a specific goal. Examples of mentors are parents, coaches, tutors and teachers. However, anyone is a potential mentor for someone else. Author, Eric Parsloe, sums it up by saying that “Mentoring is to support and encourage people to progress in their careers in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be” (MentorSET, 2008).
Mentors serve as role models that instill confidence and drive in the people they mentor by being someone they can confide in and emulate. This is especially true for teachers as mentors, and particularly those who are English language teachers. Consequently, effective mentoring for the teachers, themselves, is as equally important, as it is a way to improve their teaching ability and performance by enhancing their learning and developmental skills. This research report examines teacher effectiveness, and also mentoring as a tool for teacher development, specifically as it relates to English language teaching methodology and proficiency.
Enhancing Teacher Effectiveness
The objective of helping teachers develop their own methods of teaching according to their own ideals, beliefs and views, as opposed to imposing rigid traditional teaching methods on them is an effective strategy for enhancing teacher development. According to (Moir, 2009) it is important to induct new teachers into their positions as a commitment to helping them develop their teaching skills and abilities. This accelerates teacher effectiveness and reduces teacher turnover in areas where students need them the most, such as in urban districts where poverty levels are high. Teacher mentoring effectiveness in these areas allows for positive impacts on the students.
Impacts of Teacher Effectiveness
Enhancement tools include assessment methods that measure the impacts of mentor programs on teachers, particularly when the assessments are performance-based. These assessments allow for tailoring of the mentoring process to individual teachers and their needs, while making the best of their indvidual strong points and focusing improvement efforts in challenging areas. In addition, effective teacher mentoring helps identify specific needs of students for the purpose of matching them with specific teachers, according to their capabilities. Teacher mentoring programs also build a bridge for leadership ability and a culture of learning, whereby teachers are encouraged and trained in high-quality educational practice norms (Moir, 2009). This is good; if teachers feel empowered, it gives them the ability for empowering students to reach for excellence. Also, teachers are better at their jobs when they are well-trained and knowledgeable and also able to reach out for guidance, when needed, and approval when merited. In addition, well-trained, knowledgable teachers are likely happier in their positions, and being happy with one’s job creates a sense of self-worth and a feeling of being an integral part of the big picture, and this is in line with company objectives and core values. This includes giving the best service and care possible to the students, as well as the highest quality academic instruction available. Mentoring programs are valuable because they help teachers learn the art of mentoring.
Teaching Mentoring to Teachers
Teachers are better mentors when they are taught to mentor by being allowd to participate in professional development programs. Teachers learn to mentor based on the opportunities available to them in the area of learning how to mentor. According to Stanulis & Ames (2009), teacher development focused on impacting student learning is important for teaching mentoring strategies to teachers. In addition, it is equally important for new teachers to have a good relationship with their mentors, as mentors are those the new teachers can lean on and go to with questions and concerns and to ask for advice.
Characteristics of Effective Teacher Mentors
Mentoring is an important part of teaching and good mentoring is a product of certain desirable teacher charactistics such as preparing and offering worthwhile content to students, effectively managing the classroom, and motivating students to learn (Stanulis & Ames, 2009).
Worthwhile content includes offering student content that is both challenging and innovative. Students should learn how to grasp concepts, learn idea-supporting techniques, and articulate understanding of the course content. In addition, worthwhile content helps students learn by assigning challenging and instruction-based tasks to them and providing students with time to collaborate and explore relative content and also engaging them in group discussions.
Along with offering worthwhile content, it is important for good mentors to have a handle on the classroom. Good classroom management is essential to effective mentoring. Teachers should create well-planned learning plans, as well as ensuring their meeting schedules do not clash with their independent work, such as creating a class environment condusive to stimulating students’ curiosity so that they want to learn. Additionally, a good teacher mentor is focused on how the students communicate in the classroom and the characteristics of the overall class culture.
Motivating students to learn in the classroom is another good quality of an effective teacher mentor. This includes creating a class environment that challenges students and stretches them by setting goals with high expectations. Student learning is also enhanced by the teacher mentor’s ability to anticipate obstacles that may arise in the learning process such as with student frustrations.
Effective teacher mentoring is a top motivator for students, particularly students learning the English language, and focused teacher development is important for teachers of English language learning.
Development for English Language Teachers
According to Leah (2012), teachers who teach English language learning are positive motivators for their students. Students learning the English language are curious and eager to understand, and they are also willing participants in their learning. Developing English language learning teachers’ methods of teaching is essential to gaining persepctive into how students interact with specific teaching methods. For example, teachers can use game playing as a method of teaching the English language to students. Leah (2012) states game playing is a popular activity with students of different ages, so this is an effective method for teaching them English and grammar that motivates and sparks their curiosity and interests. This is but one innovative way of teaching English to students. Traditional methods of teaching are not always beneficial to teaching English language learners because their learning needs are unique and diverse and may not conform to traditional teaching methods. This is why professional development for English language teachers is important.
English Learning Teachers and Professional Development
English language learners (ELLs) are a large part of the United States population and they continually grow in numbers each year. Therefore, qualified English language learner teachers are in high demand and are currently in short numbers in many school districts across the country. Currently, there are more than 344,000 qualified ELL teachers, who are certified or licensed, in the country, and more than 51,000 are needed for the growth in ELL student numbers over the next five years (Casteel & Ballantyne, 2010). Therefore, professional development and evaluation of ELL teachers is a must to improving the knowledge and skills of ELL teachers, as well as their attitudes toward teaching, so that they become excellent ELL student mentors. This is a positive step toward improving ELL student outcomes, as well as improving school outcomes. This is done by developing better educational programs in school systems. The interrelationships involving students, teachers, and schools, as it relates to improving student outcomes is illustrated in the figure (Casteel & Ballantyne, 2010) below.
