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Professional Learning Programs for Teacher Mentors — December 2020


What does the research say about professional learning programs for mentor teachers?


Following an established REL West research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and resources on professional learning/professional development programs for teacher mentors. The sources we searched included ERIC, Google Scholar, and PsychInfo. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched for references through the most commonly used sources of research, but the list is not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Access to the full articles is free unless indicated otherwise.

Research References

Allen, J. M., White, S., & Sim, C. (2017). Project evidence: Responding to the changing professional learning needs of mentors in initial teacher education. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 42(7), 14–25. Full text available from

From the abstract: “This positioning paper seeks to contribute to the knowledge base of the changing professional learning needs of supervising or mentor teachers in initial teacher education. To do so, we draw from the work of ‘Project Evidence,’ an Australian Office of Learning and Teaching funded project, designed to support teacher education through the development of a professional learning website. Our focus in this paper is our growing understanding of the complex work of teachers as they navigate new supervisory and mentoring roles in the current education context of high stakes standardisation. We examine the implications for their changing work practices within the policy imperative to build effective school-university partnerships in teacher education. Within this context, we discuss the ways in which Project Evidence has attempted to (re)position the emphasis of the work of the mentor teacher away from the dual role of assessor and supervisor to encompass their own professional learning.”

Berg, M. H., & Rickels, D. A. (2018). Mentoring for mentors: The Music Mentor Plus program. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 27(2), 39–51. Abstract available from and full text available for a fee from

From the abstract: “The Music Mentor Plus program was designed to introduce mentoring strategies teachers can implement during supervision of student teachers and early field experience interns, while also fostering connections between field-based modeling and university methods course content. Throughout the 2015–2016 school year, seven music teachers and two university music education faculty members engaged in a series of live workshops and ongoing electronic communication. Participants joined in discussions and role-play activities and completed readings and reflection assignments. In this article, we present an outline of the program as well as reflections on the experience from the faculty leaders and participating teachers.”

Betlem, E. H., Clary, D., & Jones, M. (2019). Mentoring the mentor: Professional development through a school-university partnership. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 47(4), 327–346. Abstract available from and full text available for a fee from

From the abstract: “Governments worldwide have invested in teaching standards and performance benchmarks to improve teacher preparation and teacher quality that impacts student achievement. As a means of addressing these imperatives, the Australian government has recently encouraged formal partnerships between tertiary providers, schools and education systems in delivering teacher education and professional development, in particular for mentors. This article documents challenges and initial findings of the first year of a school-university partnership involving an Australian regional university and K–12 teacher-mentors located in rural schools. It describes the design and implementation of a contextualised professional development model, using participatory action research to build teacher capacity for mentoring and foster a culture of collaborative inquiry. The model discussed reflects a systematic approach to constructing knowledge, skills and roles essential to effective mentoring.”

Black, G. L., Olmsted, B., & Mottonen, A-L. (2016). Associate teachers’ perceptions of effective mentorship professional development. New Educator, 12(4), 322–342. Abstract available from and full text available for a fee from

From the abstract: “Associate (mentor) teachers are essential partners in guiding teacher candidates into the profession; however, little training is offered for this critical role. This study explored, through the lens of self-determination theory, types of support and delivery most useful for successful mentorship during practicum. Online surveys and invited interviews targeted at associate teachers for one teacher preparation program (TPP) were used to gather data, with subsequent ordinal scale data display and theme derivation. Based on 281 survey respondents and 13 interviews, results highlighted specific TPP supports and the need for other partners (i.e., federations, boards) to engage more actively in supporting associate teachers.”

Cornelius, K. E., Rosenberg, M. S., & Sandmel, K. N. (2020). Examining the impact of professional development and coaching on mentoring of novice special educators. Action in Teacher Education, 42(3), 253–270. Abstract available from and full text available for a fee from

From the abstract: “The similarity of teaching assignments between mentor and novice teachers are typically regarded as necessary prerequisites for successful mentoring relationships. Yet, due to the personnel shortages and specialized teaching assignments in special education, it is not always possible to match novice special educators with veteran special educators. This multiple-baseline across behaviors study investigated specialized professional development and individualized coaching for general education teacher mentors. Outcomes assessed included the intervention’s impact on the mentors’ special education knowledge, mentors’ ability to identify needed components of special education lesson delivery, and novice teachers’ improvements in instructional practice. Results indicated a functional relationship between the intervention and mentor knowledge as well as the ability to identify components of specialized instruction. Most important, novice special educators improved their instructional practices after being mentored by those who received the professional development and specialized coaching.”

Lafferty, K. E. (2018). The difference explicit preparation makes in cooperating teacher practice. Teacher Education Quarterly, 45(3), 73–95. Full text available from

From the abstract: “The lack of preparation for cooperating teachers is a long-standing problem in teacher education, as is the haphazard nature and quality of field experiences. This study of 119 preservice and 146 cooperating teachers in 10 university-based credentialing programs in California examined the difference preparation made in how cooperating teachers enacted their role, as well as the relationship between preservice teachers’ perceptions of cooperating teacher practice and their ratings of their field experience. A significant finding was that cooperating teachers who received preparation for their role reported greater enactment of practices overall and in particular practices related to prompting reflection and goal setting. Preservice teachers’ field ratings strongly correlated to their perceptions of cooperating teacher practice. Implications are for design and implementation of professional development for cooperating teachers to improve field experience quality.

