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What is the difference between Mentoring, Coaching and Counselling: The Conclusion [6/6]

Posted on 12 November 2021

And where does a boundary need to begin between them for Practitioners? [Blog six of six]

Authored by Mark West

The Conclusion

In summary, mentoring is ‘done to’ someone by an expert or someone more knowledgeable within the concerned sector, whereas coaching is ‘done with’ someone meaning there is no need for an ‘expert’. The boundary between these two modalities and counselling is not related to the skills being used but the ‘location’ of the ‘problem’ being worked upon.

Final model of mentoring, coaching and counselling for the educational practitioner:

Potential approach enacted in a scenario based upon the location of a problem:

How could this model be used for educational practitioners?

Most importantly, it should be realised that if a ‘problem’ exists within a person, then counselling is required for a ‘life improvement focus’. This is not the remit of educational practitioners, which resides in a ‘performance improvement focus’.

Within the Educational context, the need for mentoring has arisen as teaching over time has ‘professionalised’ (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2000). This has led to the less experienced teacher needing a more experienced teacher to mentor them through effective and ever increasingly complex methods (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2000). The more experienced teacher is the expert and gives direction on the skills and strategies of teaching. The mentoring model would seem most appropriate with Early Career Teachers (ECT) or Recently Qualified Teachers (RQT) where there is a possible ‘gap’ of skills and understanding.

With a more experienced teacher or leader, a coaching approach might be more applicable as they are able to access and initiate their own development. They have a better understanding of the job at hand. This is also supported by the teachers’ Upper Pay Range Scale document, which states that teachers should initiate their own development. Coaching could well support this process.

On the other hand, it is unlikely to be this simple. Maybe the most suitable modality it is not about experience, roles, or job titles but about the personal context and individuals – human beings. A few short examples to illustrate this point are given below:

The list is endless. But more importantly, it is still too rigid. The idea of the model presented might support the general modality enacted in a process, however, within an individual coaching session, circumstances shift, meaning the modality should be fluid within context. The coach or mentor should have the awareness and understanding of the modality they are entering and the reasons for enacting. Ultimately, a judgement needs to be made on personal context, which is a continual construction within the relational context itself.

This model could aid the understanding of how mentoring and coaching could be considered during an interaction; where the elusive boundaries are with counselling so it can be ethical and appropriate.

Final thoughts…

It would be valuable to do a further literature search in the therapy field. This sector is very aware of boundaries and the educational field could learn from their writings about this. The field of therapy could learn from the educational field about learning theory as it is important for therapists to be aware of how people learn. This could inform their practice as change facilitators when the problem resides within the person.


Hargreaves, A. and Fullan, M. (2000) Mentoring in the New Millenium. Theory in Practice, Vol. 39, No.1, pp. 50 – 56.