The Mentor’s Model

    Every teacher education program trains perspective teachers to be good managers.  If a teacher cannot manage what is going on in his/her classroom, the classroom will disintegrate into chaos.  Even Kindergarten children can destroy a weak teacher.


    But, if classroom management is all that is going on in any classroom, the children and youth will suffer – not because of what is going on but because of what is not.  Of course, education is all about learning discipline-related facts, methods and principles. But the process of education is much more than students’ participating in this type of learning task. In this larger view, the process of education involves learning how to grow up – successfully.  Because of this, every classroom must offer students opportunities  that foster student self-responsibility. In essence, students need to develop self-regulation skills.


    The Mentor’s Model (See Figure 4) identifies five aspects of growth found in a classroom that can serve as a framework within which to examine the maturational development of students. These aspects include:

    1) intellectual (the content to be learned),

    2) emotional (the powerful mix of emotions and feelings that may threaten to erupt in any student at any moment),

    3) social (interpersonal interactions),

    4) physical (a mix of growth and “machine maintenance” issues), and

    5) conative capacity (the manifestation of intentional, energy-driven action.)



    Professional skills for the teacher associated with these growth aspects include:  challenging, nurturing, encouraging, facilitating and coaching.


    A good coach draws the best performance from his/her players – not because that performance is already there, necessarily, but because the coach instills the vision of ‘what can be’ in the minds and hearts of the players and they rise to the occasion – and perform. When students perform under these conditions, they are drawing on their “Conative Capacity” – their ability to become intentional and focus their energy toward the accomplishment of a goal.


    Awareness of the complexity of the classroom’s milieu helps the teacher develop a perspective that is both responsive to student needs and flexible as the teacher acts as an expert in handling incidents, problems and issues that may arise.


    The Mentor’s Model highlights the role of the teacher as a coach – a quite different role from the teacher as manager of a student’s learning.  A coach can provide vision, but he or she can also encourage the development of a student’s potential, that more-than-cognitive capacity that fuses together content knowledge (cognitive) with attitudes (affective) and intention. Intention is the necessary ingredient in the equation that provides the drive to accomplish the objective or to bring the mission to fruition.


    A primary challenge facing every teacher is to craft the lesson activities in such a way that the student will, in fact, learn content knowledge and be able to perform well on mandated evaluation measures.  Learning appropriate content knowledge from the Cognitive Domain demands that the teacher be an expert in the intellectual skills associated with the mastery of cognitive objectives.


    But more is going on in the class room than just memorizing content knowledge in order to pass a test. The social and emotional lives of the students are closely intertwined with content learning.  Attitudes and values (such as no bullying allowed) are a vital part of every classroom and the teacher must be able to nurture and encourage students’ appropriate social and emotional behavior on an on-toing basis. “Random acts of kindness” go a long way toward building a classroom climate where students will be willing to risk in learning.  The Affective Domain plays an important role in a comprehensive, growth-promoting classroom climate.


    The Psychomotor Domain is not often addressed directly in an analysis of classroom vitality, but the obvious link between the mind and the body (in terms of the need for adequate, high-quality nutrition, adequate sleep and an appropriate amount of physical exercise) permits us to consider that domain as a contributor to a classroom where exciting, measureable learning is going on.


    The Conative Domain has a place in the Mentor’s Model not only because it “rounds out” the model in terms of existing, recognized domains of behavior but because it forces us to recognize that “we can lead the students to the learning activity – but we cannot make they participate in it.”  Students must choose to focus their attention on learning tasks in order to perform them well and actually learn from them.  Students need to become intentional about learning – if they want to learn anything. Students need to choose to become learners.


    Learning is work.  Hard work for the many – easy for the few. Too many students can work their way through learning activities, filling in all of the blanks successfully (because the answers are in bold type) but come away from the activity comprehending nothing.  The self-regulatory dimension of the Conative Domain is the missing ingredient in many classrooms today.


    This brief paper cannot solve all of education’s problems.  But it enables us to consider the complexity of the classroom and what might be done to create classroom climates where the best of learning is occurring on a continual basis.



    Copyright © 2014 Kathryn S. Atman, Ph. D.

    Last Updated (Monday, 19 May 2014 12:31)