Please cite this article as: Hobson, A.J. & Malderez, A. (2013) Judgementoring and other threats to realizing the potential of
school-based mentoring in teacher education, International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 2(2), 89-108.
Judgementoring and other threats to realizing the potential of school-based
mentoring in teacher education
Andrew J. Hobson
Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK
University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
Purpose – The purpose of this article is to identify and examine root causes of the failure of school-
based mentoring to realize its full potential.
Design/methodology/approach – The article draws on the re-analysis of data from two major mixed-
method empirical studies carried out in England. It focuses on data generated from interviews with
beginner teachers and mentors in both primary and secondary schools.
Findings – The findings point to a failure to create appropriate conditions for effective mentoring in
England at the level of the mentoring relationship, the school, and the national policy context.
Implications – Implications of the findings include the need to achieve a greater degree of informed
consensus on the meaning and purposes of mentoring in teacher education, and to ensure that mentors
of beginner teachers are appropriately trained for the role.
Originality/value – The article identifies the practice of judgemental mentoring or ‘judgementoring’
as an obstacle to school-based mentoring realizing its potential and an impediment to the professional
learning and wellbeing of beginner teachers. It also points to worrying indications that
judgementoring may be becoming, through accrued experiences, the default understanding of
mentoring in England.
Keywords: Mentoring, Judgementoring, Developmental mentoring, Teacher education, Beginning
teacher, Education policy
Paper type: Research Paper
Since the 1980s, school-based mentoring has assumed an increasingly central role in the initial
preparation, induction and subsequent professional development of teachers in many parts of the
world. Focusing on mentoring as a component of initial teacher preparation (ITP)  and new teacher
induction (NTI) programmes, this article draws on the analyses of data from two major empirical
studies carried out in England (Hobson et al., 2009a; Hobson et al., 2012). In an earlier review of the
international evidence base on mentoring beginning teachers (Hobson et al., 2009b), we concluded
that despite having a significant impact on the professional learning and development of many
beginning teachers, school-based mentoring has nonetheless failed to realize its full potential. In this
article we extend the evidence base through an examination of the root causes of this failure, and in so
doing, heed Fletcher’s (2012a) call, in the inaugural editorial of this journal, to begin to address the
‘death of educational potential through the low-grade enactment of mentoring’ (p.6). Our empirical
data relate to the mentoring of student and newly qualified teachers (to whom we collectively refer as
beginning or beginner teachers) in primary and secondary schools in England. That said, the wider
literature, as well as our knowledge and experience of mentoring in other education systems, suggests
that our findings may be applicable to mentoring in some other contexts.
Now Education Research Centre, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK.
Please cite this article as: Hobson, A.J. & Malderez, A. (2013) Judgementoring and other threats to realizing the potential of
school-based mentoring in teacher education, International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 2(2), 89-108.
We define mentoring in teacher education as a one to one relationship between a relatively
inexperienced teacher (the mentee) and a relatively experienced one (the mentor) which aims to
support the mentee’s learning and development as a teacher, and their integration into and acceptance
by the cultures of the school and the profession. And we see mentoring as a necessarily
‘developmental activity, with the emphasis on empowering and enabling [mentees] to do things for
themselves’ (Clutterbuck, 2004, p.11). In the process of mentoring, a mentor may adopt a number of
supportive roles or stances, including those of educator (which involves, for example, listening,
coaching and creating appropriate opportunities for the mentee’s professional learning), model
(inspiring, demonstrating and making visible aspects of being a teacher), acculturator (helping the
mentee into full membership of the particular professional culture), sponsor (‘opening doors’ and
introducing the mentee to the ‘right people’), and provider of psychological support (providing the
mentee with a safe place to release emotions or ‘let off steam’) (Malderez and Bodoczky, 1999;
Malderez and Wedell, 2007). Amongst the key research findings discussed in this article, however,
we show that in addition to or instead of these roles, some mentors adopt that of judge, and engage in
judgemental mentoring – which we term judgementoring. Based on our analyses and illustrated by the
findings presented below, we take judgementoring to be a one to one relationship between a relatively
inexperienced teacher (the mentee) and a relatively experienced one (the mentor) in which the latter,
in revealing too readily and/or too often her/his own judgements on or evaluations of the mentee’s
planning and teaching (e.g. through ‘comments’, ‘feedback’, advice, praise or criticism),
compromises the mentoring relationship and its potential benefits.
During the 1980s mentoring became a central feature of early university-school partnership ITP
programmes in England (McIntyre, 1991) and of similar initiatives in North America (Feiman-
Nemser, 1990) and other parts of Europe (Medgyes and Malderez, 1996). In the early 1990s new
national government policies in England (Department for Education, 1992, 1993) stipulated that
student teachers should spend a significantly larger proportion of their ITP programmes in schools
than had been the case, and that while in the schools they should be supported in their learning and
development by a practising teacher colleague (a ‘mentor’), and assessed against government-
specified teaching competences (now ‘Standards’). Mentoring subsequently formed part of a broader
programme of induction for newly qualified teachers (NQTs), which was introduced in the late 1990s
(Teaching and Higher Education Act, 1998) and typically spans a teacher’s first year in post after
successful completion of their ITP.
