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).

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