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The term mentoring refers generally to a relationship between a more experienced individual known as a mentor and a less experienced individual called a mentee. Mentoring is traditionally seen as a dyadic, face-to-face and long-term relationship used to foster the mentee’s professional, academic or personal development. It’s difficult to work out an accurate definition of mentoring – it’s said that there are at least 15 different definitions of mentoring in the educational, psychological, and management literature. I prefer to define mentoring as a collaborative process rather than a relationship between two individuals. As our world is rapidly networking and the world’s most developed countries have shifted from an industrial economy to an economy that can be referred to innovation economy, also traditions of mentoring need to evolve in order to support collaboration. This is because innovation is primarily a social and collaborative phenomenon. This should make also school-systems all over the world to change to a more collaborative ways of working.

Clever collaboration. Picture by My Modern Met http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/most-appreciated-photos-on-flickr-commons

– Clever collaboration. Picture by My Modern Met http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/most-appreciated-photos-on-flickr-commons

If novices are to learn the ways of thinking and acting associated with new kinds of teaching, they must be placed with mentors who are already reformers in their schools or classrooms and develop collaborative contexts,

writes Sharon Feiman-Nemser in a critical review of teacher mentoring. On that account it is gratifying that in the Intenet’s diverse mentoring resources there are some that focus on collaborative mentoring. An interesting example are Lisa Michelle Dabbs’ insights about mentoring new teachers. She has developed New Teacher Mentoring Project that has gathered teachers from around the world who are willing to share their expertise to new teachers. Their professional information on a public Google Doc including contact information, links to their blogs and areas of their expertise. Ms. Dabbs’ blog can be found at http://www.edutopia.org/ – a site that shares ”evidence-based learning strategies that empower you to improve education” including articles about e.g. game based learning, problem based learning and education trends.

Michael Neall and Julie Curry put forward a systems approach to supporting beginning educators, which they call collaborative mentoring. They argue that teams of mentors ensure more comprehensive and sustained support than the more traditional dyadic approach. They also found out that the concept of mentoring beginning teachers though a systematized team approach is actually quite uncommon. With the collaborative mentoring model a novice teacher might be supported by a mentor community up to thirteen experienced educators. The team approach had positive effects in the students’ performance as the school administration found out that the pupils in first and second year teachers performed as well as in the classes of veteran teachers. There was a strong positive impact on beginning teachers as well. A major change – which should go for the entire school system all over the world – was that

the sense of isolation that  seems to permeate through the teaching profession was gone.

The beginning teachers felt that they were not alone and the whole community was working for their success. The first year teachers even became active members of the mentoring teams thus enhancing their feelings of professionalism. Also the mentors reported that they learned much during the mentoring process – in the team approach the mentoring shifted from sheer advising to shared learning. Finally, also the school culture changed towards a more supportive direction due to the fact that the collaborative mentoring model in a way formalized it. And that was not all, because the level of all staff participation increased which is a positive signal mitigating problems in work-related well-being.

Rivinnokan majakka Haukiputaan edustalla

Rivinnokka light beacon in winter 2013

Yet another perspective comes from Australia, where Shirley Reushle presents a  collaborative community mentoring program aiming to address the changing demands of professionals through digital networks. Reushle argues that collaborative activity helps alleviate isolation by connecting scholars together. Through collaboration professionals can extend and deepen understanding, share and test ideas and receive feedback. The model also utilizes digital technologies to link diffuse groups for interaction and collaboration.

There seems to be scarce resources in the Internet concerning collaborative mentoring. It’s a shame because in the working life we urgently need collaborative and creative skills. The short review I’ve written provides support to the insight that these kind of skills could be scaffolded  though collaborative mentoring. Also, during the decade I’ve worked as an expert in developmental work with workplaces, employees and their supervisors, I’ve seen that collaborative skills sometimes are conspicuously absent. I argue that there’s an urgent need for a collaborative turn in mentoring in order to change that.