Make Mentoring Mirror the Field’s Key Processes

So much of mentoring is really best practice for mentoring in ALL settings. The basics are basic for us all. BUT, it is also true that every setting has unique tasks, features, needs, and challenges, and these should be reflected in some aspects of your mentoring and mentor program.  The list of these would fill many pages, at least one page for every setting. Find THOSE pages in the “Resources” section of this web site.

However, THIS page is to guide you to discover and focus on the one or two KEY unique and critical aspects of your setting, and then to figure out how to do what this suggests in your own mentoring and mentor program.  We promise – THAT will add considerable value to your work and will increase your effectiveness.

A Key Mentoring Best Practice
Mentoring Should Mirror the Key Process in the Discipline
Barry Sweeny, October 2010

THE BASIC IDEA – The process of mentoring should incorporate and model whatever is the unique process or step in the process that is essential to the discipline.

RATIONALE – Mentoring should build on the strengths of persons whose work in the discipline and with it’s key process is second nature.  Further, novices who may be mentored, may not have internalized the disposition to use the key process, so mentoring them using that process both models and teaches that process to the protégés.

EXAMPLES –
1. Education – An essential framework for professional development in education is the use of “Adult Learning Principles”, such as those described by Goodlad. Use of these principles is critical to maintain the engagement, for example, of workshop participants. These same principles should be applied as key elements of the mentoring of adults too.

Further, these principles are essential to the engagement of ALL learners – students of all ages included. This is a second reason for mentoring to use these principles. Their use makes mentoring practice at the adult level of exactly what teachers must do at the student level.

2. Scientific Research and Related Technical Work –  An essential framework for all scientific work is the use of the “Scientific Method”, especially the step of that process which is the stating of an hypothesis as the focus of inquiry. Mentoring of persons in scientific fields should carefully follow the Scientific Method, especially pertaining to the definition of and research into an hypothesis about the work of an effective mentoring partnership.

3. Engineering – A vital element of engineering is the problem solving process used to identify and understand problems, and to develop, test, and implement appropriate solutions. Whether a mathematical model, a work flow process, or computer-based analysis, this process is critical to success. It’s potential as the core of the mentoring process is likewise, just as critical for mentors to model and teach, and for protégés to experience, understand, and internalize.

4. The Creative and Performing Arts –  Although not always done at a conscious level, most artists, theater people, musicians, poets, etc. routinely use a creative process in their work. Mentoring of people in the arts should, therefore, reflect the conscious modeling and teaching of this process, and the use of this same process in the actual mentoring of the protégés.

5. Business and Industry – One of the several key processes from this area is the exercise of leadership balanced with management – two very different, but related processes. Mentors from this setting will become better managers and leaders if they practice working with their protégés to maintain this critical balance. Their protégés will also become better leaders and managers if they have consciously discussed and worked in their mentoring to perfect these critical skills.