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Mentor study groups: Starting and sustaining the work

K-12 teaching in the United States has traditionally been individual work. Teachers spend almost all of their working day with students in classrooms largely closed to peer observation, assistance and review. Compared to teachers in other countries, U.S. teachers spend very little time working with each other to analyze and improve their teaching and their students’ learning. As a result of their relative isolation, U.S. teachers have developed strong norms of privacy and autonomy. While these norms have provided teachers the discretion to address their students’ varied learning needs, they have also made it difficult for teachers to develop a shared knowledge base upon which they can develop, evaluate and improve their practice.

Given these organizational traditions and norms, creating and sustaining teachers’ professional learning communities pose significant challenges for teachers. Professional learning communities require that teachers make their work and its challenges public and that they investigate and consider anew their own and their colleagues’ knowledge, beliefs and practices.

The following tools will help you and your colleagues to establish and sustain the work of professional learning communities to support mentoring.


1. Setting the agenda

2. Setting norms

3. Sustaining the work     
4. Learning from Conflict

5. Assessing our learning