Monday, May 20, 2013

What if we turned "mentoring" on its head?

(notes towards a new high school mentoring program)

What if we:

Put students in a more active role?
We know that having the learners’ take an active role is pedagogically superior to taking a passive one. Instead of a traditional career night, perhaps a better idea is having the students "interview" a professional or career person. The instructional task then becomes teaching them to conduct an interview.

Reached beyond stereotypical career targets?
Clearly, most of the students, when asked about what they want to be when they grow up will give answers like doctor or lawyer or “neo-natal nurse” These are essentially career stereotypes. Neither they, nor we can know what jobs might be there in 20 years. Why premise our work on stereotypes? Instead of focusing on “aspirational jobs” (lawyer, surgeon, rock star, etc.) should be not focus on aspirational people?

Saw mentors as both proximate and distal aspirational figures?
Instead of just established professionals, what if some mentors were only a few years older than the mentees? We might better find mentors who are as much like the students as possible--in race, culture, economics, and age. Sure, a 40-year old thoracic surgeon would be a terrific interview, but how about a 22-year old college student who will actually graduate in 4 years (as only a small percentage of most Texas collegians and an even tinier number of non-traditional and 1st-gens do)?

Created a path from showcasing success stories to real mentoring?
Much may be learned in a one-shot event, but a real mentor/protege relationship cannot be planned. Provide for mutual election. Hold formative events. Host a summative event later, a "cocktail party" (with iced tea and cheese) where the semester's mentors can come back and mingle with the students less formally. Prepare sts. with networking tips and suggest specific ways for mentors to follow up.

Reflected on what we think we are teaching and what we are actually communicating?
Is it reasonable to expect a student to adopt the goal of being, say, a thoracic surgeon? Instead of focusing on “what I will be when I grow up”, what if we acknowledged that most of us (even the very successful ones ) had no idea we’d be by now? Life is so random. Instead of focusing on long-term career goals, what if we focused on shorter- term or intermediate goals at first? Finishing college in 4 or 5, not dropping out? Not getting pregnant? Perhaps too, what we really want to get the students thinking about is how successful people solve problems and organize themselves for their work--a more general and perhaps more transferable idea.

And more deeply still....while we are doing project-management perhaps we can convey certain determinative social and non cognitive learnings: that successful people are not just talented, but persistent, not lucky but plucky. This effort will die if it is just another add-on. What if we came up with a mentoring process somehow integrated into the school curriculum? We do not believe that class is destiny. From Martin Seligman and Paul Tough we have learned that qualities like grit, persistence, and optimism are what really lie at the core of success, and they are learnable. How do we teach student to re-narratize their life experience so far, and prepare them for the inevitable adversity to come?

(The dark matter of education may be those social skills and non-cognitive elements (like learning how to look at someone, shake their hand and  introduce yourself) that middle-and upper class kids are steeped in from birth. Perhaps the task at Garza is to help students "catch up" with 
some of these social and non-cognitive skills? Janice Lombardi has done this already by teaching her students how to make a proposal, requiring them to think about time horizons more than just a day away. )

Applied new metaphors to bridge experiential and cultural gaps?
We know that all knowledge and cognition begins with embodied experience.  All children bring with them a different set of such experiences, which provide metaphorical scaffolding for abstract concepts. They can learn anything if they begin from this solid ground.

Are we just adding another "boxcar"to the freight train? Can we fold this into what the schools are already doing?
Instead of this being another add-on program, (further burdening teachers and risking burning out the limited volunteer resources available, what if we came up with a mentoring process that was somehow fully integrated into the school curriculum? (like a gallon of water will disappear into a bucket of sand) How do we get this in the everydayness of school? On the (existing) clock and on calendar? Can we somehow come up with a sustainable & replicable process for learning optimism?

  • The process we teach will be one of interviewing, or inquiry.
  • The content will be time and resource management, (more deeply, it may be explanatory style as self-management).
  • The activity will be an interview process with preparation before and reflection after.
  • The goal is to change the way in which students explain their experience to themselves, form goals, and develop optimism.
(below, from abridged Wikipedia entry on Mentorship)

The person in receipt of mentorship may be referred to as a protégé (male), a protégée (female), an apprentice or, in recent years, a mentee.Mentorship is a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. However, true mentoring is more than just answering occasional questions or providing ad hoc help. It is about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialog, and challenge.
"Mentoring" is a process that always involves communication and is relationship based, but its precise definition is elusive. One definition of the many that have been proposed, is
Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)".[1]
Mentoring in Europe has existed since at least Ancient Greek times. Since the 1970s it has spread in the United States of America mainly in training contexts[2] and it has been described as "an innovation in American management".[3]

Historical [edit]

The roots of the practice are lost in antiquity. The word itself was inspired by the character of Mentor in Homer's Odyssey. Though the actual Mentor in the story is a somewhat ineffective old man, the goddess Athena takes on his appearance in order to guide young Telemachus in his time of difficulty.
Historically significant systems of mentorship include traditional Greek pederasty, the guru - disciple tradition practiced in Hinduism and BuddhismElders, the discipleship system practiced by Rabbinical Judaism and the Christian church, and apprenticing under the medieval guild system.

