The Mentoring Life Cycle - Handout


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Have you ever struggled with how to guide and mentor interns?

Shayna Sellars, Audubon Center of the North Woods, has entered her first year mentoring interns & Joe Walewski, Wolf Ridge, has been mentoring 16-20 graduate students for 11 years is still asking the same questions. Come hear their strategies and techniques and then stick around to join in the discussion.

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The Mentoring Life Cycle - Handout

  1. 1. Mentoring and Experience Tell me and I will surely forget. Show me and I might remember. On-the-job training, apprenticeships, career education, internships. But make me do it, and I will certainly understand. They all involve mentoring. The focus is on doing - using experi- - Chinese Proverb ential education. How often have you heard (or even said), “in this class we will talk about...”? On the contrary, mentoring obligates the teacher to focus on learning techniques which necessarily reduce the value of lecture and other passive learning methods. Experiential Learning... ... is active learning. Though active implies hands-on learning, heads-on (or mindful) learning can be equal- ly as active. The student is expected to be actively involved with the topic. ... must be authentic. It must be based upon real people in real situations. Individuals construct knowledge, acquire skills and explore values and attitudes via direct experience. The learning is personal and meaning- ful. After all, “nothing is more relevant to us than ourselves.” ... begins with the experience. Frontloading - the technique by which students are given information meant to guide them successfully through an experience - should be used in moderation. “Learning is not so much an additive process, with new learning simply piling up on top of existing knowledge, as it is an active, dy- namic process in which the connections are constantly changing and the structure is reformatted.” Processing the Experience Experience Reflection Our lives are filled with billions of experiences. In fact, we demonstrate the ability to learn many things without the involvement of teachers. Why involve teachers? Knowledge Skills Experience alone is insufficient to ensure that learning occurs. John Dewey wrote: Values/attitudes “the belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean Inquiry Generalizing that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative.” The role of teacher/mentor, then, is to help manage for the quality of the experience as well as to help the student to navigate the stages of processing the experience - including reflection, general- izing and inquiry. Teachers extend great effort to manage the learning environment and the experience. Too often, they allow the processing to take care of itself. It is very important to clearly consider the amount of time and effort dedicated to each of the 4 stages. For each hour of experience, should there be 3 hours of processing? Maybe. Perhaps not. But consider it. Also consider how the focus will change as you and student move from reflection through generalizing and on to inquiry. The model below is intended to demonstrate that relationship and to identify when you as the mentor should be working the hardest to direct the processing. Certainly, it is possible for the student to process alone. As with all models, it does not happen this easily and often each of the stages are blended together into one mixed up mess. Oh well. mentor-directed student-directed Reflection Generalizing Inquiry As the CRITIC, your role is to evalu- As the COLLABORATOR, your role As the COACH, your role is to pro- ate and provide feedback. Guide the is to share in the effort to make mean- vide information and resources when student through a virtual replay of the ing of the experience. You can do this asked. This is the time to help the experience and offer a unique perspec- by sharing theories and models of ed- student to make plans and set goals tive as you both reflect on the shared ucation. The student will also attempt for future experiences. This will be experience. Because you will be to place this within the context of pre- your opportunity to bring in other viewed as the critic, trust and rapport vious experience and knowledge. This experts. Involve more voices when- are very important. is the shared brainstorming stage. ever possible. “Language is not an innocent reflection of how we think. The terms we use control our perceptions, shape our understandings, and lead us to particular proposals for improvement. We can see only as far as our language allows us to see.” Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center March 2010 Joe Walewski
  2. 2. “Honest criticism is hard to take, Mentoring and Feedback particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.” During the reflection stage of experiential learning, mentors use evaluation as a primary tool to help the student grow. Evaluation and feedback is a tricky combina- Experience Reflection tion of art and science which can be particularly challenging when working with Knowledge novice teachers. To grow as a novice requires humility and an eagerness to seek Skills counsel in mentors. Values/attitudes Young adults (especially today) have been led to believe they can achieve at any- Inquiry Generalizing thing. Great! However, growth occurs only as a response to error. What new teach- ers need most is a commitment to inquiry and a willingness to learn from error. Too often the ambition to be right the first time leads them to hear feedback as a Effective feedback... personal attack. ... is timely. Be certain to provide the feedback as soon as is appropriate. Providing effective feedback on evaluation can become a Sometimes that is immediate and sometimes you may need to wait until balancing game requiring the mentor to respond to seem- the student is ready to hear the feedback. ingly similar situations in so many different ways based on the novice’s self esteem and confidence, previous con- ... is specific. Describe the behavior in a clear way such that it is both tent knowledge, social stature within peer group, devel- direct and diplomatic. opmental level, physical state at the moment, and more. ... identifies relationships. “When you did this, this is what appeared to Recognizing and meeting the needs of beginning teachers happen next.” “Did you notice