Advanced Coaching and Mentoring: Critical Analysis

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Garvey, Stokes, and Megginson (2009:26) conclude that ‘there can be no ‘one best way’ in mentoring and coaching and therefore no one definition. In this essay, I intend to critically consider this statement by starting with various definitions of Mentoring and Coaching, comparing different models and methods; then moving on to the implications this may have for practitioners, focusing on how coaching is aligned with leadership as this is relevant to my setting as a leader in education.


I believe the long debate about whether Mentoring and Coaching are different, which method is the best, and so on, have had many coaches and mentors debating and researching. According to Gavey (2009:26), ‘there can be no ‘one best way’ in mentoring and coaching and therefore no one definition. Therefore I have decided to begin my review by looking at a few proposed definitions.

Downey, (2003:21) defines coaching as ‘the art of facilitating the performance, learning, and development of another.’ While de Haan, (2008:19) defines coaching as a method of work-related earning that relies primarily on one-to-one conversations.’ Yet Clutterbuck (2014:5) says this about mentoring; ‘(It) is the holistic nature of the mentoring role that distinguishes it from other supporting roles, such as coaching.’ The Collins Concise Dictionary, 5th edition defines a mentor as a wise and trusted advisor or guide. The primary task of the mentor is ‘To offer the experience to guide, advice and support the development of the mentee, resulting in improved performance.’ (Western, 2012:43). On the other hand Western (2012:44) says this about a coach, ‘An expert in facilitating another’s personal journey, focusing on both personal and organizational success.’ And the primary task of the coach is: ‘Coaching individuals to become fully empowered in their roles, in order to contribute to organizational success.’

It can be said that from the above definitions, coaching is ‘part of a developmental process (Van Nieuwerburgh, 2014:5). Bresser and Wilson (2010) go on to highlight coaching as a way of empowering people by facilitating their self-directed learning, their self-growth, and better performances. While Shea (1992) states that ‘traditionally mentoring was thought of as a formal process whereby an older, more experienced person helps and guides a younger person in learning the ropes.’

However, both coaching and mentoring could be seen as designed to enable people to achieve their full potential and share many similarities (Coaching and Mentoring Network (2018)).

The agreed consensus seems to be that the one main difference between Coaching and Mentoring is that a mentor has direct knowledge and experience and is often, but not necessarily, older, therefore has direct knowledge and experience of the coachee’s occupation while the coach does not. According to Clutterbuck (2014:5), ‘coaching and mentoring are broadly separate yet overlapping.’ It can be argued there are as many models of mentoring as there are for coaching. To quote Van Nieuwerburgh, (2014:3), ‘What you believe it means is more important than any definition.’

So what does this mean for the practitioner and clients?

Simply put, coaching is having a conversation or conversations with each other. From this conversation, if the following has happened then coaching has taken place:

  • The focus was primarily on the coachee
  • Their thinking, learning, and actions have benefitted from the conversation
  • And had the conversation not taken place, these benefits would unlikely have happened.

In contrast, mentoring according to Clutterbuck, D (2014:6), can be represented in two competing models of mentoring. ‘One largely US-derived, emphasizing sponsorship and hands-on help from the mentor.’ The other owes its origins to Europe and particularly the U.K. and Scandinavia. ‘This model emphasizes helping people to do things for themselves.’ Clutterbuck, D (2014:6). Therefore it can be seen as a partnership between two people built upon trust. ‘The mentor offers guidance, counseling, and support in the form of pragmatic and objective assistance.’ (Clutterbuck, D 2014:7). The purpose is to develop a two-way relationship where the mentor gains as much as the mentee.

Based on the above, it could be argued that coaching and mentoring are reliant on a relationship that helps the participants to develop and grow.

The many different models and methods of Coaching and Mentoring, I would suggest, may be able to define their differences or enhance their similarities.

