“N” is for November and Nurturing good teaching, by Marilena Pevreall

November is all about Nurturing good teaching. Specifically, how mentors can nurture good teaching.

Our recent October residential got me thinking about the many ways that we nurture good teaching. Is it only subject knowledge, or does it extend beyond this?

Is it about our dedication and commitment in putting the needs of the learner first?

Teachers are excellent role models in terms of subject knowledge and professional competency. These attributes were demonstrated clearly during the pandemic.

In our mentoring capacity we are expected to be able to fit different roles. Experts, cheerleaders, and critical friends. In addition, we must make a positive contribution to knowledge, skills, and possible career prospects.

We nurture good teaching by enthusing student teachers about subject specific pedagogy. We assist with planning and preparing lessons – at least in the initial stages of the teaching journey – and shed light in areas of darkness.

The relationship between trainee teacher and mentor is often complex and demanding. To nurture good teaching, both adults need to feel that their contributions are valued. Appreciating the complexities of these professional interactions can provide a starting point of discussion. Nurturing good teaching is all about exploring assumptions, values and beliefs, and keeping dialogue open regardless of differences in opinion.

Working with mentors creates professional dialogue on how pupils learn. Different aspects of learning and teaching come into focus for trainee teachers, from differentiation to assessment strategies. The mentor’s role keeps changing continuously from an active enquirer to a challenger, all essential for nurturing good teaching.

Another essential element for nurturing good teaching is continuous reflection.

Reflection is an integral part of the learning process. It allows us to learn more about ourselves and how we learn, but it also enables us to improve our academic skills. To improve our teaching, we need to act on reflection. This is sometimes more challenging due to the time constraints placed upon us.

What happens in the classroom matters. Mentors nurture good teaching through ongoing learning. Ongoing learning helps to advance teaching practice. The key is for our trainees to feel emotionally supported, to want more and to become more within their teaching practice.

By Marilena Pevreall

Head of Secondary School Teacher Training, University of Buckingham

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