Week six: Working the Ground Considering the Context

Zachary (2000) defines “context” as, “the circumstances, conditions, and contributing forces that affect how we connect, interact with, and learn from one another” (p. 29).  Every talons learner should realize that this statement does not only apply to our in-depth project, but also, for example, to our group projects in our quads and committee work for our upcoming adventure trip.  Even though each of these examples has a context, they vary from one another significantly. These contexts are situational and complex. In other words, the context changes from project to project, but also from moment to moment during one project.

Lets say that someone makes  a remark in a group that someone does not appreciate or takes offense with. The context in which we work will have slightly altered the relationship the group members have with one another.  The person most deeply affected by the comment may be assertive and point out how the comment was perceived or may remain silent and no one will know that something in the group has slightly shifted. Every act and every word will change the context in which we work with one another. At the same time, what we do or say in one context may not be appropriate in another context.  How we interpret a situation will depend on our own experiences and history.  Daloz (1986) points out that we, individually and collectively, respond to people’s behaviours and values in a context and in turn the context responds to us as well.

Zachary (2000) states, “The context of a mentoring relationship adds its own unique layer of complexity…Because multiple  contextual layers affect an individual simultaneously, learning partners in a mentoring relationship need to communicate expectations and establish ground rules and processes that work for them in specific context” (p. 30).

Is the context of the mentoring relationship, for example:

1. long distance?

2. cross-cultural?

3. cross-gender?

4. cross-generational?

In any mentoring relationship, some ground rules need to be set up in advance so the mentor and mentee have a clear picture of what the purpose, processes and product are going to be at the end of their time together.

Some of the questions and points to address are:

1. How many times are we going to be meeting?   How regular?  How long is each session? Time commitment?

2. How are we going to be communicating?  Online?  In person? Over the phone?

3. Where are we meeting?  Why?

4. How do we maintain our connection with one another?

Your task for your third post is to answer at least three of the following questions as well as report on your progress so far.

1. What went particularly well during your mentoring sessions?

2.  What relationship challenges did you face?  Address some of the sub- questions below

a. Were you communicating effectively with one another? Explain

b. Were you candid and open in your communication? Explain

c. Did you take care to check out assumptions with each other? Explain

d. Were you actually listening to each other? Explain

3. What learning challenges emerged?

a. What did you do to hold yourselves accountable for the learning?

4. What logical challenges affected your communication?

a. What factors affected your ability to interact effectively?

5. What three strategies could improve the quality of your mentoring  interactions?

6. What is the action plan for implementing each of the three strategies?

Context affects the learning that is going to take place. Zachary (2000) writes, “Context is an intimate part of who we are.  We bring contextual layering to our relationships-and, in fact, to everything we do. Consciously reflecting on context helps us ensure integrity of the learning process” (p. 47).

In-depth 2018: Mentorship Week three

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).  A few years ago TALONS teachers and learners chose one word to describe a focus  for the year.  My word was “relationship” or to be more action-oriented, “to relate.”    Your  mentor and you are in relationship with one another during your in-depth project for the next five months. I will dissect this relationship approximately every two weeks in another blog post. Daloz (1999) points out that the mentor performs three tasks.  They support the learner.  They challenge the learner. Finally, they provide a 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 f our: Tilling the Soil: Preparing

Chapter five : Planting Seeds: Negotiating

Chapter six: Nurturing Growth: Enabling

Chapter seven: Reaping the Harvest: Coming to Closure

Chapter eight: Regenerating Personal Growth Through Mentoring

Chapter One:

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 andpossibly multiple ones for 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 form 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

  1. create an effective learning environment
  2. involve the learner in planning and what they  are going to learn
  3. encourage the mentee to design their own learning contract/ plan
  4. support the learners to find their own resources and accomplish their objectives
  5. 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:

  1. How fast the mentee’s learning should progress?
  2. When should the mentor intervene?
  3. How best to collaborate with the mentee?
  4. How to keep the focus on the learning process?
  5. How to set up the best environment for learning?
  6. 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:

  1. How did your mentor gain their experience/ expertise?
  2. What were those experiences like for your mentor?
  3. What wisdom have you gained from your mentor so far?
  4. 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

In-Depth Project 2018 (Week one) – Getting started

In-depth Study: Two Universal Goals.

The in-depth project is one of the TALONS Program’s final, large component of the school year, in addition to the May Adventure Trip.  The in-depth project has two main goals:

1. Know something about everything and everything about something.

In school you are usually taught about many subjects.  In this project, the goal is to learn a great deal about one field of activity, usually not available in a school setting.

2. Learn what others tell you is important and learn what you decide is important.

In school you are told what to learn and how to learn it.  In this project, you will decide in what field and with what strategies, you will become an “expert.”


We are interested in three components of your study.

1. The process: as young people, you will be learning patterns of behavior that will emphasize your strengths and that will help you overcome any difficulties.

–          Project will last approximately five months

–          Your bi-weekly blog post will demonstrate the process:

Blogging Criteria

Post includes: thorough progress report, includes information on mentor, describes frustrations, overcoming obstacles, includes evidence that illustrates process and product, includes modifications to project, includes relevant research, quotes, articles, references, websites etc, shows a caring about project.  Entry makes sense, is written concisely. Includes answers to questions in Ms. Mulder’s post 4
Includes most of the above description, but in less detail. 3
Includes about half of the above description, but in little detail.  Little progress is demonstrated. 2
In-depth study is progressing too slowly.  Entry is vague.  Demonstrates that not much effort has been made since last entry. 1
Not completed or handed in on time 0

2. The product: The product will include three areas:

i.            The evidence of learning

ii.            The source of self-esteem

iii.            The cause for celebration

3. The mentor: The relationship with the expert in your field.  This relationship will include three areas:

i.          Meeting with mentor on regularly basis

ii.         Expanding network in community

iii.       Getting feedback on progress

iv.       Obtaining an in-depth understanding of chosen field.

The learner’s first entry will  introduce their project, reasons for their choice and a description of their mentors.  In three weeks, learners will report back about their mentor and first few weeks of progress.



Quirien Mulder ten Kate

One of three TALONS “teachers”