Mentoring

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1 Definitions

Mentoring is a form of coaching in both formal and informal training. It can be an important strategy element to create or improve a community of practice.

  • When the term mentor is used, an image of older, wiser individuals leading around young proteges and passing down age-old secrets comes to mind. In fact, the principals of mentoring and modeling have been around since ancient times (Murray and Owen, 1991) cited by Hull (20002).
  • A mentor relationship is a deliberate pairing of a more skilled or experienced person with a lesser skilled or experienced person, with the agreed-upon goal of having the lesser skilled person grow and develop specific competencies (Murray & Owen, 1991).
  • A mentoring relationship is characterized by an experienced faculty member (mentor) taking an active role in the development of the academic career of a less experienced faculty member (mentee) by offering guidance, support and advice. A mentor's guidance is rendered with an inside knowledge of the norms, values and procedures of the institution and from a depth of professional experience. (UTS)
  • The word "mentor" reaches back to Greek mythology. When Odysseus went to war, he entrusted Mentor with his son's education and development. Mentor's wise counsel, teaching, parental concern and protection are evident in current interpretations of the mentoring process [1]

2 Mentoring components and conditions

According to Clark,

Facilitated mentoring is a process designed to create effective mentoring relationships, to guide the desired behavior change of those involved, and to evaluate the results for the protégés, the mentors,and those supervising the mentoring relationship. Facilitated mentoring includes the following components (Murray and Owen, 1991):

  • A design that meets the perceived needs of the organization;
  • Criteria and a process for the selection of protégés;
  • Strategies and tools for diagnosing the developmental needs of protégés;
  • Strategies and tools for diagnosing the developmental needs of protégés;
  • Criteria and a process for qualifying mentors;
  • Orientation to the responsibilities of the role for both mentors and protégés;* Strategies for matching mentors and protégés on the basis of skills to be developed and compatibility;
  • A negotiated agreement between mentor, protégé, and other involved agencies;
  • A coordinator responsible for maintaining the programs and supporting relationships;
  • Formative evaluation to make necessary adjustments to the program;
  • Summarative evaluation to determine outcomes for the organization, the mentors, and the protégés.


Clark also stresses the idea that facilitating mentoring programs and relationships is very important.... and this is not an easy task since it implies changes in organizational culture.

2.1 Maximal mentor roles

Below is a slighly modified (shortened) copy/paste from the Abreviated Mentoring guide.


  • Trusted Counselor - Mentor listens and reflects the protégé's ideas and plans and shares his or her insights, practical experience and may recommend specific steps.
  • Teacher or Tutor - Mentor instructs or guides the protégé to learn specific information or concepts. Can also provide useful sources of information.
  • Coach - Mentor may go over the protégé's training and background, assess the experience level and where deficiencies are identified, teach these skills to the protégé.
  • Motivator - Mentor encourages and pushes the protégé to assume additional responsibilities when the time appears right.
  • Sponsor - Mentor supports and represents the protégé to the organization.
  • Referral Agent - Mentor directs the protégé to proper sources to achieve his or her goal and introduces the protégé.
  • Role Model - Mentor is a senior participant who demonstrates, by example, the traits, performance and contributions that spell success; someone the protégé wants to emulate.


This definition implicitly assigns a multiple and "heavy" role to a formal mentor in the Navy. On may add or remove roles.

3 An Implementation model

From some of the literature and resources we can derive a simple mentoring model that includes some minimal necessary conditions, a suggestion for setting it up, and an example for a mentoring contract.

3.1 Conditions

Mentoring works when:

  • individuals are committed to it,
  • when there is a goal (see the mentoring contract)
  • a supportive environment.

3.2 Stages to set up a mentoring program

Here is a list of typical stages. Note that preparation (stages 1-4) is important.

  1. Identify development needs of protégés
  2. Identify and recruit mentors. This includes identification of their needs.
  3. Prepare/train mentors
  4. Mentor and protégé negociate a mentoring agreement
  5. Implementation (can include meetings with a faciliator)
  6. Evaluation

3.3 Typical contract

Mentors and proteges should agree on a formal contract. Here is an example from Training for trainers


We agree to commit ourselves to the personal and professional development of the protegé by identifying his/her development objectives and supporting their achievement through a relationship based on trust and openness.