The precise rationale for the growth of school-based mentoring – and the broader shift towards
involving schools much more fully in ITP and NTI – is unclear and likely to have varied both between
and within particular contexts. In some cases, perhaps especially amongst those higher education
institutions (HEIs) at the forefront of the movement, these comprised attempts to provide appropriate
conditions for achieving explicitly articulated teacher learning processes. Indeed the case for
mentoring beginner teachers found support in a wide range of influential perspectives on professional
knowledge and its acquisition. For example, reflective practitioner approaches (Dewey, 1933; Schön,
1983; Zeichner, 1994), the cognitive psychology of skill (Anderson, 2006; Tomlinson, 1998), situated
cognition (Brown et al., 1989; Greeno et al., 1996) and sociocultural perspectives (Tharp and
Gallimore, 1988; Wertsch, 1991) all, although with differing justifications, suggested the need for
prolonged field experiences. It followed, again with different rationales, that the learning of beginner
teachers would be enhanced through the specific and individualized support of a ‘teacher’ or mentor
‘on the spot’. We now elaborate slightly on these rationales in relation to sociocultural and reflective
practitioner perspectives, both because of their purported influence on teacher education in the UK as
well as further afield (Edwards et al., 2002; Furlong et al., 2000) and because they are especially
consistent with the ‘developmental’ notion of mentoring to which we subscribe.
While from the 1980s teacher educators in England increasingly claimed to base their provision on
a ‘reflective practitioner’ model of professional learning (Furlong et al., 2000), in practice different
notions of reflection were adopted by different providers, just as a variety of conceptualizations were
Please cite this article as: Hobson, A.J. & Malderez, A. (2013) Judgementoring and other threats to realizing the potential of
school-based mentoring in teacher education, International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 2(2), 89-108.
championed and discussed by different scholars (Calderhead, 1989; Furlong and Maynard, 1995).
Nonetheless the case for mentoring within a broad reflective practitioner approach was both
strengthened and potentially guided by two concepts from sociocultural perspectives: ‘legitimate
peripheral participation’ (Lave and Wenger, 1991) and ‘scaffolding’ (Wood et al., 1976). With regard
to the former, the mentor, in acculturator role, as a colleague and full member of the community the
mentee is joining, can assist her/his movement from ‘legitimate peripheral’ to full ‘participation’.
When a mentor is in an educator role supporting the development of ‘reflective practitioners’,
conversations with the mentee provide the ideal context for developing the practice of informed
reflection ‘on-action’, and increase the likelihood of more appropriate intuitive responses ‘in-action’
(Schön, 1983). The notion of scaffolding, widely adopted as describing pedagogical help, provides
further guidance as to the types of strategies a mentor might employ during these conversations.
Space precludes a detailed discussion of the ‘scaffolding moves’ Wood and colleagues describe, but
within a context aiming to produce reflective practitioners, a key ‘task’ that the mentee is learning,
and which requires scaffolding in a post lesson discussion, is that of arriving at their own conclusions
and decisions based on a process of informed reflection. In other words, one of the mentor’s main
goals within such perspectives – and in our developmental conception of mentoring – is to support the
beginner teachers’ development of ‘learnacy’ (Claxton, 2004), that is, their ability and willingness to
manage their on-going learning from their own and others’ experiences of teaching, and continue to
engage in this ‘alone’, thus avoiding the development of a form of ‘learned helplessness’ (Maier and
Seligman, 1976) that can result from over-reliance on another, and a corresponding lack of agency.
Despite their direct relevance to the work of school-based mentors, however, there is little
evidence that mentoring practice – or policy relating to this – has been informed to any great degree
by the kinds of perspectives outlined above. Indeed, it seems likely that policy-makers initiating the
‘second phase’ (government-led) expansion of mentoring and school-based provision for ITP and NTI
that occurred in England, as well as in some parts of the US, were influenced by more managerial
imperatives. In particular, school- and employment-based routes into teaching had the potential to
address the issue of teacher shortages in some contexts (Feiman-Nemser, 1990), and mentoring for
newly qualified teachers (NQTs) was understood to help to alleviate ‘reality shock’ (Gaede,1978)
and support teacher retention (Johnson et al., 2005). In addition, mentoring appeared to be seen as a
potential mechanism for quality control as part of a broader aim of ensuring that new entrants to the
teaching profession meet minimum standards, and indeed mentors of student and newly qualified
teachers in England took on this role following the policy changes referred to above. In other systems
(e.g. most Nordic countries), mentors do not have this additional gatekeeper role.
The apparent lack of a consistent rationale for the expansion of school-based mentoring in ITP and
NTI helps to explain why studies have found considerable variation and idiosyncrasy in mentoring
practice (Wang and Odell 2002). There are other explanations too. One is evidence relating to weak
methods of mentor selection, leading to the designation of some who lack appropriate knowledge,
skills and characteristics required for the role (Smith and Ingersoll, 2004). Another is that many
mentors are not trained for the role and, even where they are, training programmes are of variable
quality (Abell et al., 1995). A further potential explanation relates to the fact (referred to above) that
some systems require mentors, in addition to supporting beginner teachers’ professional learning and
development, to assess their teaching against national standards. While there is a lack of agreement in
the teacher education literature about whether charging mentors with the task of assessing as well as
supporting beginner teachers inevitably reduces their potential effectiveness (e.g. Heilbronn et al.,
2002; cf. Yusko and Feiman-Nemser, 2008), the various considerations outlined above may contribute
to an understanding of why the experience of school-based mentoring has not been an unmitigated
success, on which we now briefly elaborate.
Benefits and limitations of mentoring in action
Studies suggest that where appropriately employed, school-based mentoring is a highly effective –
perhaps the single most effective – means of supporting the professional learning and development of
beginning teachers (Franke and Dahlgren, 1996; Marable and Raimondi, 2007). Such research has
identified a range of positive outcomes of mentoring for beginning teachers. These include enhanced
capabilities such as classroom and behaviour management, and time and workload management
(Lindgren, 2005), improved self-reflection and problem-solving capacities (McIntyre and Hagger,
1996), and increased confidence, self-efficacy and job satisfaction (Johnson et al., 2005; Marable and
Raimondi, 2007). More generally, mentoring has been found to play an important role in the
acculturation of beginner teachers, helping them to understand and adapt to the norms, standards and
expectations associated with teaching in general and the specific schools in which they find
themselves (Bullough and Draper, 2004; Edwards, 1998).
