Source: Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 22, No. 3, 190–209, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
In this study, the authors examined mentors working with at-risk youth in a school-based mentoring program. In this program, college students serve as mentors for middle school youth called mentees identified as experiencing personal, social, and academic challenges.
The participants were 41 mentors, including 13 men and 28 women.
Before starting the program, mentor perceptions, motives, and efficacy were assessed and again after three and six months of mentoring to measure change across time. At the end of the program, mentors evaluated the relationship and rated perceived benefits.
Data were collected over a period of 3 years through questionnaires completed by participants.
The findings reveal that mentors were highly motivated to gain hands on experience and experience gratification that comes from watching a mentee grow and develop. Mentors expected to achieve these motives and deemed them important. Mentors were less motivated to gain recognition and increase creativity.
While mentors primarily motivated by self-enhancement may not be ideally suited for working with at-risk youth, many mentors may be motivated by practical concerns. Helping mentors recognize that qualities developed through mentoring translate into marketable skills may contribute to satisfaction .
In addition to motives, the authors considered mentors’ expectations about the relationship. They found that mentors’ initial expectations were not related to mentor satisfaction with the experience, perceived costs or benefits, and time spent mentoring.
Additionally, during the contemplation stage mentors assessed in this study received information about expected benefits and challenges which may have contributed to realistic but positive expectations. Mentors who expect to quickly develop a close relationship with the mentee are likely to be disappointed, and may engage in behaviors, such as pushing the mentee to open up or spending less time, which are counterproductive to developing a close relationship.
In this study, mentors’ perceptions became more positive across time. While it is likely that positive experiences with the mentee contributed to increased perceptions, regular contact with other mentors and the faculty sponsor every two weeks at mentor meetings may have served to maintain reasonable perceptions about progress through natural stages in the mentoring relationship.
Mentor efficacy became more positive over time. This increase in efficacy may come from the development of a trusting relationship with the mentee, as the mentor’s confidence is given in part by the mentee’s trust. At six months, mentors with higher efficacy were more satisfied with the relationship, and felt that they received more benefits relative to mentors with lower efficacy. However, mentors with higher efficacy at six months had not spent more time with the mentee over the course of the relationship relative to mentors with lower efficacy. The results from this study suggest that changes in mentor efficacy across time may be more predictive of relationship outcomes than initial mentor efficacy.
In addition, mentors reported challenges such as their mentee does not do high quality work. Such concerns are likely as mentees faced academic challenges, mentoring occurred at school, and mentors communicated regularly with teachers.
The results of this study highlight the importance of truth in advertising for mentor recruitment. During the contemplation stage, potential mentors should hear about possible challenges and understand the time commitment required for participation. Mentoring programs should benefit mentees, and at a minimum should not harm the mentor.
Beyond initial training, the mentors described in the current study received ongoing support, supervision, and opportunities to develop skills across time. Mentors met with each other and the faculty sponsor once every two weeks to discuss individual experiences, celebrate accomplishments, and commiserate over challenges. Mentors became a support group for each other, sharing ideas, providing encouragement, and ultimately developing stronger mentoring relationships. The findings suggest that well-supported mentors experience increased efficacy, develop more positive perceptions, and receive important benefits.