Improving Student Outcomes
As shown, the diagram indicates the significance of professional development on improved outcomes for both teachers and schools, which translates into improved outcomes for the students. Casteel & Ballantyne (2010) state there are five core principles related to professional development for teachers. They are: (1) using basic skills, knowledge and expertise as building blocks to create effective educational programs; (2) encouraging the students to learn by engaging them in learning activities and learning new skills; (3) providing opportunities for students to practice by giving them a means of offering feedback, and also making room for follow-up; (4) evaluating teacher performance to measure their level of improvement in their knowledge and skills; and (5) measuring student progress and improvments in their performance via measurable evaluation criteria. These are effective principles in developing teachers into successful mentors (Casteel & Ballantyne, 2010).
Mentoring new teachers helps them understand why they make certain decisions that often impact student outcomes. Teachers can learn new strategies for mentoring through coaching and development on how to connect their curriculum content with course objectives and ELL student needs. It is important that teachers have on-going support and coaching in the area of creating working strategies for teaching. Teachers transform into mentors. According to Casteel & Ballantyne (2010) during the formal transformation process from teacher to mentor, it is noted that “prospective mentors participate in structured experiences, become aware of needs, teach with targeted strategies, monitor activities, reflect on outcomes, adapt strategies, and harness personal strengths” (p. 29). Mentoring is both a personal and professional act of transformation that empowers teachers with the confidence and skills to impact the learning experiences of the students.
As it relates to impacting students’ learning experiences, Carrejo & Reinhartz (2012) highlights the importance of ELL teachers to the success of ELL student education. This is strongly based on the students’ exposure to relevant content-specific material so that they learn English grammar patterns and the different distinctions within the language itself. In addition, it is noted that students learn the English language through literacy development of knowledge and skills related to four language objectives. These objectives include (1) comprehensive reading and studying of words in the language, using experiences to connect the meaning of the words; (2) analyzing the relationships in the context of cause and effect; (3) representing various forms of information, evaluating implications; and (4) exploring the characteristics of different objects (Carrejo & Reinhartz, 2012).
Because ELL teachers impact their students so much, it is essential that they are properly mentored through professional development and well-trained in successfully implementing approaches to ELL teaching that offers students academic content that is easy for them to grasp and to understand concepts. According to Casteel & Ballantyne (2010), ELL students have two key areas of need: “accessing the core content in English in ways that make the content more accessible and understandable, and learning English as a language in its own right that has its own vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, structure, and conventions, along with a distinctive set of literary and cultural texts and traditions” (p. 37). To meet these needs, ELL teachers need to be equipped on all levels of their profession and skills.
It is evident that society is becoming more and more diverse and the needs of English language learners are growing with society; therefore, the demand for qualified English language learner teachers and mentors is also growing. Students in this group need encouragement and quality educational opportunities to thrive in this country, and this is heavily influenced by their exposure to those who assist them in their studies of the English language. This is important in today’s society. In addition, it is equally important for English language teachers to become effective mentors, and this is done through complete and targeted professional development and training for these teachers to maxize their potential by developing their skills and improving their performance. This improves their teaching ability which improves educational outcomes for schools and the students who attend them.
Effective mentoring also involves conversations with teachers, either one-on-one or in study groups, and helps facilitate their learning opportunities, because teacher mentors need time for learning that is reflected in how these conversations help them put what they learn into practice. Teachers can also engage one another in continued learning that is reflective of their combined learning experiences. This is beneficial as a mentoring tool for teacher development.
Teacher development is a mentoring tool of great significance because it turns teachers into mentors who can serve as appropriate role models for empowering ELL students and giving them the confidence they need to thrive in this country. This is why effective mentoring and training for the ELL teachers is a valuable asset and is good for improving teacher quality and also for enhancing their teaching ability and performance through improved developmental skills.
Carrejo, D. J., & Reinhartz, J. (2012, Summer). Exploring the Synergy Between Science Literacy and Language Literacy with English Langage Learners: Lessons Learned within a Sustained Professional Development Program. SRATE Journal, 21(2), 33-38.
Casteel, C. J., & Ballantyne, K. G. (2010). Professional Development in Action: Improving Teaching for English Learners. National Clearninghouse for English Language Acquisition. Retrieved from http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/files/uploads/3/PD_in_Action.pdf
Leah, C. (2012, March). Good or bad methods of teaching English? Scientific Journal of Humanistic Studies, 4(6), 182-187, 6.
mentor. (n.d.). Retrieved from Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentor
MentorSET. (2008). What is Mentoring? Retrieved from MentorSET: http://www.mentorset.org.uk/pages/mentoring.htm
Moir, E. (2009, October). Accelerating Teacher Effectiveness: Lessons Learned from Two Decades of New Teacher Induction. Phi Delta Kappan, 91(2), 14-21, 8.
Stanulis, R. N., & Ames, K. T. (2009, Spring). Learning to Mentor: Evidence and Observation as Tools in Learning to Teach. Professional Educator, 33(1), 11.