Coaching and mentoring represent related and yet distinct approaches to educational leadership development. The Center for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE) in its National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching illustrates many shared and overlapping practices attributed to mentoring and coaching. CUREE describes both mentoring and coaching as structured processes and distinguishes mentoring ‘professional learners through significant career transitions’ from coaching that enables ‘the development of a specific aspect of a professional learner’s practice’ (2005). In CUREE’s model, mentoring serves new-to-career professionals and coaching supports professional learning at any point in a career. (For more information on the CUREE’s National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching visit https://www.curee.co.uk/files/publication/1219925968/National-framework-for-mentoring-and-coaching.pdf.) While informal mentoring relationships can extend into any point in a person’s professional career, it is more typical for mentors and protégés to engage in formal mentor arrangements during career transitions.

While some argue mentors may adopt a coaching stance and coaches may also serve as thoughtful advisors, others distinguish between the longer-term relationships associated with mentoring and shorter term, goal-focused coaching (Irby 2018). As Irby asserts, “mentors build significant relationships with their mentees, and such relationships may be retained for a long time period and even for a lifetime. Coaches also develop a trusting relationship, but there is a targeted goal and once the goal has been reached, the coach typically withdraws after repeating the assistive task with the coached individual” (2012:297).

Predicated on adult learning principles, both mentoring and coaching models have traditionally been described as one-to-one relationships often with the mentor or coach holding a position of greater expertise, knowledge, experience, and/or power (Fletcher 2012a). Alternative conceptualizations of both mentoring and coaching intentionally shift power dynamics and describe collective, collaborative, and co-learning structures (Mullen 2012; Smith 2016).

Both mentoring and coaching models continue to be used in educational leadership preparation and to support in-service leadership development. Similar to other fields, the field of educational leadership lacks research on the efficacy of mentors and coaches. This warrants further study of mentoring and coaching models to uncover evidence of impact on leadership practice, leadership knowledge and skills, organizational effectiveness, and/or student learning outcomes.