how so-and-so responded when...?” is an important aspect of mentoring. Many studies con- firm obvious patterns within the first year of teaching. ... is owned by the evaluator. Let the student know where you stand by using “I” statements and offer the feedback as information as opposed Anticipation to critique. Reflection ... is growth-oriented. Emphasize a future outlook. Recognize that the Survival studen has control of future choices. Suggest to the student specific ac- Rejuvenation tions to do differently or the same. Disillusionment ... preserves dignity. The behaviors are separated from the student and Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul the tone of the feedback is positive in nature. Anticipation. Coaching is key. Help make plans and set ... is inquisitive. The evaluator should seek to learn too - both about other goals. Provide answers and resources early. Encourage potential ways to succeed and also about how the feedback was deliv- the novice to imagine success and build a clear vision. ered. Survival. Listen carefully and ask questions to encour- ... is descriptive. Statements like “strong” or “weak” are as helpful as age thoughtful reflection on practice. Consider a response ranking actions from 1-10. Students are more likely to listen and grow journal. Celebrate goals achieved. when the evaluator describes observations with details. Disillusionment. Continue to share materials and think ... is solicited. Consider how you respond to unsolicited advice. Your job aloud as you guide the novice through intentional reflec- is to steer the conversation so that the student actually wants the advice tion. Emphasize that there are many ways to succeed. you are about to give. Build a sense of community. ... is checked to ensure clear communication. You may want to ask the Rejuvenation. Celebrate and share goals. Make plans for student to rephrase the feedback to see if it matches what you have tried the end of the year. Continue to challenge. Offer opportu- to express. nities for the novice to teach peers and you. ... is cross checked with others. When possible, both the student and Reflection. As the end of the year approaches, re-visit the mentor should take an opportunity to check with others. Is this one per- vision set at the outset. Encourage conversations about son’s impression or an impression shared by others? growth. Help identify a professional growth plan. “We don’t learn to teach; we learn from teaching.” Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center March 2010 Joe Walewski
  3. 3. For youth, experiences happen to them. Mentoring and Motivation For adults, experience defines who they are. We all have a need to “know” and to make meaning of our experiences. Learning is a process of developing literacy - and that is more than just reading and writ- ing. Multiple literacies exist including math literacy, science literacy, computer Experience Reflection literacy, information literacy and environmental literacy to name a few. Each of Knowledge these literacies is an integration of ways of thinking, talking, interacting and valu- Skills ing that leads to a way of being in the world. Values/attitudes Literacy follows a predictable progression as defined in the model below. Literacy Inquiry Generalizing might not be achieved within the scope of a decade, much less the scope of a typi- cal two hour, weekend, one week or 10-month training program. Literacy grows over a lifetime. Mentors and their students should recognize that learning takes time and effort. Look for and celebrate growth whenever possible. Awareness Knowledge Skills Values/attitudes Behaviors But how do mentors motivate adult learners to continue through the struggles of learning? Adults and children have many of the The Learning Culture same learning needs including: There are several ways to motivate learners, but I believe the - hands-on learning most effective way is to develop a culture of learning and then - connection to prior knowledge and experiences to allow the culture to do most of the teaching. Once you have - an active role in the learning process. buy-in, your job will be much easier. You can develop your own guiding principles. I find it helpful to follow and encourage oth- Adults are self-directed learners requiring active participation, ers to follow these 4 principles of a learning culture: connections to experience, and a reason for learning. You might remember key principles of adult learning with LEARN. - Everyone has something to give; everyone has something to gain. Leadership. Adults must feel that they are “in charge” of their - There is enough expertise among us to own learning if they are to fully enter into the experience. change the world. - Play promotes learning and productivity. Experience. Help to create connections to prior experience. Use - Everything is always changing. active learning techniques such as discussion, problem solving or case studies to keep adults involved. Mentoring and Complexity Appeal. Adults have a “need to know” before they will choose to become engaged with the topic. Use concrete examples re- Learning is a complex process. Everything is always changing. lated to the learner’s life to apply concepts. Studying the science of complexity has helped me to respond to the chaos. Since I have space remaining on the page, I will list Respect. Your adult learners must feel valued as individuals the 7 aspects to consider while managing a complex system and rather than just a part of a larger group. Foster the learning en- responding to its emergent properties. vironment with mutual respect, collaboration over competition, 1) Have a clear definition of the system. What are support over judgment, and trust. we aiming to accomplish? 2) Communicate the image of success. Novelty. All learners encompass a variety of learning styles. 3) Propogate values through story, myth and ritual. The mentor should create a stimulating environment that in- 4) Foster a healthy mix of expert and novice input. cludes varied instructional styles. 5) Regularly re-configure networks and allow mem- bers to adapt to the new lines of communication. Ultimately, the mentor’s responsibility is to: 6) Be ready for change. Take risks and give value to gut responses. - offer support 7) Add energy to the system. - create and foster challenges - facilitate a professional vision Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center March 2010 Joe Walewski