Toolkit on Teaching for Diversity - How can you create a mentoring programme that is sensitive to diversity?


Mentoring is very useful for cultivating effective teachers, and the need for a mentoring programme is especially acute for teaching for diversity in schools.  Effective mentoring programmes can help contribute to teacher retention, encourage sharing and discussion of shared experiences, and foster a broader appreciation of diversity principles and how they can be integrated in schools. This is especially important today as teachers and schools respond to increasingly diverse student populations.


Planning a mentoring programme that takes diversity into account

In some cases, informal mentor-mentee relationships occur naturally in schools and consist of self-identified pairs.  In general though, mentors tend to choose to mentor someone who they perceive to be like them.  They often do not think about reaching out to those who may seem different from them, such as teachers from diverse backgrounds. To expect that all teachers will find informal mentors on their own is not realistic. 

Many schools are thus realising mentoring should be organised as an established process that provides opportunities for everyone.  Diversity issues are best embedded into such a mentoring programme, so that they can be addressed along with other elements of career development and practice. Planning a successful mentoring programme that includes diversity issues should include six steps:

  • Taking differences into account: Designing programmes for mentees (novice teachers) who are different from mentors can be challenging.  Understanding cultural or gender-based assumptions can help build trust, which is essential for successful mentoring. Good basic communication skills—such as listening, empathy and enquiry—along with explicit acknowledgement of differing cultural, ethnic, and gender-based assumptions are essential.

  • Defining programme goals: Any mentoring programme should have a clear, strategic intent and specific goals at the outset. In the case of a mentoring for diversity programme or component, strategy and goals should ideally be closely aligned.

  • Involving school leaders: School leaders can play a unique role in championing a mentoring programme. First, support by school leadership gives the programme credibility among teachers.  It is particularly helpful when school leaders prioritise diversity initiatives and communicate personal commitment to the programme regularly. 

  • Actively soliciting input from participants: One of the most important components of creating an effective mentoring for diversity programme is to ask participants and potential participants for their input. Stakeholder input in shaping the programme will not only help build a programme based on participant needs, but can also increase the enthusiasm and potential success of the participants.

  • Using constructive feedback is indispensable to productive mentoring. When done properly, feedback is a very specific kind of communication: it focuses on sharing with another person the impact of their behavior and its purpose is to help that person become more effective.

  • Peer mentoring: In some instances, participants with a more senior colleague as their mentor might feel somewhat reluctant to be open about their experiences for fear of judgement or professional reprisal.  Some schools may find it useful to institute peer mentoring programmes in which participants can share experiences of teaching for diversity with a peer.


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