Research has also found, however, that mentoring does not always bring about these positive
outcomes, and can actually stunt beginner teachers’ professional learning and growth. Some studies
suggest, for example, that it can result in the promotion and reproduction of conventional norms and
practices, which render mentees unable to consolidate or develop their knowledge and use of
alternative and more challenging (both for the beginner teacher and to the status quo) methodologies,
such as ‘progressive’ and learner-centred approaches (Feiman-Nemser et al., 1993; Ling, 2009).
Others have found that mentoring can have harmful effects on mentees’ wellbeing, with studies
suggesting that in some cases the work of mentors has damaged beginning teachers’ self-esteem,
caused anxiety and stress, and contributed to mentees’ decisions to leave the profession (Beck and
Kosnick, 2000; Maguire, 2001).
This article enhances our understanding of why the potential benefits of mentoring to beginner
teachers are not always realized and explains why, in some instances, it can be detrimental to the
professional learning and development and/or broader wellbeing of student and newly qualified
teachers. This enhanced understanding then enables us to identify means of maximising the potential
of mentoring, an especially significant consideration in a context, in England, in which ‘School
Direct’ (Teaching Agency, 2013) and other initiatives mean that beginner teachers are more reliant
than ever on mentoring and other school-based support for their professional learning and
The findings presented in this article are based on re-analyses of data generated for the ‘Becoming a
Teacher’ (BaT) project (2003-2009) and the ‘Modes of Mentoring and Coaching’ (MoMaC) study
(2010-12). Since detailed accounts of the research designs and methodologies of the two studies have
been provided elsewhere (for BaT, see Hobson et al., 2009a and Hobson, 2009; for MoMaC, Hobson
et al., 2012 and Hobson and McIntyre, 2013), here we present a relatively brief overview, focusing on
data re-analysed for this article.
The BaT project, which sought to investigate beginner teachers’ experiences of ITP, NTI and early
professional development, employed a longitudinal equal status mixed methods design (Tashakkori
and Teddlie, 1998) comprising national surveys, part-structured interviews and email exchanges with
participants over a five-year period. The BaT data that were analysed as part of the preparation of this
article comprise transcripts of:
1) interviews with 79 student teachers at the end of their ITP programmes – including 38
participants who had trained to teach in primary schools and 41 in secondary schools (with a
range of subject specialisms), via a variety of ITP routes (postgraduate and undergraduate,
university partnership, school- and employment-based programmes) from 19 different ITP
providers throughout England;
2) interviews with 73 of the same participants at the end of their first year of teaching;
3) more regular email exchanges, throughout the Induction period, with 46 of the 73 NQTs
referred to above;
4) interviews with 46 ITP programme personnel, including 18 programme leaders, 13 subject or
age-specialist tutors, and 15 school-based mentors;
5) interviews with 27 school-based induction tutors or ‘mentors’.
The primary purpose of the MoMaC research, which employed a sequential, qualitative-led mixed
method design (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 1998), was to investigate the nature, impact and potentially
broader applicability of ‘external mentoring’ for non-specialist teachers of secondary school science
in England who were participating in one of three broader training and support programmes: the pilot
Physics Enhancement Programme (PEP), the pilot Science Additional Specialism Programme (SASP)
and the Stimulating Physics Network (SPN). By external mentoring we mean those relationships
where the mentors are not colleagues based in the same schools as the teachers they are supporting,
but where the interaction between external mentors and their mentees may take place within and/or
outside of mentees’ schools, and may be face-to-face and/or remote. By contrast, we take school-
based mentoring to be those relationships where the mentor is a member of staff of the same school as
the mentee, and where most mentoring activity takes place within that school and on a face-to-face
basis. In addition to pursuing its main purpose, the MoMaC study provided a unique opportunity to
explore and cast new light on school-based mentoring through its juxtaposition with external
mentoring, since most participants in the ‘qualitative’  phase of the research were (or had been) in
the rare position of experiencing both of these kinds of mentoring.
The MoMaC data that were analysed for the development of this article were generated primarily
from interviews, conducted in different regions of England, with 28 beginner teachers (19 PEP, 9
SPN) who had accessed the support of an external mentor and 13 external mentors themselves (5 PEP,
8 SPN), all of whom had been invited to discuss how their experiences of school-based and external
mentoring compared. We also draw briefly on the analyses of data generated via a subsequent
national on-line survey of primary and secondary school teachers of all subject areas . Informed by
earlier analyses of our qualitative data, the survey included both fixed and open-ended response
options on whether respondents felt they might benefit from the opportunity to access the support of
an external mentor, and the reasons for their responses, some of which related to their experiences of
school-based mentoring. From a total sample of 7581 teachers, 1558 responded to the survey, giving a
response rate of 21 per cent. In the development of this article we were most interested in the
responses of those survey respondents (n=171) who were in their first five years of teaching, who thus
had relatively recent experiences of school-based mentoring as beginning teachers, and whose
recollections of those experiences are likely to have been more reliable than those of more
experienced teacher respondents.
For both the BaT and MoMaC studies, interviews were part-structured (Hobson and Townsend,
2010), and the majority were carried out face-to-face (where in a handful of cases this was not
possible, telephone interviews were conducted instead). Data relating to the two studies were
generated and stored, and findings are presented in accordance with the ethical guidelines of the
British Education Research Association (BERA, 2004; BERA, 2011).
