Cotsen Mentors

Great teachers make a significant difference in the lives of children. Current educational research tells us that teacher quality accounts for higher student achievement than any other school characteristic. Effective teachers consistently produce high levels of student achievement and sustain a positive impact for many years. The Cotsen Family Foundation's the ART of TEACHING mentor program is devoted to developing good teachers into great teachers. Currently, fifteen teachers in SMMUSD are Cotsen fellows. These excellent teachers have committed to working with a Cotsen mentor, whose release from teaching duties is funded by the foundation, to continuously learn and reflect upon their practice.

Cotsen fellows participate in the following activities:
Sustained weekly individual coaching - Fellows teach lessons observed by mentor teachers who spend a significant amount of time in each classroom working with the teacher and students.

Professional goal setting - With their mentor, fellows develop specific goals that they would like to achieve using the California Standards for the Teaching Profession and the California Content Standards. Teachers build upon their strengths in teaching.

Continuous reflection on the relationship between teaching methods and student achievement - Fellows and mentors work together in a cycle of observation, reflection and feedback with an emphasis on creating excitement in learning and increasing student achievement. Mentors and fellows design and implement lessons that incorporate the goals the fellow has set.

Videotape analysis - Videotaping allows fellows to observe and critique their own practices, and provides evidence of growth toward their identified goals.

Peer observation - Fellows are provided with many opportunities to step out of their classrooms and visit gifted teachers all over Southern California. This contributes to the fellows' understanding of what makes great teaching and how to incorporate elements of great teaching into their own practices, using observation and reflection with mentors to refine their skills.

Inquiry meetings - Mentors and fellows participate in monthly meetings that focus on lesson study, analysis of student work and research-based literature. Cotsen fellows explore collaboratively their questions about teaching and student learning.

In addition, the Cotsen Family Foundation provides fellows and mentors with stipends to attend conferences and buy materials for their classroom and professional libraries.

Presenting their findings on the impact of coaching at the Annual Conference of the National Staff Development Council in March of 1982, Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers noted the effectiveness of different strategies frequently used in professional development.

of Training
Levels of Impact
Skill Attainment
(work setting)
Practice and

Coaching, according to Joyce and Showers, proved to have an overwhelming effect on application of new skills in the work setting. In contrast to the 80% application level of those coached, only 10% of teachers who attend staff development in a presentation format implement the presented skill in their classrooms. Staff development that includes some modeling results in similar application rates while professional development that offers the opportunity for practice with low-risk feedback results in 15% of the teachers incorporating the skill in their classrooms.

Since Cotsen mentors are released full-time to coach no more than seven fellows over a two- year period, the impact on implementation of new skills and approaches can be enormous. Working together in an ongoing coaching process, over an extended period, within the context of goal setting, reflection, and collaboration, mentors and fellows are able to pursue getting from good to great in the ART of TEACHING.