Hi! This is Nivedita Ranade and Tom McKlin with The Findings Group. We are evaluating two federal-level grants that provide mentoring to students with disabilities. These mentoring relationships are critical to program success because the students see the mentor as their primary source of support. The program administrators qualified these relationships as “nurturing” because the mentor is invested in the students’ maturation and psychosocial development.
- The quality of nurturing makes the role of the mentor unique and different from other advisers. An academic adviser is concerned with a student’s course load and grades. An Office of Disability Services advisor is concerned with providing the right services and accommodations. However, a mentor is concerned with the overall success of a student. Rather than targeting just one aspect of the student’s life (e.g. academic), the mentor takes a holistic approach towards the students’ needs.
- The mentor is a nurturer because he/she responds to students’ needs and trajectories. A freshman student who is struggling to adjust to campus life may need assistance in terms of stress and time management as opposed to finding an internship. On the other hand, a senior student who is hoping to move on to a job after he/she graduates may benefit from having an internship to build his resume and professional skills.
- Nurturing corresponds to scaffolding. This idea is based on Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory, which asserts that learning typically depends on interactions with a more knowledgeable/competent other. Knowledge is acquired as novices interact with experts and peers and engage in “legitimate peripheral participation” wherein the novices observe the practice of experts and become experts over time. Learning in these contexts is generally scaffolded to provide supports until novices move from peripheral to full participation.
- Nurturing leads to self-advocacy. Self-advocacy leads to self-determination and personal responsibility. By helping the students to self-advocate, the mentor helps the students re-work their conceptions of what it means to have a disability. Students learn to define and come to terms with their disability, which in turn enables them to disclose their disability in situations where it is necessary to do so. The confidence that comes with self-advocacy leads to increased personal responsibility and self-determination because students feel that they can achieve what they want despite their disability.
- Thus, nurturing is an essential quality in a good mentor, and we surmise that the field might benefit from a survey construct that focuses on nurturing in mentor/mentee relationships.
- How to measure mentoring: We have compiled a mentor-mentee survey based on these lessons learned. Please contact us at email@example.com.
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