I picked up this book at the TedEdx Norwich bookshop as one of the areas that I know I need to work on is mentoring of my sixth form tutor group as well as the students I teach.
Mentoring is an essential part of the form tutor role regardless of the year group you are linked to. However, I have often found that it is something that you receive very little training or support with. That is where this book stepped in for me and gave me ideas and tools to use in my mentoring that moved it away from the generic conversation. The 40 activities suggested in the book provide conversation starters as well as reflective activities that help the students to take control of their own learning and achievement.
What I really liked about this book was that it was based on experience as well as research such as the work of Dweck, Duckworth and Clough, but a single research program wasn't set forth as the silver bullet to student motivation and achievement. The authors are both Sixth form teachers and tutors which shows in the way the book is written. It offers a system that works in their schools and could be followed as written but it also allows for adaption development to meet the needs of the individual students that you teach as well as the institution you work at.
As a classroom teacher and form tutor, I have used this book as an ideas bank where I picked out activities and ideas that I could use with the individual students that I have been mentoring. I do need to point out though that I didn't find this book until Easter of this academic year so in some ways was a little late in the day for some students and reiterated with me the need to start individual mentoring much earlier in the A Level process.
One key message I took from the book was that many A Level students do not come to 6th form study with the study skill and independent learning mindsets that are expected of them. It seems (and I am guilty of this) that as A Level teachers we expect students to instinctively know how to work and study independently when they reach year 12 despite the fact that we have in some cases pulled students through their GCSEs kicking and screaming. Oakes and Griffin deal with this by outlining their VESPA structure of mentoring.- V
ision -“ Why are they doing A Levels? What do they want to achieve by doing them?- E
ffort -“ Not just the number of hours that are put into independent study but determining if that study is reactive, reflective or proactive.- S
ystems -“ How students are studying? How are they deciding what to study? How are they spending their independent study time?- P
ractice - what methods are they using? Are they focused on content or techniques? How do they take notes?- A
ttitude -“ how do they deal with failure? When something becomes difficult how do they deal with it? Resilience, growth mindset and determination.
This structure is not stand alone steps but areas that should be discussed with the students, and you may find that you spend more time in one area then others with particular students. Due to the time of year that I read the book, I focused a lot on the Systems and Practice sections of the system with my mentees, interleaving the ideas with revision support. Now this may have been too little too late for some of them but on reflection it has helped me to realise what I need to do differently in the future to support my mentees.
The activities that I really liked included the Eisenhower matrix as a way of organising what needs to be done. I adapted this system for one of my students who was not only struggling with what to revise but also motivation as she felt that she wasn't getting anywhere with the work. So by adapting it so that she could move the elements of her course around the matrix she was able to see the progress she was making.
I also liked the revision questionnaires and subject skill audits which helped students to identify how they were revising / consolidating on their classwork, which in most cases was content focused. I linked this in with an Emoji Exit ticket on revision and how the student felt about their revision and studying. These questionnaires again worked as a good way to start a conversation with the students about their study habits and how they may not be the most effective way to study, which then linked nicely with the Spaced revision system that I have been suggesting to all my students. I think that these could work well getting the whole cohort to complete them but they really do need to be followed up with a 1-2-1 conversation.
My big takeaway messages from reading this book (which I have now lost to my SMT) is-
Mentoring needs to start early in the A Level process, initially with tutors but where necessary with 1-2-1 mentors for those who are struggling to bridge the gap between GCSE and A Level.-
At A level it is not enough for students to revise and consolidate content which may have got them through GCSE, they need to think just as much about exam practice and feedback, but this system needs to be taught to them.-
Mentoring is more than just having a quick conversation about how the student is feeling about their studies. Mentors need to have effective strategies to support the student in taking control of their learning.-
Revision needs to be built into schemes of work so that students have plenty of opportunity to try different techniques and see what works and what doesn't.
to read the review in full.