Mentoring Partnerships in a Community Technology Centre: A Constructionist Approach for Fostering Equitable Service Learning

May. 15, 2008

Source: Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Volume 16, Issue 2 May 2008 , pages 191 - 205

Mentoring programmes have gained increasing popularity in institutions of higher education to support undergraduates in community service or outreach efforts. Many of these programmes partner mentors with inner-city youth, providing assistance in underserved communities while mentors gain experiences that connect theory and practice. Here we report on two years of fieldwork in a Community Technology Centre that created mentoring partnerships in which 36 liberal arts undergraduates engaged with local youth to design, create, and build technology projects involving graphics, video, music, and animation. We analysed over 200 field notes, which described their mentoring interactions over eight weeks and conducted exit interviews about their mentoring experiences.

Our results indicate that mentors participated not just as more knowledgeable peers but also as facilitators, advisors, observers and, most importantly, as learners in this process. In the interviews, nearly all mentors reviewed assumptions about their own learning and mentoring, in addition to reflections about social issues. We discuss the importance of these findings for conceptualising mentoring as a partnership by creating more equitable interactions in service learning initiatives. We also address the role of constructionist activities in facilitating learning opportunities for both mentors and mentees.

Updated: Nov. 18, 2008