What are the experiences of the mentoring process by adult learners

Defining Mentorship

There has been much debate as to where the term mentorship first derived. Some researchers believe that mentorship originated from Greek mythology. The Odyssey, a poem written by Homer tells a tale of how the King of Ithaca entrusted his son Ulysseus to man named Mentor. Mentor did not replace the role of father to Ulyssesus but rather became responsible teaching, counseling and guiding him (Murray, 2001). The term mentorship can be dated back for thousands of years, however, recently many researchers have been struggling on how to adequately define the term.

Currently, there are many definitions to describe the word mentorship. According to Fuller, Feitchl, & Droege (2008) mentorship is a “symbiotic relationship between the mentor and the protégé” (identify page #).  Therefore, mentorship is a relationship between two people with mutual benefits.  Ploeg, Witt, Hutchison and Hayward(2008) describes mentorship as a process in which someone more experienced  provides support, guidance, criticism,  and personal accountability to someone with less experience. Barak and Hasin (2010) defined a mentorship as a process when someone whom is an expert in a field teaches someone whom is less experienced.  Freedman (2009) defined mentorship similar to other researchers, however, he applied it within the context of and organization. Mentorship, according to Freedman, is successfully training new leaders for the purpose of existing and future workforce needs. Mentorship with an organization may encompass career guidance and teaching the mentee on how to think in accordance with the organization. Holmes, Hodgson, Simari and Nishimura (2010) believed mentorship is a process that involves transfer of knowledge, skill and behavior. The purpose of this transmission of information is to help teach and mold the mentee into the desired individual for success.

The term mentorship has multiple definitions. However, it is easy  understand that  mentorship occurs when the mentor helps the mentee to think (Pask & Joy, 2008). Mentoring helps create a culture of learning and career development . Therefore, the goal of mentoring is to provide the mentee with adequate guidance, so that they can develop the necessary skills to be able to function within the work environment (Myall, Levette-Jones, & Lathan, 2008).

The Role of Good Mentor

A good mentor should be selfless and always aim to put  the needs of their mentee above their own (Pomeroy & Steiker, 2011). Although unable to control the work of the mentee, the mentor should possess certain qualities in order influence the mentee and be effective.  The main function of a mentor should be to offer support professionally, personally and psychologically. The role of a mentor can include, coaching, leading, teaching, advising, counseling, inspiring and motivating. Schwille (2008), believed mentoring is a process in which mentors adjust their mentoring approach based upon the needs and current knowledge of the mentee. Therefore, the qualities of a mentor may change depending upon what is needed during the mentoring process.

Schwille (2008) suggested that one key attribute of mentoring is coaching.  Griffiths and Campbell (2009) described coaching as a process in which an individual enhances the work and life of someone else.  Being a coach requires the mentor to establish a bond and connection to the mentees.  The counsel that is provided should be in the form of constructive feedback. The mentor should be honest  and direct toward the mentee to help guide them in the appropriate direction.  It is also encouraged that the mentor pay close attention to their mentee in order to help correct any mistakes. Offering formative feedback to the mentee and being available to answer questions and offer suggestions (Borders, Young, Wester, Murray, Villalba, Lewis & Mobley, 2011). Another key characteristic of a mentor is that of leadership. Zachary and Fisher (2010) believed as a leader, a mentor should posses five distinct qualities,  modeling the way, sharing an inspired vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart. When modeling the way, it is important that a mentor align their actions and morals because they are directly shaping and molding those that they are mentoring (Zachary &   Fischler, 2010). When mentors demonstrate proper leadership capabilities it helps those that they are mentoring learn by example. When mentors become leaders they support and guide the mentee in the development of their professional competence (Barak & Hansin, 2010).    However, if a mentor fails to lead properly it can have a negative impact on the mentoring process.  When sharing and inspired vision, mentors excite others by motivating them to accomplish their goals. When mentees get discouraged and lose focus, leaders have the opportunity to help them understand and stay focused on the bigger picture (Zachary & Fischler, 2010). Another quality that a mentor should possess is the ability to challenge the process of mentorship. It is during this phase that the mentor should challenge and encourage the mentee to explore new ideas and initiatives to help solve problems. Mentors should persuade mentees to create new goals and find alternative ways to achieve them. A good mentor creates and provides opportunities that will encourage growth within the mentee (Zipp & Olsen, 2008). As a result, these experiences will provide the mentee with learning opportunities that foster their professional development (Barak & Hasin 2010). It is difficult for a mentor to accomplish specific goals or task without the help, guidance and trust of others. However, when they do, it is known as enabling others to act. Mentors may feel confident in doing what they know will bring success for both them and the mentor. This practice can allow the mentor to become comfortable with certain of teaching but they should be open to receiving advice and learning new techniques from their peers and mentees (Erikson, Lance, & McDonald, 2009).  It is imperative that a mentor create an environment that allows others the opportunity to grow. Their aim is to see others become successful. The last quality that Zachary and Fisher believed all good mentors should have is the ability to encourage the heart of others. Without the ability to support and encourage others it can be a difficult for to receive the best performance from others. It is important that mentor take time to celebrate the success an milestones achieved by the ones they are leading( Zachary &Fisher, 2010).