With the agreed aim of seeking to identify why school-based mentoring had failed to realize its full
potential, each of the present authors undertook an initial analysis of separate samples (totalling
approximately 25 per cent) of all interview data, employing constant comparative methods (Miles and
Huberman, 1994). A discussion of the emergent themes (which suggested, for example, a number of
school- and policy-level ‘causes’ of problematic mentoring relationships) led to the joint production
of a coding frame and the subsequent thematic analysis by the first author of all data, using
MAXQDA 10 qualitative data analysis software. Through the coding process we sought to identify
and categorise all evidence relating to the nature, potential causes and consequences of negative
experiences of mentoring. During this process, the coding frame was adapted slightly to incorporate
additional themes and sub-themes which had not emerged during the earlier analysis phase. In
presenting our findings below we draw on feminist traditions to foreground participants’ ‘voices’
(Lingard, 1995; Mahony et al., 2004). All quotations provided represent the words of beginning
teachers or ITP or NTI mentors, and except where stated, are those of student or newly qualified
teachers, or other recently qualified teachers reflecting on their ITP and/or NTI .
Our analyses identified a failure to provide appropriate conditions for effective mentoring practice at
micro- (mentoring relationship), meso- (institution) and macro- (national policy) levels, and we
address each of these in turn.
Micro level failings
Some previous studies have suggested that the success of the mentoring relationship depends to a
large degree on ‘the attitudes of the beginning teacher mentee’ (Roehrig et al., 2008, 684), including
the extent to which mentees take their professional learning and development sufficiently seriously
(Bubb and Earley, 2006), and are open and willing to learn and change, and prepared to operate
outside of their comfort zone (Valencic Zuljan and Vogrinc, 2007). There is also evidence in our own
research that the attitudes and characteristics of some mentees provide challenges to the potential
success of the mentoring relationship. For example, one induction mentor claimed that their ability to
undertake the mentoring role effectively was hindered where a mentee:
has taught lessons and thought they were very, very good... [and] doesn’t really want to hear
that ... in actual fact they are not, and their learning outcomes are not very good. (Mentor)
However, mentees’ openness or otherwise to school-based mentoring can be explained to at least
some extent by the broader institutional and policy contexts within which the mentoring relationship
exists, which we discuss below, and our data suggest that ‘micro level’ factors which affect the
mentoring relationship detrimentally may be as much (or more) to do with the approaches and
strategies of the mentors themselves. Mentees’ lack of openness, for example, could be explained in
terms of failure on the mentor’s part to create a safe and trusting relationship, as the following
quotation may suggest:
[D]uring the PGCE whatever you ask your mentor they would judge you on and [think] ‘why
doesn’t she know that?’
Our evidence suggests that many mentors did indeed fail to create safe, trusting relationships, and
that a major explanation for this, for which the quotation above provides a clue, is that some such
mentors (and possibly a majority of school-based mentors associated with the BaT and MoMaC
studies) appeared to practise what we term judgemental mentoring or judgementoring – that is,
revealing too readily and/or too often their own judgements on or evaluations of mentees’ planning
and/or teaching. Judgementoring is perhaps most visible in the frequent use by mentors of a restrictive
‘feedback’ strategy in post-lesson discussions, typically involving a mentor-led evaluation of the
‘positive’ then ‘negative’ features of a lesson, followed by suggestions for improvement. The strategy
is described in the following excerpt from a mentor interview:
[W]hen I talk to a trainee after [observing them teach] the thing I focus upon, first of all ... is
the good sound educational points... make them feel that there are some good things coming out
here. If there are points, which inevitably there will be, which need to be addressed, they must
be addressed constructively... and [I] present the trainee with a set of strategies for dealing
with [them]. (Mentor)
At its worst, judgementoring involves mentors not merely revealing their judgements of mentees’
work but also focusing almost exclusively in their interactions with mentees on negative judgements:
[My mentor] would go ‘this went very well but’, and then he seemed to focus dreadfully on the
things that hadn’t gone so well.
[I]t was a really oppressive atmosphere in the school. [From] my... mentor… I got nothing but
criticism and pressure... from Day One. She was criticising everything I did…
Related to this over-critical stance is an apparent belief on the part of some mentors that their
approach (whether to teaching, or facilitating pupil or professional learning) is the right approach, one
result of which is that some such mentors appear to want to produce clones of themselves:
[M]y mentor in my second year [of ITP] ... whenever I said ‘this is the way we have to do
things’ she said ... ‘oh you shouldn’t be doing that ... you should be doing this’ ... I kind of felt
‘all that work and it is worthless because I have got to do it your way’...
While many if not most mentees appear to value the ‘constructive’ part of mentors’ critique of
their practice or appreciate their mentors ‘giving me ideas’, and while this may have a positive impact
on their practice at least in the short term, there is a danger that the frequent use of such post-
observation feedback strategies could stunt mentees’ professional learning in the longer term by
creating an over-reliance on mentors at the expense of a promotion of learnacy. It is also clear that for
some beginner teachers, the experience of judgementoring has a negative impact on their wellbeing,
with some describing themselves after encounters with judgementors as ‘disheartened’,
‘demoralized’, ‘isolated’ or ‘lonely’. One mentee explained how regular exposure to ‘constructive
criticism’ ‘really pulled me down and I thought ‘what’s the point?’. Related to this, it seems likely
that in some cases beginner teachers’ experiences of judgementoring contribute to their decisions to
discontinue their ITP or leave the profession (Chambers et al., 2010). Amongst those who remain,
there are some indications that teachers’ experience of judgementoring may in some cases have a
longer term negative impact on their beliefs about the nature of ‘mentoring’ and their willingness to
engage in further opportunities for development. For example, even though the external mentors to
whom PEP and SPN participants had access played no role in their assessment, some were reluctant to
take (full) advantage of this support because they feared that the mentor would judge them. As one
I’m always very aware that my physics knowledge isn’t perhaps as good as it could be... [and]
you don’t want to leave yourself open do you? Never leave yourself open to [someone] thinking
To return to the point made at the beginning of this section, it follows that if some beginner teachers
are unable to be open with their mentors about their perceived limitations as teachers, this will limit
mentors’ power to support their professional learning and development .
