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Tool: Strengthening conferencing skills

Purpose of this tool: This tool can help you and your colleagues develop and strengthen essential conferencing skills. Conferencing is at the heart of mentoring. Mentors do most of their work through meeting and talking with beginning teachers about planning, observing and problem solving. During conferencing the most effective mentors use talk to help beginning teachers critically reflect upon their problems of practice, and they listen closely to determine what kind of talk will foster reflection at that moment.

How to use this tool: This tool provides guidelines for engaging in conversations about conferencing with your colleagues.


1. Read about the different conferencing strategies:

Reflective questioning
Sharing and modeling

2. Select a mentoring story to discuss:

Devin makes a mistake and doesn’t die
Molly makes a mess
Sara and her mentor disagree
The mentor and the library research project
The boy who was bored

3. Read the story together and as a group. Talk about how you could use the different strategies in the situation profiled. Why would you use these different strategies? What kinds of challenges might you encounter?

4. Select a different mentoring story as a group.

5. Divide your group into partners. Partners role-play a mentoring conference that reflects the story, with one partner acting as the “mentor” and the other acting as the “beginning teacher.” As you role-play the conference, the “mentor” should use the different conferencing strategies.

6. Discussion. After the role-plays, the group discusses how the different strategies were used, when, for what reasons and to what effect. How did they help or hinder the conversation? How did the “beginning teachers” feel about the conference? Did it help them reflect more critically on their concerns? Did it help them solve the problem? Did they feel forced into a solution? How did the “mentors” feel? Did they encounter any difficulties using the different strategies? Did the strategies feel awkward? Why?

7. Making mentoring connections. The group discusses how they can use the different strategies with beginning teachers. When would the different strategies be most appropriate? When might they create problems? What other strategies may be helpful?