Similar to Zachary and Fisher (2008), Ali & Panther (2008) believed that a mentor should inspirer, lead, coach and advise. However, they also understood that mentor should be a motivator and role model. When a mentor acts as a motivator they lead and alter the way an individual thinks and acts. While being a motivator, the mentor should challenge and motivate the mentee by establishing a relationship that promotes interest in their well being and the learning process (Zipp & Olson, 2010) . As a role model, a mentor should demonstrate professionalism, proper moral judgment, and  confidence. By doing so they help inspire their mentees to be confident not only in themselves but the skills they have attained during the mentoring process (Ali & Panther, 2008).

Holmes et al (2010), suggested that mentorship is similar to parenting. Just like parenting mentorship requires an individual to become both teacher and learner. While teaching the mentor has the opportunity to learn by gaining experience during the mentoring process. Additionally, like a parent mentoring requires a sufficient amount of time, dedication and commitment.

Mentorship is a process that allows the mentor the opportunity to lead and motivate. Their role varies depending upon the knowledge and skill of the mentee. Therefore, it is important that the mentor be able to understand and establish a connection with their mentee in order to successfully identify the role that is needed during the mentorship process.

Types of Mentorship

There are different types of mentorship and each have their specific function and purpose. However, all mentoring can be categorized as either formal or informal. Formal mentoring is  a process in which a mentor is paired or assigned with someone for a specific duration of time to help an individual or individuals understand the way that an organization works. During this formal course of action the mentor is responsible for making sure that mentee is able to accomplish certain goals, understand technical knowledge and is able to perform day to day task that are required within a particular organization (Blickle, Witzki & Schneider, 2009). Informal mentoring is a process that is not planned and happens as a result between the chemistry between like minded individuals. There are no meetings to attend, no evaluations and no goals to be met. Informal mentoring can last over the course of a lifetime and relationship between the mentor and the mentee is more of a friendship rather than a boss and a employee (Crisp & Cruz, 2009).

Formal versus Informal

Most research that has been conducted compares the outcomes of formal mentoring programs to those with no mentoring relationship or program established. The findings of these studies reveal that formal mentoring is better than no mentoring, however, not as effective as informal mentoring. (Wang, Tomlinson, & Noe, 2010) . Chao (2009) believed informal mentoring was superior to formal mentoring and that they differed in three distinct elements: focus, visibility, intensity. During informal mentoring, the mentor is concerned with the overall success of the mentee. Their relationship and bond is uninhibited by work and career success. Due to this, the intensity of the informal process is greater than that of formal mentoring. An additional difference between formal and informal mentoring is visibility. Formal mentoring has the label of mentor and mentee. According to Chao (2009), ” Labels such as mentor or mentee are rarely used to describe current informal relationships” (p.2). Each person has tasks and a job to be completed. However, informal mentoring is not defined by labels. It is possible during the informal process that the words mentor and mentee are ever mentioned. If such words are used it may not be recognized by either person (Chao, 2009). Thirdly, Chao believed that the intent and focus of each type of mentoring were dissimilar. The intention of formal mentoring is strictly about job performance and not that of personal performance. Mentors are chosen for the benefit of the organization. In contrast, informal mentors are not chosen and the both the mentor and mentee benefit from the relationship.