Mentoring techniques [edit]

The focus of mentoring is to develop the whole person and so the techniques are broad and require wisdom in order to be used appropriately.[4]
A 1995 study of mentoring techniques most commonly used in business[5] found that the five most commonly used techniques among mentors were:
  1. Accompanying: making a commitment in a caring way, which involves taking part in the learning process side-by-side with the learner.
  2. Sowing: mentors are often confronted with the difficulty of preparing the learner before he or she is ready to change. Sowing is necessary when you know that what you say may not be understood or even acceptable to learners at first but will make sense and have value to the mentee when the situation requires it.
  3. Catalyzing: when change reaches a critical level of pressure, learning can escalate. Here the mentor chooses to plunge the learner right into change, provoking a different way of thinking, a change in identity or a re-ordering of values.
  4. Showing: this is making something understandable, or using your own example to demonstrate a skill or activity. You show what you are talking about, you show by your own behavior.
  5. Harvesting: here the mentor focuses on "picking the ripe fruit": it is usually used to create awareness of what was learned by experience and to draw conclusions. The key questions here are: "What have you learned?", "How useful is it?".
Different techniques may be used by mentors according to the situation and the mindset of the mentee, and the techniques used in modern organizations can be found in ancient education systems, from the Socratic technique of harvesting to the accompaniment method of learning used in the apprenticeship of itinerant cathedral builders during the Middle Ages.[5] Leadership authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner[6] advise mentors to look for "teachable moments" in order to "expand or realize the potentialities of the people in the organizations they lead" and underline that personal credibility is as essential to quality mentoring as skill.

Typology [edit]

There are formal mentoring programs that are values-oriented, while social mentoring and other types focus specifically on career development. ...There are two broad types of mentoring relationships: formal and informal. Informal relationships develop on their own between partners. Formal mentoring, on the other hand, refers to a structured process supported by the organization and addressed to target populations. Youth mentoring programs assist at-risk children or youth who lack role models and sponsors. In business, formal mentoring is part of talent management addressed to populations such as key employees, newly hired graduates, high potentials and future leaders.
....There are many kinds of mentoring relationships from school or community-based relationships to e-mentoring relationships. These mentoring relationships vary and can be influenced by the type of mentoring relationship that is in effect. That is whether it has come about as a formal or informal relationship. Also there are several models have been used to describe and examine the sub-relationships that can emerge. For example, Buell describes how mentoring relationships can develop under a cloning model, nurturing model, friendship model and apprenticeship model. The cloning model is about the mentor trying to "produce a duplicate copy of him or her self." The nurturing model takes more of a "parent figure, creating a safe, open environment in which mentee can both learn and try things for him-or herself." The friendship model are more peers "rather than being involved in a hierarchical relationship." Lastly, the apprenticeship is about less "personal or social aspects... and the professional relationship is the sole focus".[8]

Contemporary research and practice in the US [edit]

Research in the 1970s, partly in response to a study by Daniel Levinson,[9] led some women and African Americans to question whether the classic "white male" model was available or customary for people who are newcomers in traditionally white male organizations. In 1978 Edgar Schein described multiple roles for successful mentors.[10][clarification needed]
Two of Schein's students, Davis and Garrison, undertook to study successful leaders of both genders and at least two races. Their research presented evidence for the roles of: cheerleader, coach, confidant, counsellor, developer of talent, "griot" (oral historian for the organization or profession), guardian, guru, inspiration, master, "opener of doors", patron, role model, pioneer, "seminal source", "successful leader", and teacher.[11] They described multiple mentoring practices which have since been given the name of "mosaic mentoring" to distinguish this kind of mentoring from the single mentor approach.
Mosaic mentoring is based on the concept that almost everyone can perform one or another function well for someone else — and also can learn along one of these lines from someone else. The model is seen as useful for people who are "non-traditional" in a traditional setting, such as people of color and women in a traditionally white male organization. The idea has been well received in medical education literature.[12] There are also mosaic mentoring programs in various faith-based organizations.[citation needed]

(mutual election)
... Bullis describes the mentoring process in the forms of phase models. Initially, the "mentee proves himself or herself worthy of the mentor's time and energy". Then cultivation occurs which includes the actual "coaching...a strong interpersonal bond between mentor and mentee develops". Next, under the phase of separation "the mentee experiences more autonomy". Ultimately, there is more of equality in the relationship, termed by Bullis as Redefinition.[16]

Matching mentors and mentees
Mentees are matched with mentors by a designated mentoring committee or mentoring administrator usually consisting of senior members of the Training, Learning and Development and Human Resources departments. The matching committee reviews the mentoring profiles and makes matches based on areas for development, mentor strengths, overall experience, skill set, location and objectives for the mentorship. Mentoring technology can be used to facilitate matches allowing mentees to search and select a mentor based on their own development needs and interests. This mentee-driven methodology increases the speed in which matches are created and reduces the amount of administrative time required to manage the program.[17] The quality of matches increases as well with self-match programs because the greater the involvement of the mentee in the selection of their mentor, the better the outcome of the mentorship.[18] There are a variety of online mentoring technology programs available that can be utilized to facilitate this mentee-driven matching process.

Mentorship in education [edit]

In many secondary and post-secondary schools, mentorship programs are offered to support students in program completion, confidence building and transitioning to further education or the workforce. There are also many peer mentoring programs designed specifically to bring under-represented populations into science and engineering.[citation needed]

Blended mentoring [edit]

The blended mentoring is a mix of on-site and online events, projected to give to career counselling and development services the opportunity to adopt mentoring in their ordinary practice.


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