For the purpose of comparing mentoring and coaching, I plan to look at functionalist coaching and functionalist mentoring as this appears more suitable in my setting as a leader in a school and a wider educational field.

According to Brockbank (2006), functionalist mentoring can be defined in terms of its purpose, process, and learning outcomes, as an activity that is agreed upon by both the mentor and mentee. With the focus being a prescribed purpose to be achieved. The role of functionalist coaching is viewed in a similar way; the aim is to support staff to achieve a qualification or competence level, therefore the purpose is directive and the learning outcome is important.

From the above, it would appear that both mentoring and coaching under the title of ‘functionalist’, are similar in that they both focus on the workplace and not the client's personal life outside of this.

From the research I have done, there appear to be many complementing and oppositional models. For the purpose of this task, I have chosen to look at the Cyclical Mentoring Model and The GROW model for coaching. (Brockbank A, McGill 2006)

Overview of Cyclical Mentoring Model:

Brockbank and McGill recommend this model due to its versatility and that it can be applied to many types of mentoring. It is suggested that this model can be used over the complete cycle of mentoring and for each mentoring session.

As the diagram above shows, there are 5 stages in Brockbank and McGill’s adaptation of the original model:

  • Contract: with the possibility of re-contracting.
  • Focus: Considerations that are decided by the mentee.
  • Space: ‘Holding’ the mentee while supporting and challenging them.
  • Bridge: Agree on what is to be done.
  • Review: feedback and evaluation of the session/process

Each of these stages has its own cycle consisting of elements which are covered as shown below.

In contrast or complimentary to the Cyclical Mentoring Model, I looked at the coaching models reviewed by Brockbank and McGill. They reviewed the GROW, FLOW, and SOS models as being suitable for functionalist coaching, however for the purpose of this task, I will be looking at the GROW and FLOW Models only.

Overview of the GROW model for Coaching.

The GROW model was popularised by Sir John Whitmore in an early edition of Coaching for Performance (2009). He explains the model as, ‘unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.’ (Whitmore, 1996:8). It has been argued that this model is the most widely used. Campbell J, (2016). Suggests the mnemonic indicates the 4 key stages of a coaching conversation:

  • Goal – setting a goal for the desired area of change.
  • Reality – exploring the current situation to establish a starting point.
  • Options – option/s on how to achieve the goal.
  • Wrap up – next steps and actions to move towards the goal.

In the functionalist context, this model I would suggest, allows the coach to ensure the coachee agrees to the goals of the organization, examines the present reality of the situation, discusses possible options, and decides what actions will be taken.

Although this model has been criticized for being too linear and simplistic, ‘If used skilfully and with a ‘light touch (it) will provide a valuable way to help a coach and coachee navigate the coaching conversation.’ (Campbell J. 2016: p. 236).

An adaptation from GROW model is the GROWTH model which has the addition of Tactics and Habits. ‘Using this model (GROWTH) has enabled more focused attention being paid to the immediate and long term outcomes.’ (Jenainati, 2016: p.164)

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According to van Nieuwerburgh et al., (2012), in a case study done in a secondary school, they found that the GROW model was used as the most appropriate coaching framework. The coaching principles and programs were used with the pupils of the school to help them support each other with examination stress, personal responsibilities, and self-awareness.

Many coaches use the GROW model to structure the coaching session as well as the coaching period due to the fact that includes the coachee’s goals, their reality, resources and obstacles, the options available, and the will/way forward. (Boniwell, Kauffman and Silberman. 2014: p.159)

Although there are so many different, yet similar models for coaching and mentoring, after researching both the Cyclical Mentoring Model and GROW model for coaching, it would appear that both of these models are versatile and can be applied to most types of coaching or mentoring. This is possibly why they are so often used.

Coaching and Leadership.

