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Section 2: Characteristics of Effective Mentors
Part 1


What Makes An Effective Mentor?

At the heart of becoming an effective mentor is preparation for the role. The skills needed to be an effective teacher and the skills needed to be an effective mentor are not one and the same. Through trainings such as these provided by MentorVA, mentors develop the competencies, gather the tools, and engage in the self-reflection necessary for effectively mentoring others. These include building proficiency in: 

  • Understanding adult learners. 

  • Exploring strategies for providing effective feedback. 

  • Scaffolding instruction and reflection. 

It is through preparation for mentoring that effective mentors move towards ‘developmental’ and collaborative notions of guiding teacher candidates' and new teachers' professional development rather than ‘instrumental’ notions of mentoring — mentoring done unto a teacher candidate rather than with a teacher candidate. 


Lipton and Wellman (2017) suggest effective mentoring is a function of three actions of mentor teachers: offering support, creating cognitive challenges, and facilitating a professional vision.  Effective mentor teachers employ these actions in tandem, although not always with the same level of intensity, to support the unique needs of their mentee. Support, according to Lipton and Wellman, can be emotional (listening ear), physical (arranging classroom space), instructional (managing behavior, planning lessons), or institutional (navigating school policies).  

What exactly do effective mentors do? 


  • Providing support:  

    • emotional (listening ear)  

    • physical (arranging classroom space) 

    • instructional (managing behavior, planning lessons)  

    • institutional (navigating school policies) 

  • Creating cognitive challenges 

  • Establishing short-term, attainable goals 

  • Engaging in a cycle of reflection, goal setting, data collection, analysis 

  • Problem-solving challenges 

  • Facilitating a professional vision  

  • Discussing long term professional goals 

  • Modeling participation in various aspects of school life (planning teams, school-wide teams) 

  • Sharing/modeling your own professional goals and growth plans 


In our work with mentor training, exemplary mentor teachers identified the following attributes of effective mentors (Parker, Zenkov & Glaser, forthcoming 2021). Effective mentor teachers: 

  • Provide emotional support to mentees. 

  • Listen, exhibit patience, are open to new ideas, and provide non-judgmental feedback. 

  • Possess the knowledge and expertise to guide and scaffold learning for their mentee. 

  • Encourage risk-taking and hold high expectations for mentees. 

  • Reflect on their own teaching, mentoring practices, and how to facilitate reflection with their mentees. 

  • Engage, when needed, in difficult conversations, in a timely and productive manner. 

What do efffective mentors do.gif

Overall, we know effective mentors are not one dimensional. Rather, they possess a set of personality attributes (flexible, approachable, supportive, reflective) that, when combined with pedagogical expertise in teaching and mentoring, and knowledge of the broader school and community context, best support working with new teachers.  

Suggested Articles

Clement, M. (2019). A dozen things effective teacher mentors do. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 85(4), 27-29.

Mentors' Voices

What makes an effective mentor? Watch the video and record your thoughts in your Module 2 Companion Guide.

This website contains references. View references here to see sources.

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