In addition to the practice of judgementoring, our analyses identified a range of additional (and
sometimes related) failings of mentoring at the micro level. First, and echoing the findings of some
earlier studies, our data suggest that many mentors appear to support (if only sub-consciously) ‘trial
and error’ (Franke and Dahlgren, 1996), ‘technical rationality’ (Wright and Bottery, 1997) or
‘proceduralist-apprenticeship’ (Hobson, 2003) approaches to professional learning and development
rather than ‘understanding-oriented’ approaches (ibid.) designed to examine the principles behind the
practice and develop informed reflective practitioners. For example, one mentee recognised that he
needed support in unpicking and analysing the root cause of a problem he was experiencing but was
frustrated by his mentor’s approach: ‘I am actually asking you for help and you are telling me what
worked for you!’ Further to our comments above about the potential implications of judgementoring
and the over-use of ‘constructive criticism’ in particular, few mentors gave the impression that, for
them, mentoring is a developmental activity which seeks to promote mentees’ learnacy. Indeed, there
was evidence that some mentors did not give mentees sufficient responsibility or ‘challenge’, or grant
them sufficient autonomy, as had been found in some previous studies (e.g. Collison and Edwards,
1994; Dunne and Bennett, 1997).
Our analyses also corroborate earlier findings (e.g. Smith and Maclay, 2007) that some mentors do
not have – or are not able to make – sufficient time for their mentees, while some beginning teachers
questioned whether their mentors had the requisite knowledge or expertise to be effective in the role.
The main grievances here were that some mentors were not same-subject specialists or not
sufficiently ‘up to date’ (e.g. with the latest teaching methodologies), rendering them unable to
provide adequate support for subject content or subject pedagogical knowledge (Shulman, 1987),
while some of these also failed to facilitate access to someone who could – thus not adequately
fulfilling the ‘sponsor’ mentor role referred to earlier. In addition, and in relation to ITP in particular,
there was evidence that some mentors were not sufficiently familiar with the wider programme of
support for beginner teachers of which mentoring was a part. The following comment from one
beginner teacher was echoed by several others:
Sometimes we [mentor and mentee] were just lost as to where I was supposed to be and what
she was supposed to do for me and what I was supposed to do for her.
More generally, there were indications that some mentors were disorganised or uncommitted to the
role, with some said to be more ‘focused on jumping through hoops’ than helping mentees become
‘better teachers’, while others appeared to have little respect for mentees as learners:
[My mentor was] sort of asking me to go off and make her cups of coffee and things... I don’t
feel then I’m being treated like I should be because that’s not what I’m there for.
A final failing, and one which offers a partial explanation for some of those outlined above, is that
some mentors appear to lack a clear idea of what mentoring in teacher education is for and can help
bring about. Our analyses certainly highlighted a lack of agreement amongst mentors about this, with
some apparently nurturing unrealistic and naïve expectations of what mentoring can achieve – one
stated, for example, that induction mentoring was about supporting NQTs in ‘perfecting the practice
of being a classroom teacher’ (emphasis added).
Having identified above a wide range of failings in school-based mentoring at the micro or
mentoring relationship level, and focussed in particular on what we call judgementoring, we now
argue that many of these issues can be attributed, at least in part, to failings at institution and policy
Our analyses provide substantial evidence of a failure to support school-based mentoring adequately
at the institutional level. Firstly, our data suggest that many schools do not employ rigorous methods
of mentor selection based upon clear criteria, including aptitude for the role based on prior experience
and perceived characteristics and expertise, and a willingness to assume it. While some mentors we
spoke to indicated that they had had a degree of choice in relation to taking on the mentoring role,
others did not, with some explicitly stating that they took it on because they were told to do so and/or
because no one else was available. In some cases, mentoring roles were automatically attached to
other (normally middle leadership) roles within the school:
[I am] coordinator of the year group. So, in that role, it was therefore decided that I would be
mentor for those coming into my year group... (Mentor)
This school-level failing contributes to understanding why some mentors were apparently unsuited or
insufficiently committed to the role, and why some engaged in judgementoring or used methods not
necessarily conducive to facilitating professional learning and development. In relation to some
mentees’ criticisms that the mentors they had been allocated were not same-subject specialists – and
evidence (e.g. Smith and Ingersoll, 2004) does suggest that mentoring is more effective when same-
subject specialists are employed – it should be acknowledged that in some cases, especially in relation
to shortage subjects (such as physics) or minority subjects (such as music), a same-subject specialist
was not available within the school. Nonetheless, schools could have made provision for mentees to
be able to access a subject specialist elsewhere, but our evidence suggests that very few actually did
A second institution-level failing is of not ensuring mentors are appropriately trained for the role,
perhaps because of a failure to recognise the difference between mentoring and performance
management. Our evidence suggests that all ITP mentors and most NTI mentors had the opportunity
to undertake some form of mentor training, yet not all mentors took advantage of this. Some mentors
explained that it had not been convenient to attend because of the geographical location or timetabling
of the training, while others were of the view that any training about the role would have limited value
because, for example, ‘experience is the best training’. In fact, our data indicate that some of the
mentor training courses provided were of limited value. While some usefully involved sessions on
recent curriculum developments, there appeared to be very little emphasis on different ways in which
mentors might scaffold beginner teachers’ professional learning and development. Most mentors we
talked to who had undertaken mentor training indicated that this had centred on formal and
administrative aspects of the role, echoing earlier research findings in relation to both the English
(Bubb and Earley, 2006) and US (Abell et al., 1995) contexts. A lack of appropriate mentor training
thus also helps explain why some mentors employed methods unconducive to mentees’ professional
learning and development, why some were not able to develop safe, trusting relationships, and why
there was sometimes a lack of coherence between school-based mentoring and other aspects of ITP.
