1. What is Mentoring?
  2. Why Establish a Mentoring Program?
  3. Benefits of Mentoring Programs
  4. What Mentoring is Not
  5. The Role of Computer Mediated Communications in Mentoring
  6. Return to the Mentoring Page

The purpose of this project is to explore the concept of mentoring and ways in which Computer Mediated Communications can expand its application. We propose that Mentoring is pedagogically valuable, and that the Internet will be a valuable tool for increasing mentoring in schools.

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring is defined as a sustained relationship between a youth and an adult (Office of Research). In a well-structured mentoring relationship, the adult provides help, support and guidance. There are three basic types of mentoring:

  • Educational or Academic Mentoring helps proteges improve their overall academic achievment
  • Career Mentoring helps proteges develop the necessary skills to enter of continue on a career path.
  • Personal Development Mentoring supports mentored youth during times of personal or social stress and provides guidance for decision making.
(Office of Research)

We are primarily concerned with the first type of mentoring, Educational mentoring. Mentoring expands the notion of what education is and who educators are. In traditional schooling, there is one expert, the teacher, who serves as a purveyor of knowledge. Educational mentoring provides for multiple experts, and a changed relationship between learner and teacher. The student is able to experience a relationship in which a person who is not responsible for assesing her is actually concerned with her learning. In this way learning becomes an activity related to the "real world" and not simply an exercise in school.
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Why Establish a Mentoring Program?

Mentors have two main roles, as experts and as role models. Mentors can act as subject matter experts, able to discuss with authority subjects which are out of a teacher's area of expertise. In this they are able to expand the educational experience of the student. Mentors also provide valuable role models for youths. Many existing mentoring projects cite this as their rationale, and target economically disadvantged youths for mentoring. The Rochester mentoring project attempts to use mentors as models for career development: "when these ... children are teamed with employed professionals at their worksite they demonstrate an interest in the mentor's field."(RAPS mentoring project) Even in mentoring designed primarily to help students with their schoolwork, a mentor provides a link to the working world.
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Benefits of Mentoring Programs

Mentoring can help increase a student's academic achievement. It may also lead to an increase in the learner's self esteem. Because mentoring is above all a social relationship, through contact with the mentor the protege develops her social skills.

An example from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program:

They surveyed the parents of children and the volunteers and found:

  • 85 % of the respondents reported an increase in mentee self esteem
  • 63% reported an increase in school grades
  • 56% said that relationships with families had improved
  • 69% said peer relationships were better
  • 66% reported more positive mentee relationships with teachers
  • 86% said youngsters in the program experienced increased exposure to cultural and educational services
(Kansas Mentor Project)
Another evaluation by Cave and Quint (1990) found particpants in various mentoring programs had higher levels of college enrollment and higher educational aspirations than nonparticpants receiving comparable amounts of education and job-related services. (Office of Research)
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What Mentoring is Not

The key to mentoring is a strong one-to-one relationship between an adult and a young person.A well designed mentoring project takes advantage of this one-to-one relationship. Having an entire class meet with or exchange email with a subject matter expert does not constitute a mentoring project. Successful mentoring projects are structured to support educational goals. A good mentoring project is not simply a "pen pal" or "key pal" relationship between a student and an adult; the mentor should be helping the student to learn. To find out about how to set up an effective mentoring project go to Mentoring Guidelines
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The Role of Computer Mediated Communication in Mentoring

Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) will greatly expand the possibilites for mentoring in schools. One of the major difficulties in setting up useful mentor relationships is the ability of mentors to physically meet with their mentees. In a mentoring system which seeks primarily to increase academic interest and achievement, it is also crucial that the teacher be involved in translating the mentoring activity into useful classroom experience. Teacher input is also limited in traditional face to face mentoring programs. CMC will allow for greater flexibility in contact between mentor and student. Rather than taking a day out of the work week to spend time with the student, the mentor can communicate via email at her convenience. Email will also link mentor and teacher and enable the teacher to monitor the student's progress. As more schools become networked and use of the Internet becomes more widespread, opportunities to set up mentoring programs will increase. Eventually video conferencing will allow for even more personalized contact between mentor and student, although the asynchronous character of email is currently an aid to scheduling interaction between mentor and protege.

Computer Mediated Communication itself may make mentoring a necessary addition to classroom pedagogy. In the increasingly information-rich society there is more and more information available to students. It has become impossible for a teacher to be an expert on all things, if this ever was possible, or be able to attend to students' interests. This increased access to information will necessitate a shift in pedagogy from the model of teacher as information-provider to a more dynamic situation in which students are able to seek out and evaluate their own sources of knowledge. Computer Mediated mentoring projects can be one of these knowledge sources; with CM mentoring students will be able to interact with a greater number of experts in various fields of interest. Computer Mediated mentoring will be a positive influence on pedagogy in that it allows for each students to have multiple expert teachers.
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The following sites provide more information on the subject: What is Mentoring?

  • Mentoring - What is it?
  • TeleMentoring An Examination of the Potential for an Educational Network.
  • Telementoring in CoVis.
  • Mentoring a concise explanation.

    Return to the Mentoring Page