Coaching plays a very important role in today’s business environment. Education establishments are increasingly run as businesses today. Coaching plays a vital role in the value businesses and schools put on the organization and their employers. Therefore coaching is seen as a way to keep up with the competitive nature of education facilities and schools. This is achieved by shaping individuals' performances and building on the ethos, fundamentals, and aims of the establishment. For this reason, coaching can be seen as a type of investment. Through coaching, leaders help develop the employees’ focus and capabilities which in turn will benefit the individual and the organization.

According to van Nieuwerburg (2012), Leadership coaching has been proven to have real potential. Coaching can enhance leadership effectiveness. ‘An important part of emotionally intelligent leadership is the ability to support the development of others.’ (Van Nieuwerburg, 2012, p. 30)

Coaching in Educational Leadership.

A major skill of education leaders is to be able to identify that which is appropriate and supportive when intervention opportunities arise.

It has been commented that many educational leaders find it difficult to stand back and withhold advice. This often results in the tendency to take on the role of a mentor. However, it would seem that it would be more helpful and important for the leader to determine the type of intervention needed. (Van Nieuwerburgh, 2012). ‘Every situation is different and will require individual consideration by an emotionally intelligent leader.’ (Van Nieuwerburgh, 2012, p. 31)

According to van Nieuwerburgh (2012) the 2005 report, the Centre for the use of Research and Evidence in Education noted that the opportunity to learn through becoming a coach or mentor had an intense and encouraging effect on the skills of the coach or mentor. Furthermore, that learning to become a coach or mentor is one of the most empowering ways of supporting teachers and leaders to develop into confident, excellent practitioners. Concurring, van Nieuwerburg (2012) states that training teachers and educational staff in these skills can have many advantages.

According to Campbell (2016), coaching is used widely as a school improvement initiative for all involved in the educational environment and has become a significant approach for developing schools. He goes on to suggest that coaching in schools is not only to support the development of leaders but also a way for teachers to review and improve their teaching styles. Campbell goes on to comment, ‘Coaching is taking place between teachers and students beyond the traditional sporting context.’ (Campbell, 2016, p. 133). Added to this, some schools are training students in coaching skills in order for them to be able to coach their peers (Campbell, 2016).

Much of the general literature on coaching and mentoring, does not suggest there is a ‘one best way’ in which model or style is used when coaching or mentoring. One of the challenges leaders in schools face when discussing coaching is the different styles and methodologies. Coaches define coaching differently and adopt different approaches. Some of these approaches are more effective than others. (Anderson & Anderson. 2011). Starr (2011) suggests that there are definite principles of perspectives and beliefs that assist coaching. ‘When they (coaches) coach, they are operating from a common set of beliefs.’ (Starr, 2011, p. 30). These beliefs serve as principles that can help to achieve effectiveness over time by reflecting on them through the process of coaching.

As a school leader, the question to ask, I would suggest is, which is better for my staff; mentoring or coaching? Aguilar gives this suggestion, ‘The key difference between mentoring and coaching in schools lies in the purpose for the support and the formality around the process. Coaching is far more formal than mentoring and has a more expansive end goal. (Aguilar, 2017, blog). She goes on to explain that the role of a coach is broader and deeper than the job of a mentor. However, she suggests that there should be absolute clarity between the roles and that both the coach/mentor and the coachee/mentee should understand these roles. Aguilar concludes that a new teacher would benefit from having both a mentor and a coach.

Van Nieuwerburgh & Campbell (2015) state that although there has been a flourish in the application of coaching and mentoring in recent years, there has been confusion with the terms ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’. As a result of this, they have developed a Global Framework for Coaching and Mentoring in Education to bring about the best practice and support the field of academic research. The Global Framework for Coaching and Mentoring in Education has four quadrants which cover a range of coaching and mentoring interventions in the education setting, from leadership to community engagement.

As seen in the diagram above, there are a number of portals for each quadrant. Van Nieuwerburgh & Campbell (2015) go on to support that coaching offered to aspiring school leaders can help these teachers to make better-informed choices about their futures.