The third institution level failing lies in tasking mentors with what our data clearly show to be
conflicting roles: assessing beginner teachers and supporting their professional learning. The
responsibility here lies not only with schools but also with HEIs through their involvement in ITP and
(to a lesser extent) NTI. Especially without effective (and time-consuming) support for mentors in
developing skills for each role, and the even more demanding skills for undertaking each role without
compromising either, this is likely to encourage judgementoring, discourage the formation of safe,
trusting relationships, and at least partly explain the reluctance of many mentees to be open with
mentors about their professional learning and development needs:
Sometimes it’s not easy for people to share concerns with you because they feel ‘that’s going to
be a black mark’. (Mentor)
[Y]ou never want to mention any potential failings that you might have to your [school-based]
mentor ... because you don’t know what’s going to go down in writing...
A fourth institution level failing is that many schools appear to provide mentors with insufficient
time to carry out the role effectively, especially given its associated administrative requirements, a
consideration that was recognised by some mentees as well as mentors:
[T]he mentor… really had too much on his plate. I mean he was … head of the entire
humanities faculty and he was head of gifted and talented and he was doing this, that and the
other, and he really didn’t have the time that he needed to be able to [be an effective mentor].
A fifth but related problem is that some schools do not timetable mentor/mentee dyads to be ‘free’ at
the same time. As a result, one mentor explains:
If you are allocated time during the school day to do the mentoring you get a much more high
quality amount of work done, whereas if you’re doing it after school, you feel rushed, the
student feels rushed [and] they don’t want to take up your time... (Mentor)
A further failing relates to evidence of fragmentation (Goodlad, 1990) or a lack of effective
partnership working in general, and communication in particular, between some HEIs and their
‘partner’ schools. This is evident in and partly explains mentors’ lack of familiarity with the
university-based components of their mentees’ ITP programmes: as one mentor put it, ‘although I
know the title of the university’s lecture, I don’t know the content’.
Reflecting on the various institutional failings identified above it might be concluded that many
schools fail to take the mentoring of student and newly qualified teachers sufficiently seriously or to
recognise its importance to beginner teachers’ development. This would certainly appear to be so in
the small number of cases we noted of schools failing to provide alternative arrangements for
beginner teachers whose mentors left the school during the academic year or who had lengthy periods
of absence due to illness. It could also be concluded that schools do not accord adequate status to the
mentoring role, and – in common with the findings of Field and Philpott (2000) – there was little
evidence in our interviews with mentors that it was seen as a potentially important stepping stone in
teachers’ career progression. If this is the case then potentially effective mentors may not be putting
themselves forward for the role. Issues highlighted here may also partially explain a further problem,
the high turnover of mentors in some schools (Hobson et al., 2009a), and the consequent
disadvantages this may have for the support of beginning teacher mentees and the cumulative
development of expertise in mentoring.
More generally, our evidence suggests that some head teachers have not fostered, or schools
developed, appropriate collaborative learning cultures (Hargreaves and Dawe, 1990; Hargreaves and
Fullan, 2012). Indeed, providing evidence, rather, of the judgemental cultures within which some
teachers work, several respondents to the MoMaC survey stated, for instance, that they would be
reluctant to seek the support of an external mentor because ‘[i]t wouldn’t look good to ask for help’,
In the current climate, the wrong sort of head might use this as evidence that I wasn't
National policy level failings
Despite the damning account above of some schools’ failure to provide appropriate conditions for
successful mentoring, some of the institution-level failings we have highlighted (as well as some of
those at the mentoring relationship level to which these contribute) may be at least partly explained by
a failure of national policy-makers to create an enabling environment for effective mentoring practice.
First, it can be argued that, like schools, policy-makers have neglected to accord sufficient status to
the mentoring role through, for example, appropriate recognition in career progression frameworks
and salary structures. Secondly, there has been a failure to recognise or impress upon schools the
importance of rigorous and appropriate forms of mentor selection and mentor training, and of
ensuring that student and newly qualified teachers have access to subject specialist support as well as
support for a range of other professional learning and development needs (Hobson, 2009). More
fundamentally, policy-makers might be said to have failed to promote effectively a common
understanding of what mentoring ought to entail or what mentors should be seeking to achieve (a
criticism that could also be levelled against HEIs and other organisations involved in ITP), and this
may help explain why some mentors do not appear to understand the role and/or employ methods not
conducive to scaffolding beginner teachers’ learning and development.
In relation to the widespread practice of judgementoring and its negative consequences, such as the
difficulties of developing a safe, trusting mentoring relationship – itself a prerequisite condition for
learning and development to be possible – two features of national policy-making can be held partly
responsible. The first and most specific is that of associating the assessment of student and newly
qualified teachers with the mentoring role, with which our analyses suggest it is incompatible in the
current and (as we view it) likely foreseeable contexts. This association is illustrated, in relation to
NQTs, in the following wording from the Department for Education’s (2012) ‘Statutory guidance’ to
‘The head teacher/principal must identify a person to act as the NQT’s induction tutor, to
provide day to day monitoring and support, and co-ordination of assessment. The induction
tutor … should be able to provide effective coaching and mentoring… [and] should review the
NQT’s progress at frequent intervals throughout the induction period… NQTs should have
formal assessments carried out by either the head teacher/principal or the induction tutor.’
(Department for Education, 2012, p.14).
More generally, the ‘National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching’ (CUREE, 2005), sponsored
by the (then) Department for Education and Skills, stated that the mentor’s role included ‘assessing,
appraising or accrediting practice’ (p.3).
The second, related but more general issue is the government’s role in creating (in the education
system and public sector more broadly) an accountability culture typified by the pervasiveness of the
Ofsted  school inspection regime and characterised by ‘surveillance overkill’ (Mahony et al., 2004,
p. 440). Such a culture has been found to provoke insecurity, anxiety and mistrust amongst employees
(Jeffrey, 2002; Ball, 2003), and is also responsible for mentors spending a significant proportion of
the limited time available completing relevant ‘paperwork’:
[T]he forms that I have to fill out, they are horrendous… I don’t think they serve any purpose...
