What is mentoring seems a pretty straightfoward question. In fact, these responses to that question might sound familiar, maybe even traditional:
- a one to one relationship, which develops over a period time and is built on shared values
- a relationship where a more experienced person supports a less experienced person to fill developmental gaps
- where someone imparts wisdom and shares knowledge with the less experienced.
When we started planning the Learning Innovations, Lasting Impressions with First Impressions Resources there was a strong emphasis on mentoring and peer feedback to build capability in E-learning and enhance the quality of teaching, learning and assessment. When people in the Vocational Education and Training sector were asked, What is mentoring, their responses were anything but traditional. For example:
- mentoring in the context of work includes peer support and the use of informal approaches
- it should include access to a range of experts as part of the process
- it can be a group process where peers support each other’s development and take the lead when they have the appropriate knowledge and skills.
The Many to One to Others mentoring model, illustrated above, set about fusing the concepts of traditional mentoring and peer feedback instead of treating them as mutually exclusive processes. It then matured to exist as a truly collaborative, professional learning community where mentoring was a transient role filled by the best person rather than a permanent position held by one person. The process reinforced The quality of teaching in VET report that teachers need to be involved in collaborative and action learning processes with others, including peer evaluation of teaching.
If you’re implementing or planning a mentoring program within your organisation, consider a much deeper interrogation of the question, ‘what is mentoring?’ … don’t be constrained by what it is – be consumed by what it could be!