The Professional Practice quadrant makes use of coaching and mentoring intervention with the aim to improve the professional practice of teachers. This can be a result of observing teachers and providing feedback. One approach to this is Instructional Coaching. There have been many research studies that confirm that teachers gain from being coached, which not only improves their performances in schools but also their wellbeing.

The third quadrant focus on student success and wellbeing. ‘…any coaching and mentoring activities in educational contexts should ultimately lead to student success and wellbeing.’ (Van Nieuwerburgh & Campbell, 2015, p. 6). Together with this, they go on to note that it has been shown that training older students coaching skills to coach younger students is positive for both the coach and coachee.

Community engagement, which is the fourth quadrant, needs further research and study, according to Van Nieuwerburgh & Campbell (2015). This quadrant includes any coaching and mentoring that improves relationships with the wider community around the school.


Would there be any implications for mentoring and coaching practitioners if there was no one best and no one definition for coaching and mentoring? According to Kennedy (2019) mentoring and coaching are terms which are often used interchangeably. She goes on to state that although they are similar yet different, it is important to note the differences. Kennedy points out that it is reliant on the context and the individual, whether coaching or mentoring is the better option. She supports the notion that coaching and mentoring are development techniques using the skills of listening, inquiry, clarification, and reforming, together with the sharing of one-to-one conversations. This which is the major interaction to enhance skills, knowledge, and performance.

‘Coaching is a developmental process by which an individual gets support while learning to achieve a specific personal or professional result or goal.’ Reflects Kennedy (2019), is a general definition and therefore can be relevant to both coaching and mentoring. She goes on to note that it is difficult to find one clear definition of coaching that all experts and coaches agree on.

‘Mentoring is a means of providing support, challenge and extension of the learning of one person through the guidance of another who is more skilled, knowledgeable and experienced, particularly in relation to the context in which the learning is taking place.’ (Pollard, 2006, p. 29). It would seem that most experts agree with this idea of the meaning of mentoring and the critical distinction is that the relationship in mentoring lasts longer than the relationship in coaching.

From this, I would suggest that there seems to be a consensus that the definition and model are not important issues. The importance lies in that it must be agreed on whether coaching or mentoring is what is suitable to achieve the desired outcome. Each individual has different ways of learning and responding to learning. (Kennedy, 2019). She goes on to suggest that although a mentor has more in-depth knowledge and expertise in a certain field, some may prefer to be coached rather than mentored. The possibility of failure will occur should the incorrect technique is used.


In this essay, I have discussed the possible reasons why Garvey, Stokes, and Megginson (2009:26) may have concluded that ‘there can be no ‘one best way’ in mentoring and coaching and therefore no one definition. In this essay, I critically consider this statement by starting with various definitions of Mentoring and Coaching. I then went on to compare two different models and methods before moving on to the implications this may have for practitioners, focusing on how coaching is aligned with leadership as this is relevant to my setting as a leader in education.

I would suggest that the most obvious finding to emerge from this review is that most experts and practitioners seem to agree that the choice of Mentoring or Coaching depends on the individuals involved, the agreement on the outcome, and the personal relationship built upon over time. Although it would seem that the clear difference between coaching and mentoring is more about the mentor having expertise and knowledge of the mentee’s position, a coach is usually someone from the ‘outside’, who have little or no expertise or knowledge of the coachee’s position. Together with this, I believe, the research has also shown that the model of mentoring or coaching depends on what the coach and mentor are most comfortable using. Each model I have researched has had many similar points and steps which are non-negotiables.

The research has also shown that as far as the implications on leadership and coaching, again, the model and technique used are very dependent on the desired outcome. However, it would appear that in the education industry mentoring would be favored over coaching as in most schools, newly qualified teachers, teacher trainers, and aspiring school leaders would make use of mentees with experience and deep knowledge of the industry.

In general, therefore, it seems that the statement Garvey, Stokes, and Megginson (2009:26) concluded with, I support based on the research I did.


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