I actually don’t think it helps particularly in the NQTs’ development. (Mentor)
Finally, while recent official documentation has stated that mentors (or ‘induction tutors’ charged
with providing mentoring) ‘must be given sufficient time to carry out the role effectively and to meet
the needs of the NQT’ (Department for Education, 2012, p.14), it can also be argued that policy-
makers are nonetheless culpable because of their failure to provide sufficient funding earmarked for
school-based mentoring and other support for beginner teachers (Bubb and Earley, 2006). Such
funding could have helped to ensure, for example, that mentors are provided with sufficient time in
which to undertake the role and to attend appropriate courses of mentor training (with some funds
paying to provide cover for mentors’ teaching), and that in cases where beginner teachers do not have
the support of a same-subject specialist within the school, they are provided with access to appropriate
Conclusions and implications
It is important to stress that we have not sought in this article to provide a generalized account of
mentoring practice in relation to ITP and NTI. Rather, we set out to examine why it is the case – in the
English context – that mentoring practice is highly variable and in some cases fails to realize its
‘educational potential’ (Fletcher, 2012a), and we have provided evidence that a number of conditions
necessary for mentoring to flourish do not exist for all beginning teachers in England. Our data
preclude us from estimating the prevalence of each of the ‘failings’ we have identified, although –
based on our analyses and our wider knowledge and experience of the field – we believe that the
practice of judgementoring is likely to be widespread and that at least some of the other micro- and
meso-level failings we have outlined are likely to exist in a majority of schools in England.
As we have indicated, some of the threats to realizing the potential of school-based mentoring in
teacher education – including issues relating to the lack of rigour in mentor selection, to insufficient
opportunities for effective mentor training and development, and to the lack of provision of sufficient
time for mentoring – have been identified by previous studies. It is disappointing that policy and
practice have not been sufficiently informed by such research, and this raises questions about the
extent to which policy-makers and practitioners are willing and/or able to engage with relevant
studies, and about whether research is being sufficiently widely or appropriately ‘disseminated’ to the
‘right’ audiences to have an impact.
In other respects our article breaks new ground, not least through our identification and
examination of the nature and some of the causes and consequences of what we term judgementoring,
and how this and other failures to provide effective support for beginner teachers at the level of the
mentoring relationship can be attributed, in part, to related failings at institutional and national policy
levels. The practice of judgementoring potentially prevents the development of the primary context
for learning at this level (the trusting and safe relationship), impedes the mentee’s development of
informed reflective practice or ‘learnacy’ (Claxton, 2004), creates ‘learned helplessness’ (Maier and
Seligman 1976), and negatively impacts the mentee’s emotional wellbeing. In some cases, where the
so-called mentor is excessively critical, the negative consequences of judgementoring – for the
mentee’s emotional state, professional learning and development, and their potential retention on ITP
programmes or in the profession – can be especially severe. Some implications of the findings
presented here are consistent with key literature relating to scaffolding learning (for example), in
which there is no ‘scaffolding move’ (Wood et al., 1976) that involves the helper ‘telling’ the learner
their judgements on their work. Mentors will inevitably have such judgements but, in this view, these
are primarily used to guide their own thinking about ways to support and scaffold a particular
mentee’s learning: only rarely will mentors have occasion (and feel it appropriate) to share their
assessments with mentees directly – where, for instance, within a well-established trusting
relationship a mentee invites them to do so in preparation for a formal observation and assessment by
We argue that one of the main causes of judgementoring is the requirement for mentors to also act
as assessors and gatekeepers to the profession, especially in the absence of appropriate provision of
mentor development opportunities in preparation for fulfilling both roles and for doing so without
compromising either. Another – and perhaps more fundamental – factor contributing to the practice of
judgementoring and other pathologies of mentoring is a lack of consensus on what mentoring in
teacher education is, what it can or should seek to achieve, and how it differs from mentoring in other
contexts. Here we share Fletcher’s (2012b) view that ‘it is important to distinguish between mentoring
in education and mentoring in other contexts’ (p.68), and concur with Bozeman and Feeney (2007)
about the importance of delineating the boundaries between mentoring and related phenomena, such
as coaching, with which it shares ‘concept space’. For us, coaching as ‘facilitated reflective practice’
(Cox 2013, p.2) which aims at transformative learning (Mezirow, 1990) is part of mentoring, not
separate from or additional to it. In the context of mentoring beginner teachers and the associated
emphasis on supporting their learning, it seems logical that the main informing literature for mentor
practice would be that related to teacher learning, and learning more generally. On the other hand,
since mentoring is fundamentally a relationship between two people (regardless of the occupational
and other contexts in which it takes place), mentoring in teacher education will inevitably share
similarities with and can potentially learn from the experience of mentoring in other disciplines.
Given this, and the findings reported in this article, we would argue that teacher education policy-
makers in England and elsewhere have been remiss in overlooking the recommendation, from the
literature on mentoring in organisations, that mentoring is more effective as an ‘off-line’ activity
where mentors are not also responsible for line-managing, assessing or evaluating the work of their
mentees (Megginson and Clutterbuck, 1995; Clutterbuck, 2004).