Melton, J., Miller, M., & Brobst, J. (2019). Mentoring the mentors: Hybridizing professional development to support cooperating teachers’ mentoring practice in science. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE Journal), 19(1). Abstract available from and full text available for a fee from

From the abstract: “This article describes key features of a hybrid professional development (PD) program that was designed to prepare elementary classroom teachers to mentor preservice teachers for effective science instruction. Five classroom teachers who were new to our mentor training participated in the study to document the impacts of the PD sequence. The PD combined an in-person immersion into the components of effective science instruction with online modules centered on learner-supportive mentoring practices. The authors detail key aspects of this hybrid program and discuss its impacts on the cooperating teachers’ ability to facilitate effective mentoring conversations with preservice teachers. Findings indicated that mentors who engaged in the hybrid face-to-face and online PD more effectively coached their mentees and displayed specific shifts in their approach to mentor conversations. Participants showed statistically significant increases in their ability to use coaching as a default mentoring stance, to focus on evidence of students’ science learning, and to draw on a consistent framework for effective science instruction for their conversations. These findings support a hybrid model of PD for mentoring and create potential for exploring a fully online sequence to promote effective mentoring in future work.”

Richmond, G., Dershimer, R. C., Ferreira, M., Maylone, N., Kubitskey, B., & Meriweather, A. (2017). Developing and sustaining an educative mentoring model of STEM teacher professional development through collaborative partnership. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 25(1), 5–26. Abstract available from and full text available for a fee from

From the abstract: “In this paper, we present details of a partnership undertaken by four universities with field-based, alternative STEM teacher preparation programs and a large urban school district to provide ongoing professional support for teachers serving as mentors for individuals preparing for careers in high-poverty schools. We also present key findings related to our implementation of an educative mentoring professional learning community (PLC) as a professional development (PD) model for these mentors. Our analysis reveals that mentors as well as candidates identified the PD program as addressing their specific interests and concerns, and that they were regularly and deeply engaged with key activities that were part of each session’s agenda. These findings signal how key elements of PD workshops can contribute to creating and sustaining a local but replicable PLC utilizing an educative mentoring model to support mentors and the future teachers whom they support.”

Sowell, M. (2017). Effective practices for mentoring beginning middle school teachers: Mentor’s perspectives. Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 90(4),129–134. Abstract available from and full text available for a fee from

From the abstract: “In order to improve student achievement, school systems must provide new teachers with support to become effective teachers more quickly. Educators frequently use mentoring to support new teachers and reach the goals of improved classroom performance as well as teacher retention. The intention in this study was to provide insights into the mentoring of beginning teachers working in the middle grades. In this exploratory case study, three elements of a mentoring model deemed necessary for the implementation of effective mentoring for middle school teachers are presented. First, the mentor must forge a trusting relationship with the new teacher. Second, the mentor must support and guide the new teacher in creating a classroom environment that is supportive of learning. Third, the mentor must be able to support and guide the new teacher in instructional strategies appropriate to the content and context of the classroom. Furthermore, this research highlighted a need for mentors to receive ongoing training in classroom management, instructional practices, and relationship building in order to remain effective mentors. Without effective trained mentors, programs will fail to meet their goals of improving instruction and retaining teachers past their induction year.”

Willis, J., Churchward, P., Beutel, D., Spooner-Lane, R., Crosswell, L., & Curtis, E. (2019). Mentors for beginning teachers as middle leaders: The messy work of recontextualizing. School Leadership & Management, 39(3-4), 334–351. Abstract available from and full text available for a fee from

From the abstract: “Mentors for beginning teachers in schools are often unacknowledged middle leaders in their schools. Through their work with beginning teachers, they not only provide local leadership in their contexts, they influence and shape the work of the next generation of teachers. Government-funded mentor training for the purpose of supporting beginning teachers in Education Queensland schools commenced in 2014. In Queensland, Australia, over 3000 experienced teachers have completed a two-day professional learning Mentoring Beginning Teacher (MBT) programme. Upon completion, mentors were expected to design and enact a mentoring programme that met the beginning teachers’ needs in their context, using the dialogic mentoring principles they had learned to fulfill the policy goals of increasing the number of beginning teachers transitioning to full registration. This article draws on Bernstein’s ([2000]. ‘Pedagogy, Symbolic Control, and Identity: Theory, Research, Critique.’ Revised ed. Rowman & Littlefield) concepts of recontextualisation, and horizontal and vertical discourses of knowledge to understand how mentor teachers negotiated and enacted their roles as middle leaders in schools in diverse schooling contexts.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used: [(“Professional learning program” OR “professional development program”) AND (“mentor teacher”] AND (“new teachers” OR “beginning teachers”)]; [(“Professional learning for mentors” OR “professional development for mentors”) AND (“new teachers” OR “beginning teachers”)]; [(“Professional learning” OR “professional development”) AND (“mentoring new teachers” OR “mentoring beginning teachers”)]; [(“Mentoring professional learning” OR “mentoring professional development”) AND (“new teachers” OR “beginning teachers” OR “novice teachers”)]

Databases and Resources

We searched Google Scholar and ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and selecting resources to include, we consider the criteria listed below.

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published within the last 15 years, from 2005 to present, were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations and academic databases. Priority is also given to sources that provide free access to the full article.
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study designs, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, and we may also include descriptive data analyses, survey results, mixed-methods studies, literature reviews, or meta-analyses. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality. Priority is given to publications that are peer-reviewed journal articles or reports reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations. If there are many research reports available, we select those with the strongest methodology, or the most recent of similar reports. When there are fewer resources available, we may include a broader range of information. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the West Region (Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd. This memorandum was prepared by REL West under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0012, administered by WestEd. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.