Laurent A. Daloz (1999) states, “Education is something we neither “give” nor “do” to our students. Rather, it is a way we stand in relation to them” pp. xvii). His notion fits well with our program’s autonomous learner model and its philosophy. He asks an important question in Mentor Guiding the Journey of Adult Learners, “The question for us as teachers is not whether but how we influence our students. It is a question about a relationship: Where are our students going, and who are we for them in their journey?” (p. 5). You may recall that we chose one word to describe what we, teachers and learners, will focus on for this year. My word was “relationship” or to be more action-oriented, “to relate.” The mentor and learner are in relationship with one another. I have decided to dissect this relationship in-depth for the next four months. Daloz (1999) points out that the mentor performs three tasks. They support the learner. They challenge the learner. Finally, they provide vision for the learner.
Like Daloz, Lois J. Zachary (2000) uses the metaphor of “journey” in her book, called The Mentor’s Guide Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships. During the next few months, I am going to be reflecting on her eight chapters:
Chapter one: Grounding the Work: Focusing on Learning
Chapter two: Working the Ground: Considering Context
Chapter three: To Everything There is a Season: Predictable Phases
Chapter 4: Tilling the Soil: Preparing
Chapter 5: Planting Seeds: Negotiating
Chapter 6: Nurturing Growth: Enabling
Chapter 7: Reaping the Harvest: Coming to Closure
Chapter 8: Regenerating Personal Growth Through Mentoring
The in-depth project focuses on the learner and the direct experience. Berends (1990) writes, “Everything that happens to you is your teacher.” The mentee is an active partner and the mentor is a facilitator. The learning process is self-directed and the mentee is responsible for their own learning. The length of the relationship between the mentee and mentor depends on the goal not the calendar. There will be many mentors over a life time and multiple ones for even one project! The relationship is not limited to face to face interactions even though there is a lot to be said for this approach. For example, we gain tacit knowledge, not easily taught, by working alongside a mentor over long periods of time. It is process-oriented supported with critical reflections, such as edublog posts, and applications beyond traditional schooling (Zachery, 2000).
The mentor and mentee relation is a learning journey for both partners. Our past and current experiences shape who we are and would like to become. It is about self-discovery and learning. Helgeson (1995) writes about personal ecology and a web of relationships. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a god mother, a teacher, a snowshoe-er, a gardener, a kayaker, a pianist, to list just a few. In these diverse roles, I relate to various people in various situations. The mentor and mentee are another relationship in this complex web of relationships they already have with others.
Another concept frequently mentioned in the Talons room is the notion of facilitation rather than teaching. The facilitator, or mentor, in this case, must
- create an effective learning environment
- involve the learner in planning and what they are going to learn
- encourage the mentee to design their own learning contract/ plan
- support the learners to find their own resources and accomplish their objectives
- and finally, help the learners to implement and evaluate their own learning (Zachary, 2000)
Throughout this entire process, the mentee, the learner, will self-reflect as part of their learning cycle.
Something happens? –> What happens?–> So what? –> Now what? –> Something happens? and so on.
The mentor will need to be aware of the following guidelines:
- How fast the mentee’s learning should progress?
- When should the mentor intervene?
- How best to collaborate with the mentee?
- How to keep the focus on the learning process?
- How to set up the best environment for learning?
- How to structure the learning relationship and process?
Zachary (2000) concludes in chapter one, “The role of the mentor is to facilitate learning in such a way that the knowledge, skills, or competencies connect to action in the present and possibly in the future. This requires building on the learner’s experience, providing a conducive environment for learning, and appropriately challenging, supporting, and providing vision for the learner” (p. 28).
Questions to think about for your post #2:
- How did your mentor gain their experience/ expertise?
- What were those experiences like for your mentor?
- What wisdom have you gained from your mentor so far?
- What have you learned so far, in terms of facilitation strategies, that might contribute to your own development as a mentor?
Quirien Mulder ten Kate