Informal coaching and mentoring and an 'informal turn' in teacher professional learning

Rachel K Shanks* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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This is a conceptual paper which draws on the author’s research and which seeks to expand what is considered as professional learning within teacher education, namely informal coaching and mentoring. To understand how to support this professional learning, the lens of social practice is used with an emphasis on learning environments and learning practices.
The focus in professional learning is often on formal activities such as workshops, conferences and courses. There is also a tendency to focus on formal programmes of coaching and mentoring in teacher education. Emphasising the formal means that everyday informal learning in educational settings is overlooked. Informal coaching and mentoring could be utilised to support teachers’ career-long professional learning.
Coaching and mentoring can be identified in informal encounters in the staffroom, school corridors, and many places and situations. Findings are presented in relation to the importance of informal learning from and with colleagues and the role of headteachers.
More attention has been paid to informal learning but there is still a need for what could be termed an ‘informal turn’. Understanding that informal coaching and mentoring afford professional learning opportunities to the teachers who both provide and receive coaching and mentoring can help to support their learning. Recommendations are provided on how educational settings can facilitate and support these professional learning opportunities while preserving their informality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-452
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education
Issue number4
Early online date21 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

I wish to thank Dr Mark Carver who worked with me on one research project that I have drawn on and I would also like to thank the reviewers for their very helpful feedback.
This work was supported by the British Educational Research Association [COVIDSHANKS20].


  • informal learning
  • informal coaching and mentoring
  • social practice
  • teacher professional learning


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