Development objectives: ______

Roles an expectations: ______

Ground rules: ______

Other comments: _____

Date and signatures: ____


3.4 Things to do and not to do

See: Training for trainers

4 Models

4.1 Models for mentoring graduate students

This should be an important issue for many labs.

  • An interesting model is the Campbell-Lom mentoring model which is a simple e-mail mechanism to enhance reflection, independence, and communication in young researchers
  • At TECFA we ask our lab assistants to contribute to this wiki (or the french version on a weekly basis in order to help them doing their literature reviews. Their wiki home pages also can be used for planning and reflection. Results, so far, are not as good as they could be, probably for the lack of mentoring "structure" - 21:20, 10 February 2007 (MET). Confirmed: results are awful ;) - Daniel K. Schneider 17:12, 9 November 2007 (MET)

4.2 The Wikipedia model

Wikipedia's [Wikipedia:Adopt-a-User | Adopt-a-User] program was designed in the end of 1996 to help new and inexperienced users and to reduce vandalism as well as other bad edits like testing. Older editors can "adopt" newer users, helping to mentor them along the way as they learn about Wikipedia.

To be adopted, a user can either:

  • add a template ({{subst:dated adoptme}}) to his homepage
  • or directly try to find an adopter from the Adopt-a-User list.

5 Links

  • Peer Resources A comprehensive source of information, research, documents, and papers on trends and issues associated with all types of mentoring
  • Abbreviated Mentoring Guide, prepared by US Navy Medical Corps, 1998 HTML

6 References

  • Boice, R. (1992). Lessons learned about mentoring. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 50. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Campbell A. Malcolm and Barbara Lom (2006). A Simple E-Mail Mechanism To Enhance Reflection, Independence, and Communication in Young Researchers, CBE Life Sci Educ. 2006 Winter; 5(4): 318\u2013322. doi: 10.1187/cbe.06-06-0170 Abstract/PDF
  • Clark, Sheila, Mentoring, [Promoting Critical Thinking Through Academic Service Learning: A Cognitive and Affective Model for Learning How to Learn]
  • Denofrio, L. A., Russell, B., Lopatto, D., & Lu, Y. (2007). MENTORING: Linking Student Interests to Science Curricula. Science, 318(5858), 1872-1873. HTML
  • Schoenfeld, A.C., & Magnan, R. (1992). Mentor in a Manual. Madison, WI: Magna Publications.
  • Sands, R.G., Parsons, L.A., & Duane, J. (1991). Faculty mentoring faculty in a public university. Journal of Higher Education, no. 62, pp. 174-193.
  • Megginson, D., Clutterbuck, D., (1997) Mentoring in Action: a practical guide for managers, Kogan Page, London.
  • Murray, M., & Owen, M.A. (1991). Beyond the Myths and Magic of Mentoring. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass (This is a frequently cited textbook).
  • National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering & Institute of Medicine. (1997). Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering. Washington D.C. This book is available online at: HTML
  • Paterson, B. (1993). Mentoring: What does it involve and how can I be a good mentor? in B.J. Cameron, Teaching at The University of Manitoba: A Handbook. Winnipeg, MB: The University of Manitoba.
  • Roche, G. R. (1979). Much ado about Mentors. Harvard Business Review, 57 (10, 14-20.
  • Saunders, D., (1994), Mentoring Handbook, University of Glamorgan.
  • Taylor, L.J. (1992). A survey of mentor relationships in academe. Journal of Professional Nursing, 8, 48-55.
  • Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. (Revised 1996). Guidelines for the Development of a Mentoring Program. [2] ISBN 0-662-62414-9
  • Wunsch, M.A., & Johnsrud, L.K. (1992). Breaking barriers: Mentoring junior faculty women for professional development and retention. To Improve the Academy, no. 11 , pp. 175-187.
  • University Teaching Services (1993). Mentoring, A Strategy for Career Development. University of Manitoba. PDF, Retrieved 15:22, 24 May 2006 (MEST)
  • Zachary, Lois J. (2000). The Mentor's Guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.