Mentoring for Early Career Chemistry Teachers (MECCT) was a one-year mentoring intervention developed by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to improve early careers teachers’ (ECTs) retention by supporting them with their teaching.
The project evaluated in this pilot included the pairing of ECTs teaching at Key Stages 3 and 4 (with between one- and five-years’ teaching experience) with a subject-specialist mentor (with over five years’ experience). Mentors and mentees were advised to meet for a total of six times, for up to an hour, however, the frequency and format of delivery were flexible. The mentoring sessions, aimed at improving ECTs’ confidence, were designed to provide them with skills to better manage workload and stress, as well as expand their chemistry specific pedagogical knowledge
In addition to the mentoring sessions, ECTs also received additional support through an online forum and additional resources provided by the RSC.
This project was part of a co-funded round on science teacher retention with the Wellcome Trust. Research has shown that teachers who feel supported are less likely to leave the profession, and that mentoring is a popular way of addressing teacher efficacy, job satisfaction and workload. The pilot was funded to assess whether the programme had evidence of promise, was feasible and was ready to be trialled to test impact. The pilot evaluation found that the programme was feasible, with most ECTs reporting positive experiences. However, the level of flexibility in the delivery of the mentoring sessions resulted in many mentor and mentee pairings meeting fewer than six times in a year, with many sessions delivered remotely rather than face-to-face. This made it challenging to test the validity of the programme’s ability to achieve all of its intended aims.
Overall, the evaluation found that some participating ECTs felt more supported, reporting that their confidence, knowledge and pedagogical skills had increased. However, there was limited evidence to suggest the programme had improved ECTs’ ability to manage their workload. or influenced their intentions to stay in teaching.
The pilot evaluation suggested that some aspects of MECCT should be strengthened before it was ready for trial. Areas for improvement included more effective matching of mentors and mentees, ensuring mentors’ expertise meets mentees’ needs, and further engagement of schools to allow mentors to gain a deeper understanding of schools’ cultures. It was also suggested that more regular monitoring was needed to improve implementation and resulting impacts. This included monitoring the relationships between mentors and mentees, to both understand the nature of relationships and whether regular meetings were taking place
The EEF continues to be interested in approaches to supporting ECTs, and interventions that look to improve teacher retention more generally.