Considering more explicitly some potential implications of our findings, we believe that more
consistently effective support for beginning teachers in England could be achieved if national policy-
makers, schools and mentors themselves made greater efforts to create and maintain the conditions for
effective mentoring that we have shown to be lacking in many cases. We see three main priorities at
this time. The first is that of seeking to establish a greater degree of informed consensus on the
meaning and purposes of mentoring in teacher education and (if it is not too late, given the
experiences of many new teachers) to prevent the view of mentoring-as-judgementoring becoming the
default understanding of ‘mentoring’ in England, or otherwise to attempt to reverse or correct this. We
recognise that achieving the kind of consensus suggested presents a substantial challenge, notably
because it requires a culture change, and also acknowledge that there has been some attempt, on the
part of national policy-makers in England, to make an accepted definition and account of mentoring
(and its association with coaching) available through the production of the ‘National Framework for
Mentoring and Coaching’ (CUREE, 2005) referred to above. Yet while, on the one hand, the
Framework’s association of assessment with mentoring may have encouraged the development of
judgementoring in some quarters, on the other hand it would have been naïve to have expected that
the published view of a group of experts following consultation would trickle down and significantly
affect what happens in mentoring relationships in schools. The strategy reminds us of the now largely
discredited cascade models of development (Hayes, 2000), and represents a restricted ‘rational-
empirical’ strategy for affecting change in human systems (‘this is what research/more knowledgeable
others say’), whereas ‘normative-re-educative ‘strategies (the provision of new experiences and
opportunities to learn from them) have been found to be more effective (Chin and Benne, 1970;
Wedell and Malderez, 2013).
Secondly, related to the first priority set out above and for the reasons that we have elaborated in
this article, we urge policy-makers and school leaders to free school-based mentors from the task of
formally evaluating and assessing their mentees’ ‘performance’. Our third priority would be to
attempt to ensure that all mentors of beginner teachers participate in appropriate and informed mentor
training and development opportunities. In this regard we would recommend policy changes to
stipulate that all practising mentors must have successfully completed an accredited mentor
preparation programme. This in turn may require additional policy changes to enhance the status and
recognition of mentors, thus making the role more attractive to individuals and schools and so achieve
a sufficient number of applicants for selection to be possible.
Amongst the challenges associated with possible attempts to act upon our recommendations is the
need to avoid two potential ironies or contradictions. The first concerns the imperative to ensure that
schools take mentoring more seriously and create conditions for effective mentoring without resorting
to the heavy hand of surveillance and accountability which is part of the cause of some of the failings
we have outlined. The second relates to the need to encourage teachers to become non-judgemental
mentors (e.g. through the type of mentor training and development opportunities provided) without
ourselves or others ‘passing judgement’ on their existing beliefs and practices and ‘telling them’ how
they might change these. Some clues to resolving these conundrums may be found in the wider
‘educational change’ and ‘teacher education’ literatures, some of which we have cited above.
The findings presented in this article suggest a number of potential avenues for further research. It
might be valuable, for example, to explore the extent to which judgementoring in teacher education is
prevalent in different educational systems and to further examine its causes, while longitudinal studies
might usefully track the impact of various types of ‘mentoring’ in education (including both
judgementoring and what we have argued is a more appropriate, developmental approach) over time,
including on mentees’ development of learnacy. In the meantime, we conclude by suggesting that,
where some of our findings ‘ring true’ to readers in other contexts worldwide and/or when aspects of
the context are similar, some of our recommendations may also be applicable. Where contexts differ
and our findings do not reflect mentoring practices in those contexts, we would nonetheless suggest
that policy-makers and practitioners in those education systems too might profitably seek to ensure
that the conditions for effective mentoring we have discussed are created and maintained. More
specifically, in a global environment in which policy initiatives introduced in some systems frequently
find their way into others (Hulme, 2005; Wedell, 2009), we would urge them to seek to ensure that a
culture of judgementoring is not allowed to develop and take hold.
We wish to express our gratitude to: the (then) Department for Children, Schools and Families, the
General Teaching Council for England, and the Training and Development Agency for Schools, who
co-funded the BaT project; and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, who sponsored the MoMaC
research. We acknowledge the valuable contributions made by other members of the research teams
and by colleagues serving on the project steering groups. Finally, we are indebted to Pat Ashby, Mark
Boylan, John Coldron, Sarah Fletcher and IJMCE’s anonymous reviewers and Guest Editor (Peter
Tomlinson) for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.
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 By initial teacher preparation (ITP) we refer to what is also known as initial teacher education (ITE), initial
teacher training (ITT) and pre-service training. We have explained our preference for the use of this term
elsewhere (Hobson et al., 2008).
 School Direct is a new school-based ITP route in which schools or partnerships of schools, working with an
accredited training provider which may be HEI or non-HEI-led, request ‘training places’ directly (from central
government) and determine the content and focus of the ITP programme (Teaching Agency, 2013).
 We refer to ‘qualitative’ research in inverted commas to acknowledge that the distinctions between
qualitative and quantitative methods and data are exaggerated (Hammersley, 1996).
 Survey data were generated in collaboration with colleagues from the National Foundation for Educational
Research (NFER), as part of their Teacher Voice Omnibus November 2011 survey. For further information, see
Hobson et al. (2012).
 Few discernible differences were found between ITP and NTI regarding the nature, potential causes or
consequences of negative experiences of mentoring: aside from the issue of ‘fragmentation’, which we discuss
in relation to ITP, the issues were broadly the same.
 This concern is addressed more fully, and in relation to teachers’ professional learning and development
more generally, in Hobson and McIntyre (2013).
 Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) is the non-ministerial
government department of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools In England (HMCI), which inspects and
regulates services providing care for children and young people, and education and skills for learners of all ages.
About the authors
Andrew J. (Andy) Hobson is Professor of Teacher Learning and Development, and Head of the
Education Research Centre at the University of Brighton, UK. His research interests include teacher
mentoring and teacher wellbeing. As corresponding author, Andy can be contacted at:
Angi Malderez is an Honorary Senior Fellow at the School of Education, the University of Leeds.
She was co-director of the BaT project and consultant on the MoMaC study. She is now an
independent education consultant, working principally on mentor development in Europe, Asia and