Mentoring is an approach to fostering professional and personal development that has become increasingly favoured in a range of organisations. It is one of the most intimate of learning approaches and focuses upon the one to one relationship between mentor and mentee. It helps individuals identify and focus on the positive changes they want to make for themselves and the path by which they will achieve those changes. It is a process which requires a degree of trust, self awareness and self honesty.
Research into mentoring programmes indicates that they are normally:
- relatively formal in organisation and timetabling, but with room for flexibility and informality within the mentoring relationship
- focused on clear learning objectives and targets
- supported by training for the mentor
- seen to benefit the mentee, mentor and the organisation as a whole
- introduced in a structures, planned manner
Mentoring focuses upon the future, looks at what could be achieved and gives individuals the confidence and commitment to make change happen. The process also provides the opportunity to develop key skills for social learning such as:
- impulse control
- management of feelings
- decision making skills
- self understanding
- sense of belonging/connection to community
Research also suggests a series of positive outcomes for the individual:
- reinforcement of other learning
- increased effectiveness of formal learning
- confidence building
- motivation for positive change
- enhanced experiential learning (the link between learning and experience)
- the offer of effective role models
- assistance in planning forthe future
and for the organisation/school:
- improved attainment in formal learning
- promotion of cultural change within the institution
- an improvement in communication and networking
In her book "Transformational Mentoring", Hay (1999) calls this a Developmental Alliance in which ideally all parties to the mentoring contract are enabled to grow and learn. Mentors support mentees in this process in a variety of ways, and there is usually a considerable range of strategies used. Crucial to successful mentoring is good personal and professional relationship building.
Mentors need a range of skills and competencies to be effective in their role:
- self awareness
- understanding of others
- commitment to their own learning
- interest in developing others
- understanding of the situation and environment in which the mentee finds themselves
- sense of humour
- communication skills
Relevance for Teachers
Learning Mentors are now a well established feature of most schools and provide an invaluable addition to the support staff workforce
Mentoring for improving learning behaviour, as with all aspects of learning behaviour, requires the forming of relationships. The following describes the process involved in successful mentoring.
The Development of the Mentoring Relationship
The mentoring relationship usually follows a distinct development and goes through a series of stages.
1. Establishing contact
- the mentor begins to develop an open and honest relationship with the mentee
- clarification and agreement of the respective roles and responsibilities of mentor and mentee
- assessment of skills and abilities and identification of those requires to work towards the successful achievement of goals
- agreement about the purpose of the mentoring relationship (usually within a mutually agreed time scale)
- discussion of the goals and success criteria
- identification of areas for development and change
- identification of support systems that may be available to the mentee
2. Setting clear and achievable goals
For the mentee to be assured of a positive outcome from the mentoring relationship it is essential that the goals are really those desired by the mentee, and that any targets set are challenging yet attainable. Achieving these targets will increase the mentee's motivation to continue with the changes being made. Targets set should match the mentee's level and stage of motivation and also their confidence in their ability to change.
The most appropriate targets are SMART:
- Time limited
The mentor should make sure that the mentee has ownership of the decision to change behaviour and not impose their own priorities and avoid dependency on the mentoring relationship.
3. Reviewing progress
At this stage the mentor will:
- continue to provide constructive feedback to the mentee, recognising and praising progress
- allow time for the mentee to review, reflect and recognise what and how they are learning
- provide opportunities to explore problems and feelings
- promote self confidence and independence
- monitor progress, record and reinforce positive change and maintain motivation
- communicate progress to significant others
- discuss the mentoring relationship
- offer challenge as well as support
In order for learning at this stage to be effective the following elements need to be in place:
- a reason for learning, changing behaviour and attitudes
-plenty of opportunities to try out new behaviour, skills and attitudes
-positive and constructive comments on progress and strategies to try in the future. This becomes part of the learning process, helping with competence and confidence
- Opportunities for reflection
-time to think about what has been learned and how it was learned, so that new knowledge can be incorporated into existing experience
4. The "exiting" stage
Preparation for exiting the mentoring relationship is important. The ending of the relationship should be a clear, positive strategy. Both the mentor and mentee should recognise that the relationship is coming to an end and find a way of marking it. The relationship should be reviewed, the progress made celebrated and the highs and lows of the process acknowledged.
Clutterbuck, D. (2001) Everyone needs a mentor; fostering talent at work. Third edition. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, London
DfES (2001) Good Practice Guidelines for Learning Mentors, available at DfE website.
Hay. J. (1999) Transformational Mentoring: creating developmental alliances for changing organisational cultures. Sherwood Publishing, Watford, UK.
Parsloe, E. & Wray, M. (2000) Coaching and Mentoring, Kogan Page, London.
DfES (2001) Hartland and Waters Raising achievement at GCSE through mentoring partnerships available to download from the Standards Site