Some two years ago I received a “bulk” email in my inbox about peer mentoring in Finland – specifically about the Finnish Network for Teacher Induction 'Osaava Verme'. In essence Osaava Verme is a collaborative network with the main goal is “to develop and disseminate the peer-group mentoring model (PGM) to support new teachers” (Osaava Verme, n.d.). The Finnish model of Peer-group mentoring (PGM) “brings new teachers together to share and reflect on their experiences and to discuss the day-to-day problems and challenges they face … groups meet typically once a month to discuss work-related issues” (Osaava Verme, n.d.). It struck a bell and I decided to delve further. I reflected on the number of students that I trained in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) over the years that are now teachers or adult educators. I wondered whether now that they are in the field, whether they still manage to integrate ESD in their work. I wondered those that do whether they would be willing to share with other. I wondered those that don’t why don’t they. Do they need support? Inspiration? Time? Resources? I drafted a concept note for a potential ERASMUS + project and sent it to an Italian friend of mine for feedback. In essence I wanted to create a project where educators in the field would be able to meet together once a month or so to inspire and support each other in their endeavours to integrate ESD in their teaching. My friend thought it was a very good idea and within a few months it became a full project proposal. It was not selected for funding but the following year two interns working with me gave the project proposal an edit leading to the resubmission and eventual selection of the project. PEERMENT was born. Peer-Mentoring has not been a central theme in adult education, even less so in specific sectors such as ESD, though there are elements that intersect with mentoring, such as coaching, that have a more central place in adult learning.
The concept note for PEERMENT
As articulated by the United Nations in the 2015 Sustainable Development agenda, a united effort is needed from all stakeholders should poverty be eradicated, our planet protected and prosperity for everyone ensured. As such, the thrust towards achieving the targets outlined in the sustainable development goals (SDGs) should be an immediate priority for all. Lifelong learning and education are key components to the fulfilment of this grand vision and is encapsulated in the fourth SDG. Specifically, SDG 4.7 aims to ensure that by 2030 all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development. Recognising this, the immediacy of engaging in projects which support this mandate that the partner institutions from across Europe seek to embark on the PEERMENT project.
Annually, many teachers leave courses enthusiastic to put into practice initiatives which encourage sustainable development. However, upon return to their homes and community their passion may be challenged by inability to apply theory to practice or resource constraint. Avenues to rekindle their desire become crucial. As emphasised by Mizell (2010), continual engagement is effective.
Mentoring and peer-mentoring are increasingly being recognized as crucial tools for teachers and school leaders. PEERMENT is aimed at the development of the Mentoring and Peer Mentoring approach for teachers' training and aims to strengthen the profile of the teaching profession. As a matter of fact, "Mentoring is a form of long term tailored development, with a primary focus on developing capability and potential, which brings benefits both to the individual and to the organization" (University of Sheffield, 2009). “Mentoring is just-in-time help, insight into issues, and the sharing of expertise, values, skills, and perspectives. Mentors function as a catalyst—an agent that provokes a reaction that might not otherwise have taken place or speeds up a reaction that might have taken place in the future (Educause, n.d.).” The Agenda is usually set by the mentored person, with the mentor providing support and guidance to help develop the mentee professionally" (University of Sheffield, 2009).
While various names have been attributed to various mentoring styles, including Traditional, Network, Group, Minute, Circle, Invisible and Reverse (Educause, n.d.), PEERMENT privileges a Peer Mentoring Approach, which essentially combines a group style in which the expert(s) pass on knowledge to a group where necessary, with the Circle style, in which co-learners share knowledge. This combines the best of a top-down and bottom-up approaches, which tallies with the requirements of an Education for Sustainable Development approach. One particular European model of interest is based on a constructivist view of learning, the idea of shared expertise and the model of integrative pedagogy, where teachers are trusted and their professional autonomy respected (Kirsi, T. 2014).
PEERMENT started in September 2017 and is expected to end in August 2020. The purpose is to lay-out, test, improve and disseminate a new model of Mentoring and Peer-Mentoring for ESD. This aim will be reached through a process of Action-Research that will directly involve about 20 Education Specialists as teachers' trainers and senior mentors and about 50 teachers as mentees through Local Testing Groups. Being an ERASMUS + project, PEERMENT will be producing various outputs: A study on good practices existing in the EU in the field of Mentoring and Peer-Mentoring; A system for recognizing and validating the new competence of "Mentor for ESD"; Guidelines for Education Specialists who want to work as "Mentors for ESD"; Guidelines for teachers who want to be involved in Mentoring and Peer-Mentoring systems; and a set of didactic materials on some relevant "Global Challenges", in form of "web - quests". All these Outputs will be produced through a strong involvement of direct target-groups.
The first transnational PEERMENT project meeting was held in Malta on January 25th – 26th. The project partners are: Centre for Environmental Education and Research - University of Malta (lead agent - Malta); Solski Center Nova Gorica (Slovenia); Comité National de Solidarité Laïque (France); Consorzio degli Istituti Professionali (Italy); Udruga za rad s mladima Breza (Croatia); and ProgettoMondo Mlal Onlus (Italy). During the Malta meeting it was decided that EPALE will be a privileged platform for disseminating PEERMENT outputs. Watch this space!
The first desired impact, in general terms, is to spread and improve both the use of Mentoring and Peer Mentoring approach and Education to Sustainable Development, in a combined and effective way. The second is a larger use of Mentoring and Peer- Mentoring in initial and in-service teachers' training, for any kind of disciplinary, multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary subject.
PEERMENT is convinced that Mentoring is one of the more effective methodologies for teacher in training, and Peer-Mentoring is a way to use all the potential existing inside the schools to guarantee the continuous professional improvement of the teaching staff. In other terms, Mentoring and Peer Mentoring are an excellent way to turn schools in "learning communities".
The Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) seeks to generate and scale-up concrete actions in ESD and is intended to make a substantial contribution to the post-2015 agenda. PEERMENT will definitely be a contribution towards the UNESCO Roadmap for Implementing the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development, including both the objective to “reorient education and learning so that everyone has the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that empower them to contribute to sustainable development”, as well as that “to strengthen education and learning in all agendas, programmes and activities that promote sustainable development” (UNESCO, n.d.).
Have you been involved in mentoring? As a mentor or mentee? What was your learning experience? Have you any experiences in Peer Mentoring? In Peer Mentoring as related to ESD? I would like to hear from you. Thanks!
For further information about PEERMENT you can write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Educause (n.d.). Mentoring Styles. Retrieved from: http://www.educause.edu/careers/special-topic-programs/mentoring/about-mentoring/mentoring-styles
Kirsi, T. (2014). Peer-group mentoring for teacher development. Journal of Education for Teaching. 40:3, 322-323, DOI: 10.1080/02607476.2014.886918;
Mizell, H. (2010). Why Professional Development Matters. Ohio: Learning Forward.
Osaava Verme (n.d.). Osaava Verme. Retrieved from http://www.osaavaverme.fi/eng
UNESCO, (n.d.). Global Action Programme on ESD. Retrieved from http://en.unesco.org/gap
University of Sheffield (2009). Mentoring – CIPD Factsheet. Retrieved from https://www.shef.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.110468!/file/cipd_mentoring_factsheet.pdf