While Chao (2009), argued in favor of informal mentorship, Poteat, Shockley, and Allen (2009) believed that formal mentorship could be just as effective. They discovered that commitment and quality of the relationship between the mentor and mentee was the deciding factor on the success of the mentee. As long as the mentor showed interest for the well being and advancement of the of the mentee, the mentee would remain focused and would work just as hard as if the relationship was informal.

Additional Types of Mentorship

As previously discussed there are two primary types of mentorship, formal and informal. However, there are additional forms of mentorship, traditional, peer, and e-mentoring. Traditional mentoring can be developed naturally or designated by an organization. Therefore, traditional mentorship can either be formal or informal. However, traditional mentoring is usually based on one to one interaction. The mentee has an opportunity to form a bond an relationship within the mentor because the attention is focused solely on them. As a result, traditional mentorship is more closely related to informal mentorship (Driscoll, Parks, Lubbs, Brill & Bannister 2009). Peer mentoring is a process by which individuals within the same learning environment or work place has the opportunity to share experiences and motivate one another. This type of mentorship allows each individual involved to act as both the mentor and the mentee ( Hall & Jaugietis, 2011). The last form of mentoring is e-mentoring. E mentoring is defined as “a mutually beneficial relationship between a mentor and a protégé, which provides new learning as well as career and emotional support, primarily through e-mail and other electronic means” ( Haggard, Dougherty, Turban, & Wilbanks, p. 297) This form of mentoring rather is new and utilizes technology to build relationship. There are many advantages to e-mentoring. The most notable is accessibility. Due to the use of technology, the mentor and the mentee are not limited by geographical distances, The major downfall of this form of mentoring is the lack of face to face interaction (Haggard, etl,. 2011).

Mentor Training

Mentors should be properly prepared before given the opportunity to change the lives of others. Based on previous research, there are many ideas and opinions as to which method is the best.  However, before a mentor is properly trained they must be adequately recruited (Smith & Israel, 2010). The recruitment process can consist of being within an certain organization or possessing qualities that could be beneficial to an individual or organization (Smith & Israel, 2010).   Mentorship training can be voluntary or involuntary depending on the organization. Buetal and Spooner Lane (2010) believed that before a mentor was chosen they should have a wealth of experience within the area that they desire to mentor. Otherwise how would they understand or be able to provide emotional support to those they are mentoring. If the potential mentor was able to posses all the desire qualities to be recruited then they would undergo training. Chong (2009), argued that age should be a requirement in mentor recruitment. He believed that age was a direct representation of wisdom, authority, and experience.

Professional Development

One of the first aspects of training was professional development.  This process could be a simple workshop that lasts for one day or a complex structured program that lasts for years (Ingersoll, & Strong, 2011). During professional development the mentor would have the opportunity to expand on the knowledge that they already possessed. Professional development could consist of holding a workshop or , management training. Professional development can occur online or face to face (Smith & Israel, 2010). Another key component of mentor training is mentor study groups. A mentor study group is a study group in which potential mentors get together to discuss, and learn from one another (Stanulis & Ames, 2009, Stanulis & Floden, 2009).  Peer observations are another portion of mentor training. Observations gives the mentor in training an opportunity for someone to critique their performance (Stillwell, 2009). The observation process should be conducted in an environment in which the potential mentor will be working and teaching (Holloway, 2009).  During the observation process it is import for the mentor to ask questions and be comfortable with making mistakes. By doing so it can create a relaxed and comfortable environment in which the potential mentor can gain real life experience. After the observation the mentee and mentor should have the opportunity to discuss both positive and negative aspects of the training (Stillwell, 2009). Although face to face training and professional development for teachers is beneficial, some researchers believe it is limited in it’s effectiveness. These scholars believe that teachers become frustrated with having to attend a workshop for countless hours over an extended period of time. Dede, Ketelhut, Whitehouse, Breit, & McCloskey, 2009) believed that it was important to develop a method of training that would be convenient and helpful to teachers, therefore they encourage online professional development. By utilizing the online environment teachers could have the opportunity to work their development around their schedule. Also, the online professional development could be a continual process that could be conducted and allow the teachers to find their voice. Dede, etl,. (2009) argued that during face to face interaction, teachers may tend to be silent. However, in an online environment they may have the opportunity to find their voice.



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